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Moving more for our mental health

This years #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek theme is 'movement: moving more for our mental health'. Our aim is that this blog inspires you to make movement a priority this week and unlock the host of benefits for physical and mental wellbeing that movement in nature brings.

Let's begin with the important question of WHY movement is so powerful for improving our mental health, especially movement in nature?

The benefits really are amazing. You probably know or have experienced some of them already, but reminding yourself could give you a boost of motivation to lace up your trainers and head out of the door for a run or walk, today!

1.Being in nature can reduce stress-related hormones, making us feel calmer and happier. Simply having views of trees, plants, shrubs and water can increase our sense of wellbeing

2. Taking a break and heading outdoors can help to restore focus or give new clarity to thoughts, ideas or worries. It's as though moving our body helps to move thoughts around too, allowing us see and appreciate things in new ways

3. Spending time outside in natural light can improve the quality of sleep as the light/dark cycle of the sun keeps our bodies synchronized with our environment

4. Being outside in the sunshine is a brilliant way to increase your vitamin D, which in turn boosts your immune system, promotes bone growth and helps to prevent osteoporosis. Higher vitamin D levels are also linked to reduced feelings of depression

As the above benefits show - which are just a few of our favourites! - nature offers a host of wonders. When combined with the many benefits of exercise (such as the release of endorphins, dopamine and serotonin, that can improve self-esteem and mood) it is no wonder that moving regularly in nature, feels SO good.

BUT research by the Mental Health Foundation shows that more than a third of UK adults find it challenging to find the time for movement.

We've all been there.

That plan to go for a walk at lunchtime or do Parkrun on Saturday morning somehow has been pushed way, waaaay down the priority list as the week progresses. To-do lists pile up (maybe laundry too), and we decide to "save time" by skipping our movement of choice. It seems like the right decision to begin with in our quest to get more done and be ever more productive...

However, when you consider the immense benefits that movement and being in nature has on our physical and mental wellbeing, we realise that we should be putting movement higher up the priority list, maybe even at the top.

This is your sign to make movement a priority this week and we're here to help with a few tips;

1.Done is better than perfect - whether you can go for a walk around the local park whilst taking a work call or find five minutes between meetings to do some gentle stretching in the outdoors, choose to do something over doing nothing, even if that something isn't "perfect". All of these small actions stack-up and help us to feel better about ourselves as well as building daily movement into a habit.

2. Make a plan - ask a friend to meet up for a walk or jog on local trails this week. Make a plan and stick to it; your buddy can hold you accountable for making time for yourself and can remind you of the importance of movement if this plan begins to slip down the priority list...

3. Kettle yoga - A quickie that anyone can squeeze in! Whilst the kettle is next boiling, use those two minutes (give or take) to explore how the body is feeling today. Maybe practice a few stretches for any areas that feel sore or (with a hand on the countertop if needed) practice standing on one leg to improve balance.

4. 'Re-frame' movement - A mindset hack rather than a time hack, but if you fall victim to feeling guilty for taking time out of your busy day to move and get outside, remember that movement will help to increase your focus and productivity in other areas of your life. Making time for movement not only benefits your mental health, but it benefits your workplace, community and family.

5. Book onto a guided session - at Peak Running and Jog Derbyshire we have lots of activities coming up, led by our team of qualified jog and walk leaders. If you'd like to find movement in a group - and not have to worry about getting lost! - this may be a great option to help you commit to some "you" time this week.

We hope that this blog has provided you with some food for thought around movement and wellbeing, and that you manage to make time for movement this week.

If you'd like to learn more about #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek, please visit the Mental Health Foundation website here.

Below are resources provided by Derbyshire Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Team;

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