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School P.E. nightmares mean women shun exercise – putting them at risk of poor physical and mental health

Women with mental health problems are not exercising because of bad experiences with P.E. at school – putting them at greater risk of poor physical, and mental health, local charity Buckinghamshire Mind has warned. More than half of women (57%) do not participate in sport because they were not good at PE at school[1] while nearly half (43%) feel it is too competitive.

In response, Mind has today launched a new motivational website to help women with mental health problems choose a sport which is suitable for them, enabling them to take the first step and get active to improve their physical and mental wellbeing.

Buckinghamshire Mind will also be offering a free one-off taster session of yoga, stretching and movement on Wednesday 20th April to inspire people to become more active.

Women with mental health problems are more likely to have physical health problems such as diabetes and heart disease so being active can be really important for looking after their physical health. Mind’s new website is part of the charity’s physical activity project, Get Set to Go, supported by Sport England and the National Lottery.

Mind’s new website asks people to select reasons stopping them from exercising, and provides practical tips and real life stories to inspire people take the first step, and reap the benefits of an active lifestyle.

Twenty-two year old Louise from London was diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder in her second year of university. She started running with help from Couch to 5k after her GP encouraged her to try exercise and has found that running helps her to manage her mental health.

“I’ve found that running has made a real difference to how I cope with my anxiety. I was very unwell last July after I finished university but running makes me feel in control of the monsters in my brain. As well as giving me more energy and increasing my fitness, being active has made me appreciate my body.

“Running was a battle with my mind, more than my body, which is true for runners with or without mental health problems. But I’m glad that I pushed through the negative thoughts telling me to stop running as I’m so much more positive now. And fitter!”

Women currently exercise less often than men[2], but want to do more physical activity[3], so Mind is calling on women to use the charity’s new website to help them break down the common barriers – including feeling worried about taking part by themselves and fear of crowded spaces – which stop them from getting started.

Vicky Royal, Team Lead at Buckinghamshire Mind, says: “We know that having a mental health problem can make getting active more difficult. The thought of joining a running group when you have bipolar disorder, depression or OCD can stop you in your tracks – but a mental health problem doesn’t have to prevent anybody from getting active. Our new website is full of practical tips and inspirational real life stories which can help people take the first step, and reap the benefits of an active lifestyle.

“Being active can be an enjoyable, fun and social way of looking after your physical and mental health. Lots of people tell us it is a great way to socialise and make new friends – and there is a huge number of activities people can do if they struggle with social situations or new faces,” Vicky adds.

Through Get Set to Go, Mind aims to support 75,000 people with mental health problems to improve their lives through physical activity. The programme supports people with mental health problems become more active through eight sports projects across England. Those taking part receive one-to-one support from others with shared experiences, who understand the additional challenges a mental health problem presents to those who want to get active. Participants also get support through Mind’s safe and supportive online social network Elefriends, by swapping tips, advice and linking up with others who are just starting out.

For more information, to find out about Get Set to Go activities at Buckinghamshire Mind, click here. To talk to other people about getting started with sport visit Mind’s social network Elefriends, www.elefriends.org.uk.

[1] Mind conducted a Survey Monkey poll of 660 people (488 of whom have mental health problems) between 11 May and 06 July 2015.

[2] Sport England: Active People Survey 9 (1.73m more men played sport once a week compared to women).

[3] Sport England: Go where women are (13m women say they would like to participate more in sport and physical activity – just over 6m of those women are not currently active).