Mind partnership reveals mental health and sport link

Two-year programme reinforces benefits of regular exercise to mental wellbeing

09 November 2017 Research Active Nation

Some young adults form a circle after exercising

Sujan's anxiety was holding her back. She was trapped in a vicious cycle which was keeping her from having the confidence to access the exercise and activity which could benefit her mental health.

“I was very nervous at first because I suffer from panic attacks and anxiety attacks, so the idea of going to a new group was a bit scary."

The Get Set to Go programme was set up to help people in exactly Sujan's situation. Launched by the mental health charity Mind in 2015, with support from us and the National Lottery, more than 3,500 people with mental health problems have been supported by this landmark two-year programme.

At eight local Mind branches throughout the country, group and one-to-one peer support sessions helped participants build an understanding of how mental health problems might act as a barrier to their physical activity. Alongside this support there was the chance to try a range of activities including gym, football, badminton, boxing, walking, boccia and even ultimate frisbee.  

Coping better

An independent evaluation of the results of Get Set to Go, carried out by Loughborough University and the University of Nottingham, found that people taking part had increased their activity levels by an average of 1.3 days each week.

It’s helped with my panic and anxiety attacks and I feel much better and more confident in myself. I can go jogging on my own now, which I never used to do before

Sujan, Get Set to Go participant

More importantly, many people who took part in the research reported feeling an improvement in their resilience and ability to cope.

Sujan joined Wolverhampton-based Jolly Joggers as a result of Get Set to Go and is clearly feeling the benefits:

"Jolly Joggers is great because it motivates you to keep going jogging, even in winter. It’s helped with my panic and anxiety attacks and I feel much better and more confident in myself.I can go jogging on my own now, which I never used to do before. I’ve made new friends who I keep in touch with and we go jogging together.”

A national campaign

Get Set to Go also campaigned on a wider-scale, promoting the benefits of physical activity on mental health to over 19 million people. Thousands more accessed information and support to help them get active online through Mind’s Elefriends website.

Mind is calling on organisations working in sports and physical activity to implement the programme's recommendations in their work to support people with mental health problems. All recommendations can be found at mind.org.uk/gstgresults