Moving more for Mental Health Awareness Week

  • Health & Safety
mental health awareness
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Peninsula Team, Peninsula Team

(Last updated )

‘Movement: Moving more for our mental health’ is the theme of Mental Health Awareness Week 2024. This week (13-19 May) we’re being asked by the Mental Health Foundation (MHF) to think about finding moments for movement in our day.

MHF have led Mental Health Awareness Week every May since 2001, involving millions of people in the UK to focus on improving their mental health.

This year, they’ve produced a new report to explore evidence of the benefits movement brings to physical and mental health. They ask what’s stopping the UK from being more active, and what could help get people moving more.

Moving More is Good For Our Mental Health, So What’s Stopping Us?

The report, gathered from survey data of 6,000 UK adults, looks at the overwhelming benefits of physical activity on mental health. Moving our bodies helps to reduce tension, stress and mental fatigue, giving us more focus and motivation.

Apart from a natural energy boost, even exercising just once a week can help us to feel less angry or frustrated and gives us an opportunity to connect with others. What’s more, most of us recognise these benefits – 82% of UK adults acknowledge the importance of movement for mental health and overall wellbeing.

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Recognising the barriers to exercise many people face, the report found many cited the weather (31% of respondents) or being too tired (28%) as reasons why we aren’t more physically active.

Unpredictable weather patterns can disrupt plans for outdoor activities, leading to frustration and demotivation. Additionally, seasonal changes in weather, such as shorter daylight hours in winter or a very warm summer’s day, can affect people’s energy levels and mood, making it more challenging to muster the motivation to be active outdoors.

Other reasons included a lack of time – this posed a challenge for many respondents, especially when juggling competing priorities like work, household responsibilities and childcare.

Women from some minority ethnic communities expressed difficulty in finding local activities that aligned with their cultural preferences, particularly due to closures of women-only spaces.

Costs of using gyms were a problem for 1 in 7 respondents. One participant said:

“There’s very little locally now. It all closed down during Covid-19 and never re-opened. No exercise classes around my way now… only expensive fancy gyms.”

What can be done?

MHF recommend several strategies for individuals to move more during their day, suggesting people should:

  •   Find moments for movement every day, using the time we usually spend waiting.
  •   Set small, achievable goals such as walking to the end of your street.
  •   Take a break from sitting by taking regular breaks to stand up, walk around and stretch.
  •   Find the fun by choosing activities you enjoy, embracing your inner child and finding joy in movement.
  •   Connect with others by checking out groups and activities happening in your area.
  •   Move in nature – go for a walk in the countryside or try cold water swimming.
  •   Try something new to boost wellbeing and confidence.
  •   Plan things to look forward to and make plans to give a sense of hope and excitement for the future.
  •   Listen to the music that gets you moving – whether you get up for hip-hop, dance or rock ‘n’ roll, some songs are just made for moving.

Mental Health Foundation has stressed that this is not an ‘exercise’ campaign. Their stated goal is to help people find moments for movement to support good mental health and emotional calm:

“Being able to protect our own mental health should not be a luxury. But too many people are denied the chance to do things that are good for mental health due to poverty, financial strain, and inequality. It is these root causes that must be addressed if we are to achieve our vision of good mental health for all.”

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