Exercise and Mental Health (MHAW 2015)

HFE Tutor with student
Tutor with student

Originally started in 2000, Mental Health Awareness Week is a yearly event designed to generate public debate and raise awareness about how anxiety, sleep deprivation and exercise can impact our mental health. With 1 in 4 of us being affected by mental health issues in our lifetime, the importance of discussing and dealing with these issues is incredibly important.

It’s a well-established fact that exercise is paramount to maintaining our physical health, and can serve to reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease and strokes. With regards to mental health, the benefits of exercise cannot be overestimated either. In fact, 2005’s MHAW focused exclusively on the effectiveness of exercise with regards to preventing and treating mild to moderate mental health problems.

National surveys indicate that only 40% of men and 28% of women achieve the recommended 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week (source: Mental Health Foundation). Breaking it down, that’s only 30 minutes a day, five times a week. However, if you’re suffering from depression or anxiety, getting out and exercising is likely to be incredibly low down on your list of priorities.


Luckily, even the shortest of walks can do the world of good and the benefits are well documented:

Improved sleeping patterns

Natural boost to energy

Reduced tension and mental fatigue

Stress levels decrease

Appetite improves

Levels of focus and motivation increase

If you’re struggling for motivation or simply feel like things are getting on top of you, there are many avenues available for support. One of which is talking to your GP who is able to prescribe an exercise programme to you. This could involve using your local leisure facilities for free or at a reduced cost, or exercising under the supervision of a personal trainer.

Those that are interested in this line of work and looking to make a marked difference in peoples’ lives may want to consider the Level 3 Exercise Referral Diploma. This qualification fully equips you with the skills needed to work alongside GPs and deal directly with those with chronic illnesses and conditions, including stress, anxiety and depression.

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