Mental Health Awareness Week 2024

May is the month of Mental Health Awareness Week. This year the theme is Moments for Movement: Moving More For Your Mental Health. Keeping active is not only beneficial for our physical health but it provides many mental health benefits too. In this blog we explore some of these benefits alongside some top tips to find time to prioritise movement.

Top Tips to Keeping Active

In the hustle and bustle of daily life, finding time to prioritise physical activity can feel like a challenge. 36% of UK adults find it challenging to find the time for physical activity. However, incorporating movement into your busy schedule is not only possible but also essential for maintaining your health and well-being. Here are five simple tips to help you stay active during even the busiest of days:

  1. Take the Stairs: One of the easiest ways to sneak in some extra physical activity is by opting for the stairs instead of the lift or escalator. Whether you’re at work, running errands, or visiting, choosing to climb stairs whenever possible can provide a quick and effective workout for your lower body and cardiovascular system. Plus, it burns more calories and helps strengthen your leg muscles over time.
  2. Walk Whenever You Can: Look for opportunities to incorporate more walking into your day. Instead of driving or taking public transportation for short distances, consider walking instead. Whether it’s walking to the shop, walking during your lunch break, or heading out for a walk in the evening, every step adds up and contributes to your overall physical activity level. Aim for at least 30 minutes of brisk walking each day to reap the health benefits.
  3. Stand Up and Move Every Hour: If you have a desk job or spend long hours sitting at a computer, make it a habit to stand up and move around for a few minutes every hour. Set a timer to remind yourself to take regular breaks, stretch your muscles, and walk around the office or your home. Not only does this break up prolonged periods of sitting, but it also helps improve circulation, reduce stiffness, and boost your energy levels throughout the day.
  4. Incorporate Mini Workouts: You don’t need a lot of time or equipment to fit in a quick workout. Take advantage of short breaks throughout your day to do mini workouts, such as squats, lunges, push-ups, or jumping jacks. These bodyweight exercises can be done virtually anywhere, whether you’re at home, in the office, or waiting for an appointment. Even just a few minutes of movement can elevate your heart rate, increase blood flow, and improve your mood. What can you do while you wait for the kettle to boil?
  5. Make Movement a Priority: Ultimately, staying active during a busy day requires making movement a priority. Schedule time for exercise in your daily routine, just like you would any other important task. Whether it’s waking up early for a morning workout, scheduling a lunchtime walk, or participating in an evening fitness class, carve out dedicated time for physical activity and treat it as non-negotiable. By prioritising movement, you’ll not only improve your physical health but also enhance your productivity, mood, and overall quality of life.

Incorporating these simple tips into your daily routine can help you stay active and energised, even on the busiest of days. Remember that every little bit of movement counts!

The Mental Health Benefits of Movement

Exercise isn’t just about physical fitness; it’s a powerful tool for improving mental well-being as well. Here are some of the key mental health benefits of regular exercise:

  1. Reduced Stress: Exercise triggers the release of endorphins, neurotransmitters that act as natural stress relievers. Engaging in physical activity helps reduce levels of cortisol, the body’s primary stress hormone, leading to feelings of relaxation and improved mood.
  2. Improved Mood: Regular exercise is associated with lower rates of depression, anxiety, and mood disorders. Physical activity stimulates the production of serotonin and dopamine, neurotransmitters that regulate mood and emotions, leading to feelings of happiness and well-being.
  3. Enhanced Cognitive Function: Exercise has been shown to improve cognitive function, including memory, attention, and problem-solving skills. Physical activity increases blood flow to the brain, promotes the growth of new brain cells, and enhances connectivity between neural pathways, leading to sharper mental acuity and better cognitive performance.
  4. Boosted Self-Esteem: Engaging in regular exercise can boost self-esteem and self-confidence. Achieving fitness goals, improving physical health, and feeling more capable and competent in one’s body can contribute to a positive self-image and greater overall confidence.
  5. Better Sleep: Exercise has a positive impact on sleep quality and duration. Physical activity helps regulate the body’s internal clock, promotes relaxation, and reduces symptoms of insomnia and sleep disorders. Getting an adequate amount of restful sleep is essential for mental health and emotional well-being.
  6. Stress Management: Exercise provides a healthy outlet for managing stress and pent-up emotions. Physical activity helps channel negative energy into positive pursuits, reduces muscle tension, and promotes relaxation, allowing individuals to cope more effectively with life’s challenges and setbacks.
  7. Social Connection: Many forms of exercise involve social interaction and community engagement, whether it’s joining a sports team, attending group fitness classes, or exercising with friends and family. Building supportive relationships and fostering a sense of belonging can have a profound impact on mental health and overall quality of life.
  8. Mindfulness and Relaxation: Certain types of exercise, such as yoga, tai chi, and mindful walking, emphasise mindfulness and relaxation techniques. These practices promote present-moment awareness, deep breathing, and stress reduction, helping individuals cultivate a greater sense of inner peace and emotional balance.

In summary, exercise is a holistic approach to promoting mental health and well-being. By incorporating regular physical activity into your routine, you can experience a wide range of mental health benefits, including reduced stress, improved mood, enhanced cognitive function, and greater overall resilience to life’s challenges.

What can you do during mental health awareness week to move more? Why not set yourself a movement goal to increase your activity over the week. You could also keep a mood journal to understand and record the effect on your mood and also your quality of sleep. It is a great opportunity to get into some great habits this mental health awareness week and beyond!