Movement for mental health

Our in-house therapist discusses the benefit of movement on your mental health

Climbing stairs

13 May 2024

For Mental Health Awareness Week, Squared therapist Patricia discusses the benefits of regular movement for mental health...

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week (13th to 19th of May) and the focus this year is on more movement to support your well-being. It may be that exercise is already part of your routine but if it isn’t, could now be the time to start with 10 minutes of walking or some other gentle activity? 

We know that even short amounts of gentle activity or movement can help reduce stress and anxiety, promote improved sleep and raise your mood. Plus, now the weather is finally better and we have some sunshine, it’s a terrific opportunity to get outside and enjoy green spaces. Any movement is better than none, so starting with baby steps is fine and you can build up from there.

Research shows that sitting for more than an hour at a time leads to an increase in inflammation in the body. This may be sitting at a desk all day when we are working or relaxing on the sofa in the evenings, but it is helpful and beneficial to get up regularly and move around. It could be to get a cup of tea or glass of water, but moving is key. After all, it’s not too far back in our human history that we were hunter-gatherers, constantly on the move, even into old age. 

Remember that making movement fun will help to make it happen. It doesn’t need to be a morning run, for instance it could be as simple as putting music on and dancing around the kitchen, getting stuck into the hoovering and making it more energetic, or if you have children in the family, play chase or ball games with them. 

There is another benefit beyond bringing more movement or exercise into our everyday lives. Being active is an opportunity to be mindful, to bring awareness to what we see when we are walking (looking at the flowers in the hedge as you walk down the street, or the clouds in the sky; noticing the sound of birds singing or even traffic noises). This can bring us more into the present moment and out of ‘busy thinking mind’, which is a way of giving ourselves a mental break. 

There is also yoga, tai chi or qi gong, forms of mindful movement to explore that really work both the mind and the body and can bring amazing health benefits. 

So, is this week an opportunity for you to move more and reconnect with a healthy habit you’d got out of touch with, or even start something new? Just remember that if you do, you’ll be helping your mind and body at the same time.