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Mental health

Why we invest in mental health

There’s plenty of evidence that taking part in physical activity can have a profound and positive impact on mental wellbeing. 

Being physically active can improve mood, decrease the chance of depression and anxiety and lead to a better and more balanced lifestyle. 

Our Active Lives surveys show people who are active have higher mental wellbeing scores than those who are inactive.

That's why, through our Uniting The Movement strategy, we are committed to supporting those who experience poor mental health and helping them to reap the benefits an active lifestyle can bring.

Understanding the impact of movement on mental health and wellbeing

To coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week 2024 and its theme of 'Moving more for our mental health', we released a special report that aims to increase our understanding about the impact of sport, physical activity and movement on our mental health and wellbeing.

The report dives deeper into data from the latest Active Lives survey (Nov 22 to Nov 23) and is supplemented with wider research from other sources.

How physical activity helps mental health

There are various ways that physical activity helps mental health, including:

Improved mood 

Studies show that physical activity has a positive impact on our mood, and it doesn't have to be far or fast. ASICS' global State of Mind study found that 15.09 minutes could be enough to lift your mood.

Another study asked people to rate their mood after a period of exercise (i.e. walking or gardening) and after inactivity (i.e. reading a book). Researchers found that people felt more awake, calmer and more content after physical activity.

For more information about the study, please see the Mental Health Foundation website.

Reduced stress

Being regularly active is shown to have a beneficial impact on alleviating stress. It can help manage stressful lifestyles and can help us make better decisions when under pressure. 

Research on working adults shows that active people tend to have lower stress rates compared to those who are less active.

Increased self-esteem 

Physical activity has a big impact on our self-esteem – that’s how we feel about ourselves and our perceived self-worth. 

This is a key indicator of mental wellbeing. People with improved self-esteem can cope better with stress and improves relationships with others.

Depression and anxiety 

Physical activity and exercise can be used to help prevent and manage mental health problems.  

Many GPs and mental health services now prescribe physical activity for depression, either on its own or together with other treatments.  

It’s effective at both preventing onset of depression and managing symptoms. 

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Our partnerships with mental health charities and services

We’re working with mental health charities and services to make a difference to the lives of people across the country.


  • Sector support

    Mind support people working in sport and physical activity organisations to better understand mental health.

    They want to inspire and support them to give people with mental health problems better access to physical activity.

    Mind offer a range of support to sport and physical activity organisations: 

    To access Mind’s sector support offer, please visit or contact the team at

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  • Get Set to Go

    We’ve invested £3m of National Lottery funding into Mind’s Get Set to Go programme.

    Lack of confidence, anxiety and fatigue are just some of the barriers that people with mental health problems face when getting active. 

    The programme has helped people with mental health problems to overcome the barriers they face when getting active. 

    More than 10,000 people with mental health problems have taken part in specially designed physical activity projects across 26 places in England. 

    The aim is to provide quality experiences to those wanting to get active. Friendly faces who know what it’s like to live with mental health problems have played a key part in developing the programme – and their encouragement is vital in helping people make that crucial jump from curiosity to activity. 

    Mind’s evaluation worked with over 1,000 local and digital participants to track their progress, making this the largest ever study of its kind. 

    Findings show that physical activity has an important role to play in building resilience, enabling and supporting mental health recovery and tackling stigma and discrimination. 

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  • Side by Side

    Side by Side is an online community where you can listen, share and be heard.

    The free and supportive space provides the opportunity for people to link up, share their experiences and connect with people around physical activity. 

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Rethink Mental Illness

Rethink Mental Illness is the charity for people severely affected by mental illness. They provide expert information and services, and campaign to improve the lives of people living with mental illness, their families, friends and carers. 

People living with a severe mental illness die on average 15-20 years earlier than the general population. Poor physical health (linked to medication and lifestyle) is a major contributor to this statistic. Physical activity can contribute to improved physical health and help us work towards reducing the mortality gap. 

We entered a unique partnership with Rethink Mental Illness in 2018 to pilot new initiatives to understand and remove barriers to physical activity for people living with a severe mental illness and their carers. 

  • Peer support project

    We know that people living with a severe mental illness face additional barriers to accessing physical activity.  

    Working in partnership, Rethink Mental Illness co-produced a toolkit to equip peer support groups and community organisations to embed physical activity and opportunities for movement into their existing offer.  

    This enabled people living with a severe mental illness and carers to have the opportunity to being physically active in a setting they were already attending, one they were familiar with and with people they already knew. 

    Over the course of the intervention, new and existing peer support groups were given the necessary resources, training and equipment to provide people the opportunity to be more active. 

    Evaluation of the project showed increases in physical activity and motivation to be active. Participants also reported they had improved wellbeing, felt healthier and their quality of life improved.  

    The work also highlighted the importance of peer support and social connection, which proved a key ingredient to the success of the project.  

    Read the full evaluation report

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  • Place-based project

    Rethink Mental Illness are working on a place-based project in Tower Hamlets and North East Lincolnshire.

    They are collaborating with key stakeholders from across the health, physical activity and voluntary sectors, and people with lived experience, to develop a deep-rooted understanding of the barriers to accessing appropriate physical activity opportunities and support, and work in partnership to co-produce and embed interventions to address the barriers.

    The project is ongoing with a final evaluation report launching late 2024. 

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  • Training and resources

    Physical Activity Pack – Rethink Mental Illness have pooled some existing resources from partners alongside some new resources with the aim of helping you to consider building physical activity into your daily routine.

    Physical Activity Toolkit – A co-produced resource for peer support groups and community organisations to embed physical activity into your existing offer. 

    Physical Health Check Tool – Everyone living with a severe mental illness is entitled to a free physical health check. This toolkit supports people with a severe mental illness, carers and clinicians through each step of the check. 

    E-learning for fitness professionals – A CPD accredited training course for fitness and exercise professionals to better understand severe mental illness, the barriers people face and practical considerations. Express your interest in this training now

    Good Practice Guide for Physical Activity Providers (launching September 2024) – A guide is being co-produced to support physical activity providers to improve the experience and reduce barriers for people living with a severe mental illness to attend a range of activities. 

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If you’re interested in learning more about our current mental health work streams, please email us

Case studies

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