North West man transforms mental health using exercise

Mental Health Awareness Week 2024 takes place 13–19 May, and this year’s theme is ‘Movement: Moving more for our mental health’.

We all know exercise can improve our physical health and strength, but did you know that physical activity can also help our mental health?

Making sure we are moving enough can be something many of us struggle with, but every little counts, and finding time to incorporate movement into our daily routines can have great mental health benefits.

When we exercise neurotransmitters, including endorphins and dopamine, are released. This can help create a feel-good factor that boosts mood and energy and can help improve sleep quality.

Kieran Jones, 41, struggled with mental illness just a few years ago, becoming so unwell that he attempted to take his own life. During his journey to better mental health, he created a 12-week fitness programme, which then lead him to setting up his own mental health charity, Bridging Gap Mental Health. He’s now a mental health peer mentor co-ordinator, the roles includes recruiting and training new peer mentors and giving support and advice to people about how to help improve their own mental health and wellbeing.  

Kieran said:

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“One thing I had when I was coming through recovery and learning how to manage my mental health was the gym. But there’s so much more than just the gym – they’ll do yoga, rock climbing, they do exercise sessions and more.

“Just moving is a step in the right direction. The simplest activity is going out for a walk. We as a country have some of the best walks, many right on our doorstep. When you’re in that open space, it’s not just the scenery, you’ll go past some flowers and notice the smell and it gives you that awareness, plus you’ll be getting some vitamin D from the natural sunlight as well.  

“Whatever you feel comfortable with, that’s what you’ve got to do. So always tailor it to yourself.”

Whether it’s taking the long way round to get a few extra steps in, doing some star jumps while you’re waiting for the kettle to boil or signing up for a local class and enjoying some social time too - it’s about finding what works for you.

Mersey Care is marking Mental Health Awareness Week by launching a new campaign urging people to move more to help improve their mental wellbeing.

The campaign includes a new animation, inspirational quotes from staff and volunteers who have shared how improving their physical health has had a positive impact on their mental health, and tips for how you can get moving. Find out more here.

Dr Michael Gregory, Regional Medical Director for NHS North West, said: 

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“Moving more can really help your mental health. You don’t need to start marathon training just yet – starting small can help boost your mood. Dancing around the kitchen to your favourite music, walking around the block or even doing some chair exercises while you’re catching up on the TV planner. Better still, you can do an exercise routine downloaded to your TV or tablet. It all makes a difference.

“Something like a gentle yoga session, or a walk in a park taking in the nature and surroundings, can also help reset your mind and body. And of course, if you do want to sign up for that marathon, then go for it!”

Contact your local council or voluntary sector to ask about the variety of activities going on in your area. Some you could get involved with include:

  • parkrun is a free, community event where you can walk, jog, run, volunteer or spectate. parkrun is 5k and takes place every Saturday morning. junior parkrun is 2k, dedicated to 4-14 year olds and their families, every Sunday morning
  • Wellness Walks run a range of walks in the wonder of nature that are totally free to participants
  • Couch to 5K is a running plan for absolute beginners. The plan involves 3 runs a week, with a day of rest in between, and a different schedule for each of the 9 weeks
  • Mind’s North West Physical Activity & Mental Health Network

Interested in working in mental health care and psychological professions? You can find out more in these videos.



Content provided by NHS Cheshire and Merseyside.

Published on Mon, 13 May 2024 11:00:00 GMT
Modified on Sat, 20 Jul 2024 23:02:23 GMT