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Exploring the link between movement and mental wellbeing

"Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body; it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity”

John F. Kennedy

We talk a lot about the core pillars of wellbeing, alongside eating well and good sleep hygiene, movement contributes to the physical wellbeing pillar. Studies show that movement helps our mental health in many ways, but in particular by managing stress, increasing energy, improving mood by creating endorphins (the happy hormone) and improving sleep. It is important to enjoy the exercise you do, so you are then more likely to commit to it and stick to a routine, rather than viewing it as a chore.

What impact does movement have on our mental wellbeing?

By introducing regular physical exercise and movement into our routine, studies have shown that it can boost our mental wellbeing. It impacts the following key areas:

1. Our mood

A study reported by The Mental Health Foundation showed that regular exercise had a positive impact on mood, they asked people to rate their mood immediately after periods of physical activity (e.g. playing sport, going for a walk or doing housework), and periods of inactivity (e.g. reading a book or watching television). Researchers found that the participants felt more content, awake and calmer after being active, compared to after periods of inactivity. They also found that the effect of physical activity on mood was greatest when the mood was initially low. Many studies look at physical activity and its impact on people’s mood. Overall, research has found that low-intensity aerobic exercise – for 30–35 minutes, 3–5 days a week, for 10–12 weeks – was best at increasing positive moods (e.g. enthusiasm, alertness).

2. Impact on stress levels in the workplace

When we feel under pressure or overwhelmed at work we can feel stressed. The common signs of stress include poor sleep and loss of appetite, which can trigger the fight or flight response in our bodies via adrenaline. When we experience a surge of adrenaline our heart rate can increase, reducing blood flow to our skin or stomach, preparing to give us energy for escape. Movement has been proven to be very effective in relieving stress, and research has shown that active individuals tend to have lower stress rates than less active individuals.

3. Impact on our self-esteem


Exercise can help us to have a positive impact on our self-esteem, giving us confidence when we achieve our goals. It can also help us to create a sense of community by being part of a team when playing sports or joining a class.

4. Impact on depression and anxiety


Physical activity has also been shown to be a positive tool in helping to manage depression and anxiety. Depending upon the individual it can be used in partnership with medication.

Getting Started

If you wish to introduce more movement into your routine, it is important to first find something you enjoy doing, it should not be considered a chore. If you can manage to be out in the fresh air, so much the better. One of the great things about introducing more movement into your routine is that there are endless opportunities for things that you could do. Here are a couple of ideas:

  • Taking the dog for a walk or going for a walk at lunchtime.

  • Cycle or walk to work, if you take the train, try getting out a stop earlier and walking the rest of the way.

  • Dancing around the kitchen.

  • Chores, even cleaning the house or gardening count as movement.

  • Having walk-and-talk meetings or joining lunchtime fitness classes.

  • Choose from a wide variety of sports eg: football, tennis, hockey, cricket, swimming, cycling, going to the gym, the list goes on.

It is recommended that adults should do between 75-150 minutes of exercise a week. This can be anything as long as you are moving and raising your heartbeat. Once you have decided to include more exercise into your weekly routine it is important to do a little planning, consider:

  1. Your “why”. Think about why you want to move more, the driving force behind this decision will help you stick to your new routine when things get tough.

  2. Set your targets. Once you have decided on the type of movement you wish to do, having something to aim for will help you get there. It could be you want to run a half marathon or partake in a bike race, raising money for charity.

  3. Start slowly and build up your strength to avoid injury.

  4. Make time and be realistic about how much time you have to give to exercise. By blocking time out in your diary will help you to stick to the new routine, start by adding one or two sessions per week, then build from there as you start to feel the benefit and enjoy.

  5. Get an accountability buddy. To help you keep motivated find someone to support you so you can encourage each other. If there is not an obvious friend or colleague to ask then tell friends and family and ask them to hold you accountable.

  6. Don’t forget to also keep hydrated and eat well to fuel your body.

In summary

At The Mind Hub, we provide a wide range of wellbeing training solutions from webinars and workshops to drop-in clinics, that all support our team’s workplace mental wellbeing. Topics include Mindful Movement, Sleep and Menopause, Deskercise, Online Yoga or Pilates, Sleep and Nutrition workshops. To see how we can encourage your teams to take a conscious approach to their physical wellbeing in the workplace, please get in touch to discover more.



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