Since I founded RED January in 2016, more than 150,000 people from around the country have kick-started their year by getting active every day in January to beat the blues away.
To date, the RED community has raised over £2.7 million for mental health charities.
Physical activity has always been an important part of my life. In secondary school it was all about fun, enjoying getting muddy pins on long cross country runs.
Being active in my twenties took me on adventures, exploring the world through new cities.
Now in my thirties, physical activity is something I use as a tool to help me manage everyday stresses and I wondered if it could also help my mum as she started to recover from a period of severe depression.
Never one to do things by halves, I went ahead and signed us up to a walking marathon to provide my mum with a goal and a focus.
During training, I started to see a change in my mum’s mood and energy and some of the symptoms lessened.
The sense of achievement gained by setting a goal and seeing it through, along with the physical effects of regular physical activity, helped transform my mum’s approach to managing her mental health.
This got me thinking about what was out there for people like my mum, who might need extra support to take on a physical challenge but could benefit hugely from an all-inclusive event.
I found these to be lacking, particularly in the winter months, at a time when many of us need an extra boost of motivation.
The sense of achievement gained by setting a goal and seeing it through, along with the physical effects of regular activity, helped transform my mum’s approach to managing her mental health.
By providing a free event, for all fitness abilities, I wanted to encourage people like my mum to support their mental health by building movement into their daily lives.
By marrying a fitness challenge with the support of a wider online community, I felt sure this could have long-lasting, positive effects on the nation’s mental health.
January seemed like the perfect month for such an event, providing an opportunity to kick-start the year in a positive way.
It’s a time when many of us are setting new goals, are low on funds and motivation, with fewer social occasions to keep us connected. RED was an empowering colour for dark times that could inspire those taking part to ‘get active every day, to beat the blues away’.
I ran RED January alongside my full-time job, relying on support from friends and family. The number of people taking part each year grew quickly, mainly through word of mouth and it became clear there was a demand for a community-based, fitness challenge to get people moving in a typically tough month.
With RED January 2021 just around the corner, I can’t help but reflect on how much the RED community has grown in such strength and support for one another, with over half of this year’s community not only improving their activity levels, but also experiencing less stress and reduced signs of depressive symptoms.
After what has been a challenging year for all of us, my hope is that RED January 2021 provides people with an opportunity to start the new year off on the right foot.
As we can’t all be together in person this January, let’s all be together in purpose.