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Public urged to get more active as part of new government mental health campaign

The Government has launched a new campaign as part of mental health awareness week encouraging the public to be more active as research reveals many people aren’t aware that exercise can reduce anxiety.

The Better Health – Every Mind Matters initiative directs people to NHS-approved advice to help people manage their symptoms of anxiety, including signposting to apps such as Couch to 5k and Active 10 to help those interested kickstart their journey.

The campaign launches alongside a new study which shows that, of the 2,000 adults who were polled, just less than four in 10 reported having trouble sleeping (38%), felling less confident (37%) and have less energy (35%).

The survey also revealed that less than half of the adults knew that physical activity is proven to reduce symptoms of anxiety (45%), alleviate stress (45%) and distract from negative thoughts (42%).

Around four in 10 report not reaching the NHS target of 150 minutes of exercise per week with just less one in five not doing any form of physical activity at all (19%).

Barriers to exercise included not having enough motivation (41%), not enjoying it (25%) and not having enough spare time (19%).

The project is being supported by a variety of public figures including the BAFTA-award-winning actor and comedian, Tom Davis; and NHS and TV doctor, Dr Ranj Singh.

The pair discuss their own anxiety and encourage the country to improve their mental health by getting active in a new film launched as part of the scheme.

Leading psychologist, Dr Linda Papadopoulos, who is also backing the campaign, 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!”

Mental health minister, Maria Caulfield, added: “We know poor mental health can significantly impact our quality of life, so I’m pleased to see this campaign highlighting the simple steps we can all take to reduce its impact – such as spotting and addressing the signs of anxiety early on.

“But we know sometimes more support is needed, and that’s why we’re currently investing £2.3bn every year to expand and transform mental health services in England so that two million more people will be able to get the mental health support they need.”

The project is being delivered by the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities.

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NHE May/June 2024

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