Movement and Mind
Exploring the mind and movement relationship
Move more to feel better!
There are many studies which have shown that increasing how much you move each day can improve your emotional wellbeing and mental health.
The Mind Charity website helps explain about how being active is good for our minds - see their page 'Physical activity and your mental health'
Does this mean you need to go to the gym every day? Absolutely not!
Physical activity includes things like walking, skating, biking, dancing, playing with animals and playing ball games, as well as many more examples.
You can simply try incorporating movement into as much of your day as possible, by doing things like:
- Taking the stairs rather than the lift
- Walking and biking to places where possible
- Reducing the amount of time you are sitting by taking regular breaks - especially when we're on screens or playing our X-boxes.
Below lists the 7 ways that movement improves our emotional wellbeing, and why we should all move more!
1. Move more to sleep better:
Studies also show that physical activity can help your sleep in 3 ways by:
- Increasing how long you sleep duration
- Decreasing the time it takes you to fall asleep, and
- Giving you a better quality of sleep.
2. Move more for a natural high:
The more we move our body the happier we feel.
This is because moving our body increases our heart rate and circulation and this helps burn off the stress hormones – adrenaline and cortisol, so we start to feel more happier, relaxed and free from worry.
20 or 30 minutes of physical activity that gets you slightly breathless, like walking, running or biking, will release endorphins, and these endorphins give you an energy boost which instantly improves are mood making us feel happier.
This energy boost will last for two to three hours, and can keep your body buzzing for up to 24 hours
3. Move more to manage stress, anxiety or racing/upsetting thoughts:
As well as getting rid of stress, being physically active gives your brain something to focus on to help you stay positive when coping with difficult times.
When your body is busy, your mind isn’t
Our minds are constantly thinking about the past and worrying about the future, but when we're focusing on our body it keeps us in the present moment - when our body is moving, instead we are thinking about our breathing, pace, steps, the sensations of our limbs moving, and your noticing things around you.
All this helps your mind become free from worries
4. Move more to reduce the risk of depression:
Studies have shown that moving your body regularly can reduce the chances of you experiencing low mood or depression, and if you are already feeling low or depressed can also help you recover.
Do you know that a 30 minute walk, 5 times a week, that raises your heart rate, has the same effect as a mild/moderate antidepressant but with no side effects!
5. Move more to Increase confidence, self-belief & self-esteem:
Developing a regular routine of any kind physical activity will increase your body confidence so you belief in yourself more which will increase your self-esteem too. It builds in 3 different ways:
- Be your word - by doing what you say you are going to do you build a belief and trust in yourself and feel more in control. For instance I am going to complete a 5K Park Run!
- Feel proud - during and after you complete any physical activity you feel good about your achievement. For instance you got a personal best time from running your last Park Run!
- Ride the wave – the sense of achievement you feel will help you face challenges and give you a buzz to fulfil goals - giving your life more meaning and purpose. For instance now I can run 5K, I can try running 10K, and eventually go on to run a marathon!
6. Move more to relax, reflect and daydream:
For our brains to be well and able to make good decisions we need some time to ourselves each day where we can step back from people and technology to relax, reflect and daydream. This allows us to make sense of all the information around us that we are constantly bombarded with, to problem solve and think for ourselves.
Some ideas of how we can move and get time to ourselves:
- Walk on your own to school where appropriate
- Play with your pet
- Kick or bounce a ball about in the garden or park on your own
- Run up and down your stairs a few times
- Go for a swim or to the gym
- Dance about in your room to your favourite songs
- Go for a run or jog
- Go rollerblading or skate boarding
- Go for a bike ride
- Do dance challenges on TikTok
- Follow yoga videos or work out sessions on You Tube
7. Move more to connect with people:
We are sociable creatures, we each need to feel connected to friends and family.
We are all different, so some people will need more connection than others, but we all need an emotional connection with at least one other person (or pet) to stay mentally well.
Joining a group of people who gather to do a physical activity, sport or exercise, can be a great place to make and build connections with others.
Also doing an activity with others helps you feel more at ease at meeting and socialising with new people - reducing social anxiety.
Tell your friends about how moving more can help their emotional wellbeing!
Download our Movement and Mind z card for young people, with advice and tips about the 7 ways movement helps your mind. (Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to request an accessible version of this z card.)
Take up the 'Move more' One Month Challenge!
The recommended amount of movement each week for young people 18 years of age and younger is at least 60 minutes a day.
For one-month, challenge yourself to move more by:
- Joining a leisure activity - go to our page 'Find something near you'.
Getting active with an App! We recommend these Apps:
Remember! To start with small chunks of movement and gradually do more.
Remember! Choose ways to move more that are fun for you and your friends to do.
Where can I find emotional wellbeing and mental health support?
If you would like to talk to someone about how you are feeling, or would like more advice and guidance about managing stress, anxiety or depression, visit our section 'Mental Health and wellbeing'