Move for Mental Health

Focus on Mental Health Awareness Week, which takes place from 13 to 19 May, with a focus on moving more to improve your mental wellbeing

A man in all black athletic gear sits in a wheelchair and fist bumps another man in orange running gear. We can only see the back and upper legs of the man in orange. Another man sits on the floor tying his shoe laces. He looks up at the man in orange. In the background is a street with flats.

Mental Health Awareness Week has become one of the most recognised awareness events in the UK calendar. Since it was founded in 2001, it’s seen events take place in schools, universities, workplaces and organisations, along with specialist programming being broadcast by the BBC and other channels. Its aim? To increase public understanding of mental health, and improve awareness of how mental health problems can be prevented. 

Previous weeks have addressed issues like loneliness, anxiety and body image. For Mental Health Awareness Week 2024, the theme is movement, and the benefits that moving more can bring to our mental wellbeing. 

HEALTHY BENEFITS 

Physical activity can do great things for our mental health, including reducing stress and anxiety, improving sleep, fostering social connection, and boosting endorphins (the brain’s feelgood neurotransmitters). 

Recommendations state that adults (including wheelchair users) should be getting at least 105 minutes of physical activity each week – that’s just 15 minutes a day. And physical activity can mean anything from doing the housework to a sweaty session at the gym or with your rehab physio. 

Any kind of movement will benefit you, both physically and mentally. But getting involved in physical activity isn’t always easy when you have a disability, or if you’re struggling with depression.

FITNESS TO FEEL GOOD 

Organisations like We Are Undefeatable and Mind offer helpful suggestions of how you can fit physical activity into your day. That might mean dusting the living room more vigorously, getting moving with friends or family, or taking part in an inclusive workout at home through the Every Body Moves website, for example. Activities like strength training and tai chi may be more accessible than you expect, plus with any physical activity you may enjoy positive impacts on your daily functioning and pain levels. 

It’s also worth speaking to your doctor to see if you can access ‘social prescribing’ such as a free or reduced price gym membership to help boost your mood and activity levels. Your local authority may also offer health walks which should be accessible and suitable for all levels of fitness. And if you’re keen to try something really different, take a look online for adaptive fitness options in your area. 

Just remember – be kind to yourself, go at your own pace, and make movement work for you.

Visit the Activity Alliance (inclusive gyms, England only), Every Body Moves or We Are Undefeatable for more information.

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