Poor mental health can affect aspects such as your mood, worrying, concentration, emotions, and the general coping of daily life. Poor mental health can occur through difficult periods in life such as bereavement or trauma, but there is not always a necessary cause.

Common mental health illnesses include anxiety and depression. In 2019/20, almost a quarter of the population in Leicestershire had a high anxiety score (1). In addition, 13.9% of adults in Leicestershire in 2020/21 were reported to have depression which has increased from previous years (1). Unfortunately, this figure is likely to further increase due to the affects of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, exercise and getting active has been proven to be helpful for those experiencing poor mental health.

FAQ - Mental Health

What are the benefits for me and my condition?

Exercise releases hormones such as serotonin which can enhance mood and reduce negative feelings like anxiety. Also, exercise helps anxious thoughts as it focuses attention elsewhere and can make an individual feel happier. Other benefits of exercising include improved self-esteem and confidence, better sleep, increased cognition, motivation, and reduced stress. All these aspects can lead to better positive mental health.

Is it safe for me to exercise?

Yes, exercising is perfectly safe and will have lots of benefits to your mental health. The NICE clinical guidelines promote exercise in treating mental illness such as depression and anxiety (2).

"There is no situation, there is no age and no condition where exercise is not a good thing." - Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer

Moving more than you currently do is a great start. If you're unsure about your ability, it might be wise to start gradually and build up, some is better than none. Please feel free to refer to the UK Chief Medical Officer's Physical Activity Guidelines when determining the level of activity appropriate to you or talk to your GP/healthcare professional.

You can find tips to help you move more here.

What are some activities I could try?

When feeling unwell it can be hard to motivate yourself to get active. Why not try an activity that you find enjoyable or have wanted to try? Activities could be an adventurous walk, cycle, run, swim, dance, or an upbeat exercise class. Yoga or meditation is a great activity for mental health to clear your head and increase mindfulness which can reduce anxious/depressive thoughts.

The NICE clinical guidelines do recommend attending a group exercise class 3x a week over 10-14 weeks (2).

How much physical activity should I be doing?

Try and be as active as you can everyday but listen to your body. Some days you may be able to do more than others and that's ok. Incorporating exercise into a daily routine can help with motivation and even doing small amounts such as 15 minutes per day can be beneficial. This can be gradually built on overtime through increasing the intensity/duration but remember to keep this in check with your physical and mental health.

How can I stay motivated?

Motivation can be difficult to find if your exercise has not become a habit. Here are some tips to keep you going:

  • Set yourself a long-term goal for completing activity e.g. "I want to feel less anxious", "I want to feel more confident in myself", "I want to increase my mood", "I want to reduce my stress levels". Remember this when you are encouraging yourself to keep going.
  • Set a clear intention e.g. During the next week, I will partake in at least X minutes of physical activity on [DAY] at [TIME] in [PLACE].
  • Keep track of how your goals are going, how often you are exercising in relation to your goals.
  • Bring a friend or relative with you.
  • Set a reminder on your phone or in the calendar or put your walking shoes by the door on the day you've planned to get active.
  • Take note of how you feel after exercise, such as feeling more upbeat, and remind yourself of this.
  • Do an activity that you enjoy and look forward to completing.

Phoebe's Story

"As soon as I get in the water, I feel weightless."

Phoebe was diagnosed with MS, depression and anxiety in 2020, but has been able to manage her conditions with the help of her miniature dachshund, Noodle.

Hannah's Story

'It's true when they say exercise releases endorphins, cos it does, it's like a happy hormone.'

You can also meet our Let's Get Moving Champions who share their inspirational stories on how they have become and stayed active this year!

Get Active

If you're ready to move more and feel better, there are a range of activities and sessions to help you meet your activity goal. Be sure to find something you enjoy!

  • Make Your Move Make Your Move (PDF, 153 Kb)

Visit We Are Undefeatable for more information and inspiration on getting active.

You can also meet our Active Together Champions who share their inspirational stories on how they have stayed active this year!

You are performing the exercises linked from our website at your own risk.

Whilst every effort has been made to verify the information on this page, Active Together is not responsible for the accuracy or content of external websites. Whilst taking part in physical activity, participants should ensure they take part at a level which is appropriate to them and their health and are responsible for ensuring they check the credentials and health and safety requirements for each activity. It is recommended that participants follow the Chief Medical Officers Guidelines for physical activity. Participants will choose to utilise these links and take part in activities at their own risk.


  1. Fingertips
  2. NICE Clinical Guidelines