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Week Two: Get Active for Your Mental Health!

Week TWO: Get Active for Your Mental Health!

Why be active?

We know being physically active is important for improving physical health. But something many people don’t realise is that it’s equally important for improving our mental health. Physical activity has a huge potential to enhance our wellbeing and improve our overall mental health.

In the same way that our physical health can fluctuate throughout our lives, so can our mental health.  As it is likely that everyone will struggle with their mental health at some point in their life, it’s important to understand the link between physical activity and improved mental wellbeing, and the benefits being active can have.

Why be active?
How can physical activity help your mental health?

How can physical activity help your mental health?

  • Managing stress, anxiety or intrusive and racing thoughts – doing something physical releases cortisol which helps us manage stress. Being physically active also gives your brain something to focus on and can be a positive coping strategy for difficult times.
  • Better sleep – by making you feel more tired at the end of the day
  • Happier moods – physical activity releases feel-good hormones that make you feel better in yourself and give you more energy
  • Better self-esteem – being more active can make you feel better about yourself as you improve and meet your goals
  • Reducing the risk of depression – studies have shown that doing regular physical activity can reduce the likelihood of experiencing a period of depression
  • Connecting with people – doing group or team activities can help you meet new and like-minded people and make new friends.

(Source: Mind)

How to get started

If you are struggling with your mental health, it can sometimes feel difficult to find the motivation to be active.

  • You may need to start small and build up gradually – You could go for a short walk near your home or try an online yoga session. If these seem too much, then try an even smaller goal such as standing up and walking around the house or doing a small chore to get yourself started.  Taking these small steps can help provide you with the motivation and confidence to take on bigger goals.
  • Utilise your support network – Trying something new can feel quite intimidating. If you’re struggling with confidence and motivation, you might want to arrange to exercise with friends and family for a bit of moral support.
  • Pick an activity that appeals to you – There are lots of ways to be active and you might want to try a few different things to find out what you enjoy and what suits you and your lifestyle. Finding the right activity for you will mean you will be more likely to stick to it on a longer-term basis.
  • Head outside – Numerous studies have found that spending time in nature has a positive effect on mental health and wellbeing. Active Norfolk’s website has a section dedicated to providing you with information and resources to get active outdoors in the county.
How to get started

Additional Resources

Mind – Find information about how physical activity can help your mental health, and tips for choosing an activity that works for you, and how to overcome anything that might stop you from becoming more active.  For a bit of inspiration, watch their short animation, 5 ways to get moving and feel better.

Mental Health Foundation – A range of free downloadable guides including ‘How to look after your mental health using exercise’, ‘How to sleep better’ and ‘How to manage and reduce stress’.

All to Play For – A weekly, socially inclusive drop-in football programme for men struggling with poor mental health, which has made a significant and positive impact on the lives of participants.  It is open for anyone to join, and completely free.

This Girl Can – Sport England’s campaign to inspire women and girls to be active has got tons of inspirational videos and workout ideas for ladies. No matter your age or ability.

Active Norfolk – Information and ideas on being active outdoors, at home, at work and with children.  There are also tailored sections for those living with disabilities or health conditions.

Active Suffolk – The Active Partnership for Suffolk.  A non-profit organisation, committed to increasing the number of people taking part in sport and physical activity.

Keep Moving Suffolk – Aimed at encouraging everyone to build movement into their everyday life.