We all know that being physically active is good for our bodies. But our physical health and mental health are closely linked – so physical activity can be very beneficial for our mental health and wellbeing too
Mental health benefits
• 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.
• Reduced feelings of stress. You may experience reductions in feelings of stress and tension as your body is better able to control cortisol levels.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.
• Reduced risk of depression. If you're more active there's good evidence to suggest that at most ages, for both men and women, there's a trend towards lower rates of depression. In fact one study has found that by increasing your activity levels from doing nothing to exercising at least three times a week, you can reduce your risk of depression by almost 20%.
Social and emotional benefits
• Making friends and connecting with people. Being around people is good for our mental health and social networks – plus you can maximise 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.
• Having fun. 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.
Active Body, Healthy Mind
Active Oxfordshire led on a Sport England funded project called "Active Body, Healthy Mind". Partners from across Oxfordshire worked in collaboration to Improve people mental wellbeing through Sport and Physical Activity. The programme ran from 2014-18 and really raised the awareness about the benefits of Physical Activity and the opportunities available in the county.
Although the programme has ended we have kept the website (link below) and hope it can be useful to people and professionals looking for information about being more active.
Active Body, Healthy Mind case study (PDF, 485 Kb)
Physical Activity Manager
Lucy Tappin - Physical Activity Manager (Lead for Mental Health, Older People and Co-Lead for Disability and Long Term Health Conditions.
Lucy has worked within the Sport and Physical Activity sector across Oxfordshire since 2002.
Lucy has specialised experience and extensive knowledge in developing and promoting physically activity opportunities for people with disabilities and mental health conditions.
She has been involved in participating, officiating, coaching and volunteering at a Local and National level and has led the delivery of Active Body Healthy Mind, Boccia Revolution, OxForward, InSport, Wheels for all and many cross cutting projects to encourage people to be more Active.
Favourite Motto - No matter what life throws at you, there is always somebody worse off than you. Be thankful for what you have.
Hero or heroine - Tanni Grey Thompson - gifted and courageous sportswomen, influential and iconic figure, massive ambassador for disability sport.