Mental Health Awareness Week is 10th – 16th May 2021 and around 1 in 4 people experience a mental health problem of some kind each year in England. However, 78% of adults in the UK have said their mental has got worse over the past year, due to the pandemic. We all have mental health, and just like our physical health, it’s important that we look after it.
Join Take Action, Get Active this May!
We challenge you to get involved by taking part in half an hour of exercise a day, outdoors to support the Mental Health Foundation. You can complete the 30 minutes however you like, you can run, jog, walk, skip. Be as creative and have as much fun as you can!
The theme for Mental Health Awareness Week this year is Nature. We have all spent a lot more time with nature over the past year. It can help to reduce stress, balance your mood and help you feel more positive. It’s time to switch on our senses and really connect – whether that’s noticing nature on your daily jog, or listening to the birds on your woodland walk.
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.
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!