Olympics Tokyo, German Gymnastic team

Tokyo Olympics 2020: Sport, Gender Equality, and Mental Health

Physical activity has a positive impact on mental health and emotional wellbeing. While poor mental health and/or physical health can prevent women from engaging in physical activity, getting moving is the best prevention and cure. Regular exercise, balanced nutritious diet, and creating a structured physical activity programme, which allows strong social networks to be developed, and create a sense of community is one of the best ways to promote wellbeing.

It is not just physical exercise which promotes mental health. Tom Daley, who won his first Gold Olympic medal in Tokyo is often seen knitting by the side of the pool. While watching a diving event from the stands he knitted a sweater for izzy the frenchie. You can check out what else Tom has been creating here.

If you want to get into crafting and feel the therapeutic benefits for yourself, check out our Shop.

Gender equality is an important point to consider when we talk about sport and mental health. Women’s sports are underfunded and underappreciated meaning barriers to women engaging in sport are not address and can even be exacerbated. Lack of self esteem and body confidence is one of the biggest barriers to physical activity for women. We should also consider the issues of safety of the streets, public transport and near sports venues meaning accessing sport and engaging in physical activity can even be dangerous for women.


Women’s choice of clothing has caused a bit of a uproar lately. Norways women’s beach handball team was fined for wearing shorts instead of bikini bottoms at the Championships in Bulgaria. But German gymnasts have opted for full body unitards. We hope this who wore what scandal will lead the way in sport, inspiring other female athletes to have more choice in their competitive outfits. 

It isn’t all bad for women. In some sports women are dominating the winning podium, even when competing against men. Equestrian sports are currently one of only two Olympic categories which men and women compete directly against each other and according to the same rules (sailing is the other although only in the Nacre 17). In equestrian sports, dressage become desegrated in 1952, followed by show jumping in 1956 and finally eventing in 1964. De-segration of the sport widened the talent pool benefitting the sport, but also for gender equality.

We saw Charlotte Dujardin back on the winners’ podium winning a bronze medal in her team dressage as well as the individual event, and became the most decorated British female Olympian. Charlotte now has an astounding collection of 3 gold, 1 silver and 2 bronze Olympic medals. An amazing achievement but this is even more important because Charlotte in competing in an Olympic category which men and women compete against each other. It is not uncommon to see dressage dominated by female champions like we saw when 3 female competitors received medals in the freestyle dressage, with the German powerhouse sweeping up gold and silver. Charlotte still has a way to go to beat arguable the greatest ever equestrian Olympian, Werth who has won an incredible 12 medals, six being gold, and stood on the podium alongside her taking home silver. Women have not always dominated the medals in dressage. It wasn’t until 1972 summer Olympics in Munich that German Lielott Linsenhoff became the first female to win individual Olympic gold, 20 years after the sport become desegrated. Since then women have conquered as there has been only one games which a women did not secure the dressage title.

While we can’t all be Olympic champions, we can all feel the therapeutic benefits of physical exercise. Just For Women are working hard to end stigma, and break down barriers for women accessing sport. The Olympics hosted in Tokyo have been inspiring and we hope many women and young girls take up more sports whether they are aiming for Paris, wanting to get moving a little more, or getting involved in community projects.

If you want more tips on improving your mental health, check out our Developing Emotional Resilience blog.

Craft therapy Jigsaw to improve mental health
Craft therapy kit to improve mental health

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