Study confirms physical activity’s benefits to mental wellbeing

The mental health charity Mind, has today revealed the findings of a landmark two-year study which shows that people with mental health problems who are more regularly active have better mental wellbeing.

Older people playing tennis

The Get Set to Go programme, the largest of its kind anywhere in the world, was launched[1] with support of Sport England and the National Lottery in July 2015 to help people with mental health problems benefit from being physically active. The programme has since supported 3,585 people with mental health problems get more active. After six months of taking part in Get Set to Go, 78% of people rated it as very good or excellent.

Participants in Get Set to Go increased their activity levels by an average of 1.3 days each week, and felt like they had more support available to them after taking part in the programme. They also felt it had improved their resilience and ability to cope. The research, which was independently evaluated by experts from Loughborough University, worked with 1,000 participants to track their progress.

Participants took part in specially designed physical activity projects. Delivered in communities across England by eight local Minds, participants received group and one-to-one support from peers with an understanding of how mental health can be a barrier to physical activity. Participants took part in a range of activities including gym, football, badminton, boxing, walking, boccia and even ultimate frisbee. Participants also got support through Mind’s safe and supportive online social network Elefriends, by swapping tips, advice and linking up with others who were just starting out.

Nationally, Get Set to Go campaigned to promote the benefits of getting active on mental health, reaching over 19 million people with specially developed information. Thousands more accessed information and support to help them get active online through Mind’s Elefriends website.

Mind is calling on organisations working in sports and physical activity to take on the learnings from Get Set to Go and embed the programme’s recommendations in their work to support participants with mental health problems.

All recommendations can be found at mind.org.uk/gstgresults

Sujan, who joined the Wolverhampton-based Jolly Joggers as part of Get Set to Go, said:

“I was very nervous at first because I suffer from panic attacks and anxiety attacks, so the idea of going to a new group was a bit scary. It was hard at first to get the motivation to go but once you’re there it’s brilliant because everyone is in the same boat as you. When I don’t go jogging I feel quite down and lethargic, so it’s become an important part of my routine now that I go for a jog at least once a week. 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. I can go jogging on my own now, which I never used to do before. I’ve made new friends which I keep in touch with and we go jogging together.”

Sports Minister Tracey Crouch said:

"Sport can have such a positive impact on a person's mental health and help change lives for the better. I want to see more sports bodies work closely with mental health organisations and 'Get Set to Go' is an excellent example of this. I hope that the programme continues to go from strength to strength, increasing mental health awareness across the sport sector."

Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said:

“We know that physical activity can play a vital role in the lives of people with mental health problems, reducing the risk of depression by up to 30%. Unfortunately we also know that many people who do want to participate in sport are being held back by their mental health, whether that’s feelings of low self-confidence, exhaustion or fear of crowded spaces. The findings of the Get Set to Go programme shows us that it works as a model, improving participants’ resilience and building their support networks. We hope that organisations working in sport and physical health take up the recommendations from Get Set to Go and we look forward to working closely with them to reach our shared aim of helping more people with mental health problems become and remain physically active.”

Jennie Price, Chief Executive of Sport England, said:

“This project has really brought to life how physical activity can help people with mental health problems improve their sense of wellbeing, and how in practical terms they can be supported to be more active. I am very proud of what Sport England’s partnership with Mind is achieving, and we want to do more work in this area in future.”

To find out more about Get Set to Go visit mind.org.uk/sport

 

[1] Funding was awarded in November 2014