Mental Health and Physical Activity

 Physical activity is a key component to emotional wellbeing. In fact, ‘moving more’ is one of the evidence-based ways within the “5 ways to wellbeing”. Regular physical activity is associated with lower rates of depression and anxiety across all age groups. Exercise is essential for slowing age-related cognitive decline and for promoting well-being.

There are various ways that physical activity helps mental health, including:

Improved mood - Studies show that physical activity has a positive impact on our mood. For more information, please see the Mental Health Foundation website.

Reduced stress -  Being regularly active is shown to have a beneficial impact on alleviating stress. It can help manage stressful lifestyles and can help us make better decisions when under pressure. Research on working adults shows that active people tend to have lower stress rates compared to those who are less active.

Increased self-esteem - Physical activity has a significant impact on our self-esteem – that is how we feel about ourselves and our perceived self-worth. This is a key indicator of mental wellbeing. People with improved self-esteem can cope better with stress and improves relationships with others.

Depression and anxiety - Exercise has been described as a “wonder drug” in preventing and managing mental health. Many GPs now prescribe physical activity for depression, either on its own or together with other treatments. It’s effective at both preventing onset of depression and managing symptoms.

For more information head to the following Sport England webpage - Mental health | Sport England

People with severe mental illness are less likely to attain the Chief Medical Officers' (CMOs') recommended weekly physical activity guidelines when compared to the general population, yet physical activity can help improvements of physical health of those with SMI. We have created a comprehensive page dedicated to physical activity and those living with Severe Mental Illness, click here.

Inequalities in physical activity exist across the life course. We have created a ‘one stop shop’ resource dedicated towards reducing inequalities in physical activity. To access the resource click here.