How physical activity can benefit mental health
At Mintridge we believe physical activity has the power to change all aspects of your life! We
love getting out there and getting active and it’s one of the main reasons we do what we do.
One of the hot topics of the moment is the relationship between physical activity and mental
health. You may have noticed the buzz you get when you step out of the gym or when you run
of the pitch at the end of a game, well there is actually evidence to show that physical activity
does indeed have a positive impact on mental wellbeing.
But first, what does it actually mean to be ‘active’. According to Mind , the mental health charity,
these are the definitions we need to be aware of:
Physical activity: This involves anything that requires us moving our bodies.
Exercise: The difference between physical activity and exercise is that exercise is generally
something ‘we do deliberately for fitness or training, rather than something that’s part of our daily
Sport: We sometimes think that sport only refers to physical activity done in groups but there
are plenty of solo sports too like tennis, swimming or even snooker. These may either be done
in a competitive way or purely for the fun of it!
Sport England’s ‘Active Lives Adult Survey’ further explores the link between mental health and
physical activity. The report measured each area with regard to the following sectors: mental
wellbeing, individual development and social and community development.
Some of the key findings from the report were as follows:
– ‘physical activity has a positive effect on all outcome measures’: showing evidence that more
activity is better
– ‘volunteering also has a positive effect on all outcome measures’: this was especially relevant
in social and community development
– ‘sports club members are 35% more likely to achieve very high life satisfaction’: this strongly
correlates with improved mental wellbeing
– adults that are active through any kind of sport or physical activity are 57% more likely to
experience higher levels or perceived self-efficacy
The positive connection between physical activity and mental wellbeing is clearly seen in the
report. The survey analysed results based on three levels of activity, as below.
Active : At least 150 minutes each week
Fairly active : 30 – 149 minutes a week
Inactive : Less than 30 minutes a week
Those who were classed as ‘active’ were found to have higher scores in life satisfaction and
happiness coupled with lower scores regarding anxiety
Dr Larissa Davies from the Sport Industry Research Centre said: “We know from previous
research that sport and physical activity can have a positive impact on people’s lives beyond the
physical health benefits derived from increased participation.
“However, we also know it is challenging to measure and quantify the wider impact of sport and
physical activity on society and as a consequence, much of the current evidence relating to the
outcomes is qualitative or case study based.”
Tips on how to get active:
Take your time: If you’re out of the rhythm of exercising then it’s important to get back into it
slowly. Don’t force yourself to do too much too soon, you’re better off setting yourself small
goals and gradually increasing them as you gain confidence and feel your fitness improving.
There’s nothing wrong with setting yourself a target of exercising once a week to start with!
Find what you enjoy: The idea of walking into a gym may fill you with dread – don’t panic, there
are other options out there! It’s vital you find something you enjoy and you find beneficial, and
that’s different for everyone. Why not give a few different activities a go, try some classes go to
a few group sessions, ask your friends and see what appeals to you.
Go digital: You don’t have to necessarily leave the house to get active. Why not have a look on
YouTube – there are plenty of at home exercise classes freely available online. Whether it’s a
stretch class, an ab workout or a quick lunchtime yoga session there are hundreds of options
which can be especially helpful for those stretched for time.
Keep it simple: If you’re struggling to find the time or the motivation why not try switching up
part of your routine. If you normally get the bus to the station in the morning, maybe you can
leave a little earlier and walk instead. Or if you get a lunch break at work and you usually spend
it at your desk why not get out into the fresh air. Take in the sights and up your activity levels at
the same time!
For more tips head to the British Heart Foundation:
If you’re interested in learning more about the mental health benefits of physical activity why not
take a look at Sport England’s ‘Active Live Adults Survey’ –
More useful links:
If you would like to learn more about The Mintridge Foundation please contact [email protected] to find out more about what opportunities are available.