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Get Active for Mental Health Awareness Week

May 16, 2013

Ahead of Mental Health Awareness Week next week, Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and Active Cumbria are highlighting how physical exercise can make a real difference to mental health and wellbeing.

Dr Richard Thwaites is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist for the Trust’s First Step service which helps people throughout Cumbria with mild to moderate mental health problems.

He said:

“We know from both research and from the things that patients tell us that physical activity can play a significant part in helping people get over certain mental health issues like mild depression. When people are feeling low and there is a lack of motivation, taking part in any kind of physical exercise can help most people start to feel better in themselves, and give a real sense of achievement. However the symptoms of depression such as low energy and motivation means this is difficult to get started on without support. This is why it is important for clinicians in First Step to link up with exercise practitioners as part of a recovery program to get people feeling good about themselves, energised and motivated.”

This is re-iterated by Bruce Lawson, Senior Partnership Manager, Active Cumbria The Sport and Physical Activity Partnership:

“Everyone should strive to keep themselves active by doing some form of physical activity or sport of their choice. There are huge health and social benefits to be gained by keeping active at any age. Experts believe that physical activity can have a positive impact it has on mental health. It can help people with mild depression or anxiety and we think it helps protect against dementia. Often it is about getting out and about and that helps release endorphins, the chemicals that make us feel good about ourselves.”

Many people who use the First Step service were once involved in some kind of sport or physical activity, re-introducing this into their lives can mean forging new and perhaps old friendships and can give people a sense of achievement and  improved wellbeing. 

In Carlisle and west Cumbria there is a dedicated service called ‘Exercise on Referral’ where clinicians can refer patients suffering from certain mental health problems onto an exercise program with a qualified personal trainer. It has been very successful.

Ria Lowrie is a Practitioner for First Step she explained how successful the programme is:

“Exercise on referral is a fantastic resource for people struggling with symptoms of depression and/or anxiety. I have referred many clients into this service over the last year and those who have engaged with the process have reported great benefits. As mental health practitioners we can use the scheme to form part of a particular treatment plan to break cycles of depression and/or anxiety and to increase their overall health and mental well-being. 

“Clients have explained to me that they enjoy going to the gym sessions and find having time to invest in themselves with the support of professional staff on hand, to be beneficial in their recovery from depression and/or anxiety. “

Cumbria Partnership have also supported Active Cumbria’s School games for the last two years. Inspired by the London Olympics, the School Games is a programme to encourage more young people to take part in physical activity at a variety of different levels. The idea is to help maintain young people’s physical and mental wellbeing.

Exercise is part of the ‘five ways to well-being’. These are steps that can be built into every life to improve well-being. They were developed by scientists from the New Economics Foundation using evidence from across the world.