There seem to be more ‘awareness’ weeks popping up than ever before, but there are definitely some that are more worthy of our attention than others. I believe Mental Health Awareness Week is one such example.

Mental Health Awareness Week runs from 13th – 19th May and is organised by the Mental Health Foundation UK (MHF) who are a well-respected UK charity with a remit to help people stay well and try and prevent mental health problems before they happen.

I am particularly pleased to see their theme for 2024 is MOVEMENT: Moving more for our mental health and they are underpinning this theme with new research recognising the connection between the body and mind and the strong links between improved mental health and regular movement.

Earlier research from the British Heart Foundation has shown that in the UK people spend around 67 hours a week sitting down, making us inactive for up to three out of seven days! NHS studies have linked excessive sitting with slow metabolism, poor sleep and medical conditions such obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some types of cancer. Further research has also linked a lack of movement with poor mental health, increased stress levels, tension, anxiety and depression. With many job roles becoming more sedentary over recent years, the World Health Organisation has even launched a global action plan aimed at reducing physical inactivity by 15% by 2030.

However, increasingly, it is employers having to shoulder the burden of health and wellbeing initiatives that are not being adequately tackled by government departments, local councils or a hard-pressed NHS. The good news is that interventions don’t have to be expensive and there are lots of low cost ideas that can be adopted by businesses, irrespective of their size, sector or location. The MHF are always very generous with their FREE information, tips and resources and this year they have produced a new set of ideas to support the Awareness Week.

I particularly like their simple suggestions of ‘finding moments for movement every day’ and using those ‘waiting’ moments we experience in a day to do some simple stretches or ‘take a break from sitting’ by setting a timer to take regular movement breaks. Business leaders and managers can use these resources to encourage employees to adopt healthier work practices and send an even more powerful message to their people by leading through example.

If movement and exercise can help improve the body’s metabolism and blood flow, increase focus, reduce mental fatigue, improve memory recall and stimulate creativity, shouldn’t we all be building more deliberate movement into our day, taking more desk and monitor breaks and suggesting the next meeting is a walking meeting?

I hope you find the links useful!

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