Business psychology services

Business psychology services

We know that being active is important for our physical and mental health. Our bodies are designed to move and there are so many benefits when we do. Yet, many children, teens and adults are failing to get up, out and about. Why is this and what can we do to make it fun and accessible to get moving for mental health?

Quick Steps to Improve Our Physical & Mental Health

Health should be our top priority. That is because good health makes it easier to achieve everything else in life. However, in our busy schedules, we often forfeit the things that benefit our health.

It’s no secret that a good night’s sleep, nutritious food and activity improve our physical and mental health. And, we’ve all experienced increased energy, clarity of thought and improved body image when we have exercised and eaten well. Yet, it can feel like you need to ‘make an effort’ to maintain these healthy habits.

Unfortunately, there is a correlation between being inactive and the likelihood of ill health, including diabetes, heart conditions, depression and anxiety. Equally, increasing activity is one of the best medicines for a wide variety of physical and mental health conditions.

What Are the World Health Organisation Recommendations for Getting Active?

The World Health Organisation* recommends that all adults undertake 150 – 300 minutes of moderate activity a week. That’s just 3-5 hours in a 168-hour week and it doesn’t need to be in a fitness class or sports session to count. Getting moving includes a brisk walk to the shops, digging the garden, vacuuming the house or dancing to your favourite tunes.

Despite this seemingly achievable target, a report published by the Mental Health Foundation** indicates that 36% of the UK population does not meet the WHO recommendations. Maybe this is one of the reasons that the UK ranks so poorly in the latest World Mental Well-being Index.*** Of all the represented nations in the study, only Uzbekistan ranks lower.

Moving More for Our Mental Health

The theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week was ‘movement’. It followed a report by the Mental Health Foundation** which explored the barriers to exercise.

Not surprisingly, 37% of respondents identified lack of time as a factor preventing them from getting active. People feel too busy with work commitments, care responsibilities and travel to exercise. Other barriers include the:

  • British weather
  • Cost of classes, membership or kit
  • Lack of local activities or facilities
  • Not knowing where to find information on local groups

What is evident in the report is the many barriers cited by 18 – 24 year olds. This demographic should be full of life, active and energised, yet:

  • 35% identified time constraints as a barrier to keeping fit
  • 24% stated that anxiety prevented participation in physical activity
  • 38% felt a lack of energy or tiredness put them off
  • 16% mentioned lack of body confidence was their reason for avoiding activities

Young People’s Mental Health

The research suggests that many young people are not in the habit of incorporating activity into their daily routines. This suggests that they don’t recognise the connection between moving and reduced anxiety and increased energy levels. As a result, they are entering the workforce or university feeling too pressured and distracted to put their health first.

Interestingly, the 18-24 age group has also reported the steepest decline in mental well-being in the World Mental Health Index. The report states that before 2010, young people typically scored higher than other age groups. However, they now record the lowest scores. Interestingly, since that pivotal date, smart device adoption and social media connectivity have been widespread.

This decline in mental well-being in young people since 2010 is also a focus of Jonathan Haidt’s book, The Anxious Generation. He identifies the reduction in active and explorative play in childhood and the accessibility of addictive games, apps and social platforms on smartphones as root causes.

Activity to Improve Mental Health

One of the pioneers in boosting physical and mental health through activity is Ludwig Guttmann. His approach to treating patients with spinal injuries was rehabilitation through sport. Therefore, rather than focusing on what people couldn’t do, he set minds on developing abilities. In doing so, he gave people a purpose and enabled them to achieve and triumph through sports competition. This approach made them physically and mentally stronger.

Part of his legacy is Wheelpower, the national charity for wheelchair sports. This organisation provides people of all ages inclusive access to a full range of sports and competitions. Their website offers online videos for chair-based activities. And, another individual who champions disability sports is Nick Wilson, the disabled adventurer.

As parents, employers and community leaders, can we follow these examples and encourage people of all ages and abilities to step away from the tech and get moving?

The Mental Health Foundation research suggests that providing local and affordable (or free) activities is a key factor. Additionally, the social aspect is vital, with groups encouraging participation, providing support and making activities fun.

With this in mind, your organisation might decide to:

  • Promote a lunchtime walking group or walking meetings
  • Arrange fun, social activities such as a five-a-side team or rounders
  • Encourage participation in physical volunteer projects or fundraisers

The benefit of this is an improvement in the mental and physical health of employees, along with better social connections. As a result, your team could be more productive, focused and collaborative, while reducing absenteeism. Now, they sound like good reasons to give it a try!

With all this evidence in the forefront of my mind, I’m off to walk the dog!


* https://iris.who.int/bitstream/handle/10665/337001/9789240014886-eng.pdf

** https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/sites/default/files/2024-05/MHF%20-%20MHAW%20Movement%20-%20Report%202024.pdf

*** https://sapienlabs.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/03/4th-Annual-Mental-State-of-the-World-Report.pdf,

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