Mental Health Awareness Week is 15th – 21st May 2023 and around 1 in 4 people experience a mental health problem of some kind each year in England. However, one in six adults are reported to suffer from a common mental disorder in the UK. We all have mental health, and just like our physical health, it’s important that we look after it.
Take Action and Get Active this May!
We challenge you to get involved by taking part in half an hour of exercise a day, either indoors or outdoors to support your mental health. You can complete the 30 minutes however you like, you can run, jog, lift some weights, swim, walk, skip or something else! Be as creative and have as much fun as you can!
We all know the physical benefits of regular exercise, however there are also mental benefits too!
What we know about exercise and mood:
- People who exercise regularly have fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety than those who don’t.
- Moderate intensity exercise can be an effective treatment on its own for mild-to-moderate depression.
- Just 16 weeks of regular exercise is just as effective as anti-depressant medication in treating older people who were not exercising previously.
- Exercise can help treat people with depression who have partially responded to anti-depressants.
- Both aerobic exercise (such as walking, cycling or running) and strength training (such as weight lifting) can help treat depression.
Lots of people choose to exercise in a gym, however as the weather is getting nicer, we have put together some info on the benefits of exercising outside. Recent studies have found people who exercise outside have a higher level of vitality, enthusiasm, pleasure and self-esteem, and lower levels of tension, depression and fatigue.
Vitamin D – Research shows that vitamin D can help us to fight infection and disease. It is known as the sunshine benefit because we can get our daily dose just by spending some time outdoors. There is still lots of research happening into vitamin D and the effects on our bodies, but studies suggest it can protect us from a range of conditions, from osteoporosis and cancer to heart attacks and depression. The good news is that your body can make all the vitamin D you need if you expose your arms and legs to sunshine for 10 to 15 minutes a few times a week. So, for extra benefits, why not combine this with getting some exercise too?!
Less screen time – Being indoors, it is naturally tempting to be more sedentary than if you are outside. Although you can be active indoors, in a gym, there are still lots of distractions; with one of the biggest ones being your mobile phone. Being outdoors, whether you’re walking, cycling, gardening or jogging, you’ll be less distracted by computers, TV’s and mobile phones. This means you can collect your thoughts and really focus on pumping the endorphins around your body.
Light – Natural light is known to help lift people’s moods, so heading outside can help you feel better, especially if the sun is shining!
Green Exercise – Researchers in the UK have been working on the idea that exercising in nature has added benefits for mental health. They call this ‘green exercise’. Research suggests that even just 5 minutes of exercise in nature can lift your mood. So when you’re feeling down, a walk through the park might be worth a try! Additionally, a surprise benefit of green exercise is that exposing your body to plants can also improve your immune system. Scientists have said that airborne chemicals from plants can also protect us against bacteria and viruses. As well as all the benefits listed above, exercising outside is free, so there is no excuse!
Remember that when it comes to our mental health, small gains really add up. Start with small steps and just wait for the benefits to start showing!