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Sir Mo Farah shares insights during discussion featuring launch of WISH report

Doha, Qatar, 6 October, 2022: Sport and its positive contributions to mental health was the key focus of a discussion with the most successful British track athlete in modern Olympic Games history, Sir Mo Farah,  during a panel on the final day of the World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH) 2022 today.

Joining Farah was veteran journalist Stephen Sackur, along with a series of experts. During the session, the panelists also focused on the Sport for Mental Health report, published by WISH at the summit.

Addressing the topic of “Sport for Mental Health: A Global Strengths-based System”, Farah reflected on his monumental success as a long-distance runner, telling Sackur that his running has always served as an anchor to him, particularly during the moments of instability he has faced in his life.

“Sport can be a great healer,” Sackur agreed.

When asked about how we can collectively engage children across the globe in sport and movement, Farah emphasized the need for adults to serve as role models as well as provide the necessary support and encouragement. He said: “Young people – whether they are talented in a sport or not – can get so much back from physical activity.”

Kaitlin Simpson, University of Edinburgh, UK; Coach, Special Olympics, and who contributed to the report said that it brings together evidence that sport is as effective as pharmacological methods in addressing anxiety and stress, and at a lower cost. She noted that mental health is one of top 10 burdens of diseases globally, with a 25% increase since the pandemic, and that sport offers a great toolbox to tackle the mental health crisis.

Her Highness Sheikha Intisar Al Sabah, Founder of Intisar Foundation, commented on the challenges within the Islamic world where girls and women aged 12 and older are less likely to engage in sports due to cultural reasons. Her Highness Sheikha Intisar also underscored the role of physical activity in dealing with psychological trauma and ridding the body of excess adrenaline and cortisol from trauma.

“We need to broaden the conversation on the wealth of evidence on the benefits of exercise and movement. Sport itself is less researched than exercise more broadly. And although there is a lot of evidence about the physical and mental health benefits of sport, my assessment would be that it’s still an emerging field of science, which needs to be more researched,” panelist Dr. Kamran Abassi, Editor in Chief of the British Medical Journal (BMJ) explained.

Dr. Abassi, said: “We need a radical change in society – a society that focuses on outcomes relating to health and well-being, people and planet. Our focus at the moment is where we are going wrong as global society. We need to make a better world for ourselves and we need to advocate for it.”

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