This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and the Public Health Agency (PHA) is urging people across Northern Ireland to get active in a bid to improve their emotional wellbeing.
Mental Health Awareness Week runs from 13-19 May and this year’s theme is physical activity and exercise, highlighting the positive impact that physical activity can have on mental health and wellbeing.
Madeline Heaney, Regional Lead for Mental Health and Wellbeing at the PHA, said: “Being physically active is not only good for your body, but also for your mind. Taking part in exercise releases chemicals in the brain that can improve your mood and make you feel good. Being more active and getting out and about is not only enjoyable, but can be a way of meeting people which in turn is good for mental health and can also build confidence.
“Benefits of physical activity also include a reduction in stress, anxiety, frustration and anger. Those who exercise more will get a natural energy boost and as a result of the exercise are more likely to have an increased appetite and to get a better night’s sleep.”
It is recommended that adults should take 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days.
If you are just getting started, work at a pace that suits you and build up your levels of activity gradually.
Madeline Heaney continued: “Physical activity can be introduced into everyday life such as walking the kids to school, leaving the car at home for short journeys and taking the stairs instead of the lift at work.
“It can be daunting making changes to your life, but support from family, friends and health professionals can help if you want to improve your mental health.
“Regular physical activity promotes good mental health and can improve your mood, reduce anxiety and protect against depression. The summer months are the perfect opportunity to get more active whether that is going for a walk, cycling or playing sports.
“One of the easiest ways to get active is by going walking – it can be done at your own pace, is completely free, and most of all, is enjoyable.”
For a guide to outdoor activities in NI see http://outdoorni.com/