Published on 25 May 2023

Every Mind Matters launched to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week.

A new campaign is encouraging people to “make the first move for their mental health and get active”.

A healthier, more physically active lifestyle can have a number of wellbeing benefits, not just mentally but also in helping with good self-management of diabetes, and reducing the complications and risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

The Better Health – Every Mind Matters campaign was recently launched by the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) ahead of Mental Health Awareness Week (15 to 22 May).

Recently published research revealed that three-quarters (75%) of adults surveyed report feeling anxious, but less than half (45%) are aware that physical activity is proven to reduce symptoms of anxiety.

The government is increasing investment in mental health services by at least £2.3 billion a year by March 2024 to support an additional 2 million people.

Last year, the draft Mental Health Bill was published, intended to modernise the Mental Health Act and support people with serious mental illness.

A group of people talking.

Comedian and actor, Tom Davis, said: “Anxiety is no laughing matter. I’ve had a colourful career, from working on building sites, to the shop floor, to being a comedian in front of thousands, and I’ve struggled with anxiety in every role. There’s a big difference, though, to being outside your comfort zone versus feeling overwhelmed by it and letting your anxious thoughts hold you back. And being active for just a few minutes each day can make a huge difference.

“It’s important to find something that you enjoy and do it regularly. I love boxing and try to go often, but even taking my daughter to the park can really clear my head and help to keep those anxious jitters at bay.”

NHS and TV doctor, Dr Ranj Singh, shared his tips on how to ease anxiety and advice on how the public can start getting active for their mental health: “Anxiety is part of everyday life, and it can help us focus or take extra care when needed, but when it gets too much, it can have a really big impact on how we want to live our lives.

“Physical activity is one of the simplest, but most effective, things we can do to help alleviate anxious feelings, calm racing thoughts, and give us something to distract from negative thinking. Regular physical activity is best, but even a few minutes each day can help. I personally love dancing because some good music instantly lifts my mood.”

Recently published research on a study of 2,000 adults in England found that around 4 in 10 reported having trouble sleeping (38%), feeling less confident (37%) and having less energy due to anxiety (35%).

For just under a quarter (24%), anxiety stopped them from attending social events and almost one in 10 admit it has impacted on their relationship, as they spend less time with their partner (8%).

Physical activity releases feel good hormones and improves mental health but, according to the new research, less than half of adults are aware that it’s proven to reduce symptoms of anxiety (45%), reduce stress (45%) and distract from negative thoughts (42%).

Four in 10 adults are not doing the NHS-recommended 150 minutes of physical activity per week.

A couple tying their exercise shoes on a bench.

The research revealed that more than a third (35%) of adults tend to use distraction techniques to relieve feelings of anxiety, including watching TV (47%), browsing the internet (36%) or even isolating themselves from others (33%).

However, those who do regular physical activity report that it helps to boost their mood (68%), confidence (61%) and relieve anxious feelings (61%).

With almost 1 in 5 not doing any form of physical activity (19%), the research also revealed that not feeling motivated (41%), not enjoying physical activity (25%), and not having enough free time (19%) were the top barriers to getting active.

Only 13% of us are aware of the NHS-recommended 150 minutes of physical activity per week.

Psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos said: “People are often surprised to know the benefits that just a few minutes of movement can have on our mind; you don’t need to do a full body workout to reap the rewards. Being active increases feel-good hormones, like endorphins, and can boost confidence.

“I always recommend getting outside for a brisk walk or gentle jog because being in nature can help us feel happier and more relaxed. And the best bit is it’s free.”

Delivered by OHID, the Better Health - Every Mind Matters campaign offers NHS-approved tips and advice to help people manage their anxiety, including links to free NHS apps, such as Couch to 5K and Active 10, that will help them make the first move.

The Better Health - Every Mind Matters website also gives people the opportunity to sign up to anxiety-easing emails, offering expert advice to help them stay on top of their mental wellbeing and show them how to make these new steps part of their routine.

Visit the NHS Every Mind Matters page for more information
Read the DRWF diabetes information leaflets on Exercise and diabetes and A healthy diet and diabetes here

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