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Two-year project shows people with mental health problems benefit from physical activity

By Rob Gibson    09 Nov 2017
People who increased activity levels by 1.3 days a week reported it improved their ability to cope / Shutterstock
The findings show that physical activity has an important role to play in building resilience, enabling and supporting mental health recovery, and tackling stigma and discrimination
– Paul Farmer, CEO, Mind

A landmark programme by Mind and Sport England has reinforced the link between regular physical activity and better mental wellbeing.

Mind launched the Get Set to Go programme in July 2015, and has since helped more than 3,500 people in the UK with mental health problems to get more active.

Figures released by the mental health charity today (9 November) show that those taking part increased their activity levels by an average of 1.3 days per week and reported that it improved their resilience and ability to cope – with 78 per cent rating the programme as very good or excellent.

Activities included gym, football, badminton, boxing, walking, boccia and ultimate frisbee, with participants receiving support either one-on-one or in a group.

“The findings show that physical activity has an important role to play in building resilience, enabling and supporting mental health recovery and tackling stigma and discrimination,” said Mind CEO Paul Farmer.

During the programme, independent researchers from the University of Northampton and Loughborough University recorded the experiences of more than 1,000 participants across eight local centres, through surveys, interviews, focus groups, and mood and physical activity diaries.

In a summary report, they said: “Participants who took part in the evaluation engaged in, on average, at least one more day of vigorous activity per week. Moderate activity went up by almost two days a week after six months in the programme.

“At the three-month follow up, there was a significant change in participants’ perception of their social support – their feeling that they are cared for and know people who can help them. This was as a result of the increased social interaction and connection built through group activities.

“People who reported increased social support also reported better wellbeing and felt a better ability to cope and be resilient at each measured time point.”

The report showed that participants felt more ‘autonomous’ in their motivation to be physically active, meaning they wanted to be active because they enjoyed it rather than feeling pressured into it.

Sujan, who joined Wolverhampton-based Jolly Joggers as part of Get Set to Go, said: “Jolly Joggers is great because it motivates you to keep going jogging, even in winter.

"It's helped with my panic and anxiety attacks and I feel much better and more confident in myself.”

Mind is now asking sport and activity organisations to use its recommendations. Download the evaluation summary to find out more.

Paul Farmer  Mind  Sport England  mental health  Get Set to Go 
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