“If you’re feeling stressed out, lace up those running shoes and take them for a spin.” So goes the accumulated wisdom of studies on how running can reduce stress. But the other mental health benefits of this ancient sport may be less familiar—and potentially even stronger motivation to break in those running shoes.
Mental wellbeing means feeling good, both about yourself and the world around you. Evidence shows that there is a link between being physically active and good mental wellbeing.
Being active doesn’t necessarily mean you need to spend hours in the gym, you just need to find some physical activities that you enjoy and think about how you can fit them into your daily life.
Scientists believe that physical activity helps maintain and improve our wellbeing in a variety of ways:
1) Reduced anxiety and happier moods – when you exercise, your brain chemistry changes through the release of endorphins (sometimes called ‘feel good’ hormones), which can calm anxiety and lift your mood.
2) Reduced feelings of stress – you may experience reductions in feelings of stress and tension as your body is better able to control cortisol levels.
3) Clearer thinking – some people find that exercise helps to break up racing thoughts. As your body tires so does your mind, leaving you calmer and better able to think clearly.
4) A greater sense of calm – simply taking time out to exercise can give you space to think things over and help your mind feel calmer.
5) Increased self-esteem – when you start to see your fitness levels increase and your body improve, it can give your self-esteem a big boost. The sense of achievement you get from learning new skills and achieving your goals can also help you feel better about yourself and lift your mood. Improved self-esteem also has a protective effect that increases life satisfaction and can make you more resilient to feeling stressed.
The social and emotional benefits to participating in physical activity have equally important benefits on our mental wellbeing. Many studies site numerous benefits from being active, particularly in groups which is something we at West Kent Mind feel very passionate about.
We like to think that…
- Making friends and connecting with people is good for our mental health and social networks – plus you can maximize the benefits of exercising by doing it with other people. You may find that the social benefits are just as important as the physical ones.
- Lots of us enjoy being active because it’s fun. Researchers have shown that there’s a link between the things we enjoy doing and improvements in our wellbeing overall. If you enjoy an activity you’re also more likely to keep doing it.
- Challenging stigma and discrimination. Some people find that joining a sport programme helps reduce the stigma attached to their mental health problem. Getting involved in local projects with other people who share a common interest can be a great way to break down barriers and challenge discrimination.
West Kent Mind Fun Run
Passionate about sport and mental health, West Kent Mind is holding its very first fundraising Fun Run to mark World mental Health Day.
Join us on Sunday 15th October in Knole Park for ‘The New Blue 5km Fun Run. Our fun day out for all the family aims to turn Knole Park a shade of blue for the day.
It can be something old, something new, something borrowed but it absolutely must be something BLUE.
The run is not timed but is open to all ages and all levels of fitness. You can walk and talk, mumble and stumble or sprint to the finish. Your support with our event will enable us to continue our work raising awareness around mental health and supporting people in our community who are experiencing mental health problems. We rely heavily on your support to continue with our work.
To book your place visit: westkentmind.org.uk/new-blue-run
Get Set To Go
In conjunction with work on sport and mental health Mind launched ‘Get Set to Go’ in 2014. This programme is aimed at improving the lives of people with mental health problems through access to sport. The programme is supported by Sport England and the National Lottery.
The course responded to demand from sport and physical activity sector to increase knowledge and understanding of mental health and how this might be applied in a sport or physical activity setting. The training is a 3 hour workshop aimed at coaches, sports administrators, front of house staff and volunteers.
The feedback, support and response has been hugely positive and letting the local community be a part of this fantastic programme is just part of what we are offering in order to increase awareness and knowledge of sport and its positive impact on our mental health and wellbeing.
Tamsyn Woodman, Football Development Officer at the Surrey Football Association said: “The training has been invaluable to both our staff members and other participants on the course, including club Welfare Officers, coaches and committee members.
The delivery was excellent, and everyone left with a greater understanding of mental health and how to apply the knowledge and skills gained into a sporting environment. The first workshop was so popular we decided to run a second one, with more planned in the future!”
For more information about the training course please contact lucy.adams@west kentmind.org.uk
• For further information on our services please visit westkentmind.org.uk or call us on 01732 744950.
• West Kent Mind is one of over 180 local Mind associations which are affiliated to the national charity Mind. It is an independent charitable organisation, which supports the overall values and vision of the national organisation and is subject to its quality standards.