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The Relationship Between Physical Activity and Self-Compassion: a Systematic Review and Meta-analysis



According to the mental health service recommendations from WHO, self-care is the basis for tackling psychological concerns. Although self-esteem has been a symbolic self-driven psychological factor that could generate significant positive well-being and associated with physical activity (PA), self-esteem’s negative effects have been criticized by the advocation of self-compassion (SC). Therefore, with both PA and SC have been found to be effective in achieving positive psychological health, they are expected to show a relationship to cope with people’s mental health problems.


To fully study the relationship, a concrete systematic review and meta-analysis were conducted to review the relationship between PA and SC. The meta-analysis outcome was obtained by the pooled correlation coefficient using the random effects model, and meta-regression with mixed-effect models were used to determine the moderate effects.


A total of 25 studies, with n = 5622 samples, were included. Ten studies examined the association between PA and SC; five studies examined the association between PA regulation and SC; and six RCT studies and four single group repeated measure studies examined the effect of PA on SC. The random effects model demonstrated a significant effect size on the overall relationship between PA and SC (r = 0.26), with significant heterogeneity. Subgroup analysis showed the significant effect sizes on four types of relationship, with r = 0.19, r = 0.273 and r = 0.34, r = 0.273, respectively. All potential sources of heterogeneity, including age, gender, study design and risk of bias, showed no moderating effect on the relationship.


The relationship between PA and SC was significant while investigating the effect of non-mind-and-body interventions and constructing a mechanism of PA and SC can be done as future implications.

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*Denotes study included in the systematic review and meta-analysis

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MYCW designed and executed the study, analysed the data, wrote the paper and edited of the final manuscript. PKC and KML collaborated with the design and editing of the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Ming Yu Claudia Wong.

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Wong, M.Y.C., Chung, PK. & Leung, KM. The Relationship Between Physical Activity and Self-Compassion: a Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Mindfulness 12, 547–563 (2021).

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  • Self-compassion
  • Physical activity
  • Regulated health-related behaviour