Mental Health Awareness Week: Why Movement Matters

Mental Health Awareness Week: Why Movement Matters

By Kaloula Hadji, Mental Health Practitioners Service Manager

It’s not the first time (and likely won’t be the last time) I’ve heard patients question why a health care professional will tell them to exercise when they’ve just expressed that they are low in mood, or generally struggling with their mental health. Some might feel like this is proof they are not being heard that it’s just an auto-pilot response, or some may feel they are just being dismissed.

The theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week Campaign is ‘Movement: Moving more for our mental health’, so it’s a good opportunity for me to reassure people that being encouraged to exercise is not meant to offend. It is instead meant to not only promote physical health, but to support improved mental health.

To explain, endorphins are natural chemicals which are produced by our body which act as neurotransmitters (a chemical messenger), which are essential for the communication between our brain and other parts of  our body. Movement stimulates the release of endorphins, which evidence strongly supports improves mental wellbeing. The release of endorphins is found to reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression whilst also being able to improve sleep quality, improve self-esteem, and increase cognitive functioning.

Introducing movement into your life can be a good way to add structure and routine into your day. This can help provide a distraction on negative thoughts and rumination of thoughts/triggers impacting on your mental health, and allow you to focus on the now, being present in the moment and even sometimes experiencing a sense of achievement.

Illustration of a woman stretching her body with her arm up over her head.

Physical movement doesn’t have to be done on your own, sometimes there is social interaction involved, whether it’s joining a team sport, or a group fitness class, or just joining a friend, which can further boost mental wellbeing.

I’m not writing this to say you need to be the next Olympic athlete, movement should be tailored to suit your mobility – always go at the pace that is right for you and avoid movements that cause you pain. Any movement, even just 15 mins at your own pace can positively influence not only mental wellbeing but can possibly reduce the risk of long-term conditions in the future.

So why not take a walk this weekend, dance to your favourite song and get those endorphins working?

And remember, if you need further support with your mental health, Mental Health Practitioners can be accessed via your GP surgery and offer appointments across Sutton to help you get the treatment and support you need (and we won’t just tell you to exercise!). Find out more about the Mental Health Practitioners service here.

Illustration of two older people , a man and woman, smiling and dancing.

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