Mental Health

Mental Health relates to our mental wellbeing and our ability to cope with the demands and stresses of everyday life. Our mental health is as important as our physical health, and it is important that we take care of it. Mental health problems affect around one in four during their lifetime with nearly 24% of people with a high anxiety score within Leicestershire. They range from common problems, such as depression and anxiety, to rarer problems such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

There are several ways in which physical activity can improve your mental health. For example, for some, it can help with:

  • Better sleep
  • Happier moods
  • Managing stress, anxiety, or intrusive thoughts (being physically active also gives your brain something to focus on and can be a positive coping strategy for difficult times)
  • Reducing risk of depression
  • Improved self-esteem
  • The chance to meet new people

Frequently Asked Questions - Mental Health

Can I be active if I am struggling with my Mental Health?

Yes, you can, and it can be very beneficial to our mental health. However, your medication or your mental health condition might make it harder for you to be physically active. You may feel tired, dizzy, a lack of energy and a lack of motivation, and while these feelings need to be taken into consideration, it is important to remember that the benefits of physical activity hugely outweigh the drawbacks that may make you hesitant to exercise. Exercise releases chemicals called endorphins that interact with your brain and trigger a positive feeling in the body. Other benefits include less tension, stress and mental fatigue, a natural energy boost, a sense of achievement, more focus and motivation, feeling less angry or frustrated, and a healthy appetite.

How can physical activity help?

Being active is one of the best things you can do for your mental health and wellbeing by improving mood and boosting energy. There are a number of other benefits, including:

  • Increased confidence and self-esteem
  • Reduced anxiety and stress
  • New social opportunities to meet new people
  • Reducing anger
  • Slowing cognitive decline

Getting active with poor Mental Health: Where to start?

There are several things to consider before you begin, and you may wish to seek further advice before you start exercising. The medication you are on should be taken into consideration as some may cause side effects. If you are suffering from anxiety or panic attacks, you should build up slowly and avoid environments that may trigger these feelings. If you suffer from eating problems, or compulsive behaviours, you should be cautious and seek advice on a new exercise routine.

Once you begin, there are other things to consider. You should go at your own pace, and find something that you enjoy and can maintain, therefore setting realistic goals can help to maintain motivation when you want to stop. Exercising outdoors can incorporate mindfulness into your physically activity.

Some suitable physical activity suggestions for those living with poor Mental Health:

There are high rates of mental health conditions among those with long term health conditions, so it is important to consider what your physical capabilities are. It is also important to think about what you would like to get out of doing more exercise, and what you enjoy doing. You might want to choose whether you want to exercise inside or outside, whether you want to exercise alone or with others, or whether or not you want to do sport or another kind of exercise.

When to avoid exercising with poor Mental Health:

Physical activity is safe, even when you have symptoms of long-term conditions, such as poor Mental Health. Regular physical activity, in combination with your medical care, is important in the management of long-term conditions. However, if you experience a dramatic increase in breathlessness, new or worsening chest pain, a sudden onset of rapid palpitations or irregular heartbeat, dizziness, or sudden change in vision, it is important to stop and seek medical advice.

If you have an eating disorder or tend to overtrain, you should exercise with caution. If you are feeling unwell or are in a bad place, it may be hard to become motivated to exercise. It is also important to not beat yourself up about this and do things at your own pace. Building physical activity into your daily routine may be an easier option when you are feeling this way.

Symptom specific advice:

If you are having side effects from any medication you might be taking, or if you have any pre-existing injuries or concerns, you might want to speak to a healthcare professional about what exercise is best for you to do.

Phoebe's Story

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

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

Hannah's Story

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

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

Get Active

If you are 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!

Resources for Mental Health

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.

For Healthcare Professionals

It's important to have conversations with those living with Mental Health about the importance of physical activity. Physical activity as a treatment for long-term health conditions is a consensus backed by rigorous evidence.

Our Active Medicine page supports local healthcare professionals with promoting the benefits of physical activity, including Physical Activity and Health training, E-Learning resources, and healthy conversation skills.

The fantastic Moving Medicine resource hosts step-by-step guides to have quality conversations with patients about physical activity for Mental Health - from 1 - 5 minute conversation opportunities.