Getting enough exercise and being active can be important for both your mental and physical health. Some medications might make you feel more tired. However, moderate exercise can help to improve your mood and general wellbeing and help you to feel better about yourself.
Regular exercise can also lower the risk of physical diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, stroke and certain types of cancer. Being more active can also help you to be a healthier weight.
How much physical activity should I be aiming for?
Any exercise is better than none. If you are between 19 and 64 years old guidelines say you should do about 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week broken up into chunks. For example, you could do 30 minutes of exercise five days a week.
Moderate exercise could include:
- Walking quickly.
- Bike riding (on level ground or with few hills).
- Doubles tennis.
Moderate activity will raise your heartbeat and break you into a sweat but you should not be so breathless that you cannot talk.
You could do 75 minutes of vigorous exercise a week instead, which is about the same as 150 minutes of moderate exercise.
Vigorous exercise could include:
- Jogging or running.
- Singles tennis.
You can use 'My physical health exercise plan' to track your physical activity by downloading The good health guide here (see p.25)
Vigorous activity will raise your heartbeat quite a bit. You should be breathing hard so that it’s hard to talk without pausing for breath.
If you are overweight then you should build up to doing this amount of moderate or vigorous exercise.
If you have not done any exercise for some time or have other health problems, you could discuss increasing your physical activity with your GP.
You do not have to sign up to a gym or leisure centre to be able to exercise. Many forms of exercise are free such as running or walking. Even housework or gardening can count as exercise and keep you active.
You might be able to get an exercise prescription from your GP. These prescriptions give you some free or reduced rate exercise sessions and support from staff at the gym or the local NHS. You could ask your GP surgery if they are able to provide exercise prescriptions. They might only offer them to people who are over a certain weight or body mass index (BMI) or who have certain health conditions.
If you receive a personal budget, you could use this money on something that would help your physical health such as:
- Gym membership.
- Use of local leisure centre facilities.
- Buying a bike.
You would need to agree with whoever grants you your budget how to use it. This could be your care coordinator at your mental health team or a social worker from the local social care team.
Only people who have a high enough level of support needs receive these budgets. If you are assessed as having high enough support needs, you could ask for a personal budget instead of receiving other services.
For further information see our factsheet on 'Personalisation in community care'
I don’t want to exercise by myself!
You don’t have to. There are many exercise groups locally. Look for:
Groups set up in many local areas that meet regularly to walk together. They can be a way to get active and also to meet with other people and explore new places.
Walking for Health
Telephone: 020 7339 8541
promotes walking for pleasure and runs local groups.
Telephone: 020 7339 8500
You could also find details of local walking groups through your library.
Conservation volunteer schemes
These run environmental projects and community groups where people can volunteer to help reclaim local green places. Offers a chance to help your local area and be outdoors as well as getting physically active.
They also run ‘green gyms’ – a range of practical projects involving physical jobs in the outdoors.
Telephone: 01302 388883
You might have local organisations that organise physical activities. You could see if there are any local Rethink Mental Illness services (www.rethink.org) or check other organisations such as Mind (www.mind.org.uk). If you have a care coordinator, you could ask if they know of anything.
Need practical advice & info? We can help.
Contact our Advice team about mental health & related issues
0300 5000 927 Monday - Friday 9.30am - 4pm, not including bank holidays