Movement: Moving more for mental health

It’s been National Mental Health Awareness Week. And it comes at a good time as the SATs and examination season is in full swing. There have been great events taking place across our schools and the college this week. Each activity or event, in itself, isn’t something which will ‘fix’ a child’s or young person’s mental health, but they go some way to supporting children and young people, and supporting them all to talk about who they are and how they are feeling. We’ve also been able to sign-post our children and young people to the whole range of services and agencies which might be able to offer help and guidance.

Interestingly, the theme for this year has been ‘Movement’. Getting us all to move more for our mental health. This year, the agencies and charities are asking people to consider weaving some sort of physical activity into their routines, because what’s great for the body is often great for the mind. Exercise has been proven to reduce anxiety and depression, and it can also help prevent physical illness. Sadly, it seems that people living with mental health illnesses are dying, on average, almost 20 years younger than the general population. That’s often from an avoidable physical illness. This population is more likely to develop preventable conditions.

You know that I do enjoy my running. It’s getting more difficult the older I get. And the times are going up, not coming down, but getting out in the air, especially at this time of year, and stretching the legs makes an enormous difference to my physical health. And I know it makes an enormous difference to my mental health, as well. I’m not recommending you start running. You can if you want but I am interested in the theme of this mental health week and would want to encourage people to do more exercise, if you can. Sometimes that something is simple as just going out for a walk, giving your child a push on the swing, or even putting on Sophie Ellis-Bextor and having a little kitchen disco – that’s not for me though!

If you’re concerned, the UK’s Chief Medical officer offers some advice. An adult should look to do the following weekly:

  • At least 150 minutes (about two and a half hours) moderate intensity activity, which is any activity that increases your heart rate and body temperature such as brisk walking, riding a bike, dancing, or pushing a lawnmower.
  • Or, 75 minutes’ vigorous activity, which is any activity pushing your heart rate and breathing further, such as running, swimming, or sports.
  • Or, a mixture of the two.

You might be apprehensive so I set out below some NHS guidelines.

Guidelines for adults for adults aged 19-64

Guidelines for older adults

Guidelines for children and young people

Any amount of movement, no matter how small, is important for mental and physical health. Small amounts of movement can add up over time, and all have an impact on our mental and physical health.

Here are some really good links you might want to follow.

‘Exercise to stimulate, not to annihilate. The world wasn’t formed in a day, and neither were we. Set small goals and build upon them’. Lee Haney