For Mental Health Awareness Week 2024 (13 to 19 May), we are looking at how movement helps mental health.

Group of men and women exercising outside

Why movement?

Our minds and bodies are connected. Being physically active and looking after our bodies can help our mental health too. Exercise releases hormones that can make us feel better, reducing stress and anger, and sleep better.

Sitting for long periods is linked with poor mental health. It also impacts our health in other ways. It is thought to slow the metabolism, affecting the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar, blood pressure and break down body fat.  

Moving with others, such as playing sports, can help improve our mental health through feeling part of a team or group. Being part of a community also reduces stress.

Get moving

Movement means any way you move your body that works for you. That could include walking the dog, gardening, cleaning, cycling, dancing, going for a walk, playing sports, yoga, or going to the gym.

Many of us struggle to fit movement into our day. As well as the suggestions above, why not try these?:

  • Whenever you can during your work day, and on days when you aren’t working, stand up and walk around.
  • Take the stairs and walk up escalators.
  • Set a reminder to get up every 30 minutes (or whatever time period works for you).
  • Move around while you are on the phone or listening to a podcast or music.
  • Go for a walk whenever you take a coffee or tea break, or have a ‘walking meeting’.
  • Swap some TV time for more active ways to relax.

A little movement is better than none.

If you’re feeling inspired, you might want to try a movement challenge or join a group, such as Park Run, Couch to 5k, or the NHS Active 10 walking tracker app.

Find out more

NHS Better Health: Every Mind Matters

Better mental health: tips to help you take care of yourself

Stand up for better health: making a conscious change in how often we sit can benefit our health

Mental wellbeing: where to get help and how to offer it to others who may be struggling

Interview: ‘I can’t stress this enough: you’re not alone, you’re never alone.’

Mental health awareness: the benefits of nature

Wellbeing topics: mental health, debt, domestic abuse, gambling, relationships and alcohol