BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Health
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Background Briefings 
Medical notes 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Sunday, 20 May, 2001, 23:09 GMT 00:09 UK
Exercise 'helps mental health'
Many people say exercise helps them feel good
Many people with mental health problems use physical exercise to make them feel better, a survey has found.

The survey by the charity Mind found that 83% of people with mental health problems looked to exercise to help lift their mood or to reduce stress.

Two-thirds said exercise helped to relieve the symptoms of depression and more than half said it helped to reduce stress and anxiety.

Physical activity and exercise has a valid place in the 'treatment' of mental health problems

Sue Baker, Mind
Some people even thought it had a beneficial effect on manic depression and schizophrenia.

Six out of ten said that physical exercise helped to improve their motivation, 50% said it boosted their self-esteem and 24% said it improved their social skills.

Mind found that people with mental health problems were more likely to get their exercise from everyday activities like walking, housework and gardening.

However, 58% did not know that GPs can sometimes prescribe exercise sessions and activities.


The biggest barriers that prevented people from taking part in physical exercise were motivation problems, the cost of sport and lack of confidence.

One respondent to the survey said: "I would not have recovered over the last few years without daily exercise, combined with alterations of diet."

Another said: "I still suffer from depression, anxiety and stress, but doing exercise does give relief and greatly helps me through the days."

Report author Sue Baker said: "Our survey proves, beyond any doubt, that physical activity and exercise has a valid place in the 'treatment' of mental health problems.

Gym members

"As such it deserves far more recognition and should be made more widely available."

However, she stressed that physical exercise could not prevent all mental health problems from developing, and should not be seen as a replacement for other 'treatments'.

Mind is calling for:

  • More information about the availability of exercise prescriptions from GPs
  • Greater access to leisure facilities for people with mental health problems
  • Subsidies to leisure centres for people on limited or low incomes
  • Increased provision of exercise in mental health services, for instance as part of care treatment plans

In separate research, gym users with no mental health problems were quizzed about their attitudes to exercise.

Seven out of ten gym members thought their general mental well being would suffer if they stopped exercising.

One in three reported that exercise improved their performance at work.

Mind is launching a new booklet, the Mind guide to physical activity.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
See also:

05 Apr 01 | Health
Exercise on prescription
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Health stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Health stories