Monday 13 May 2024

Mental Health Awareness Week 2024 - Movement

Sue Newham jive dancing

The theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week 
13 - 19 May 2024 is Movement - moving more for our mental health.

The Mental Health Foundation, the charity which has hosted the annual Mental Health Awareness Week since 2000, explains why Movement is the chosen theme:

“Being active is important for our mental health. But so many of us struggle to get enough exercise. We know there are many different reasons for this, so this Mental Health Awareness Week we want to help people to find moments for movement in their daily routines. Going for a walk in your neighbourhood, putting on your favourite music and dancing around the living room, chair exercises when you’re watching television – it all counts!”

Sometimes it is easy to come up with excuses as to why we can’t exercise - perhaps we’re too busy, too tired, think it’s too expensive, have bad experiences from previous attempts, feel embarrassed to join in with others and not sufficiently motivated to get active at home. We asked some of our PAVO colleagues (shown here in reverse alphabetical order) about their excuses not to exercise and how they overcame them.

Trish Varley - Finance Officer

My excuse is that I watch sooooo many exercise instruction videos on Pinterest, that I'm too tired to actually do the exercise!!

But my dog Rosie gets so fed up watching me watching exercise clips that the look on her face prompts me to do lots of walks along the Newtown river paths and the beach at Borth.

Trish Varley and Rosie

Sue Newham - County Development Officer, Making a Difference in Powys - Numeracy Grant Scheme (photo above)

My excuse would be that I am too busy to fit exercise in.

I have been going to jive classes in Caersws with Luv2jive for about a year now. I went initially because I was aware how little exercise I was getting, but it has taught me so much.

It has helped me to accept that being rubbish at something is an unavoidable part of getting better at it. It has helped me to get over feeling self conscious about what others might be thinking about me. The people are all really friendly, and we always have a laugh. People are there to dance, but they also support each other in many little ways. The final thing I have learnt is that I have to force myself off the sofa, no matter what the weather, or how busy the day, because jive is good for me, and I don't want to get out of the habit.

Sharon Healey

Sharon Healey - Head of Health, Wellbeing & Partnerships

My normal excuse is because I don't have the right coat or footwear. I love to walk but the weather over the winter months makes it very difficult to find the energy and motivation to get out for a walk.

I recently invested in a very good waterproof coat as the weather has been awful. To make me get out and walk I sign up to a month's walking challenges or set a challenge for myself on a walking app. This month I'm trying to do 12,000 steps a day whatever the weather. A normal day is 10,000 steps so I'm having to walk further each day to reach 12,000. Walking each day helps me unwind and switch off following a day in work. I'm fortunate I live in a beautiful part of Mid Wales with the Wye Valley walk on my doorstep. I have so many walking routes available.

Penny Tanner - Macmillan Community Connector

The best excuse is 'No Time!', 'So much to do!', 'Family!'

Schedule it in, write it in a diary or daily list or make a weekly timetable.

I joined a weight lifting group in January 2023. I felt the benefits for my mental and physical health immediately. Previously being a runner, lifting weights strengthened my joints and having over a year off running, I am now starting to run again. I wanted to train in the gym more often, to gain the benefits, but this meant more travelling to the local gym for me. 

Time then became an issue and the thought of travelling to the local gym wasn't so appealing, but thinking of the benefits to my bone health and the social aspect, I began making a plan, so on a Sunday I would look at the week ahead and schedule the gym in around other commitments, such as family and work and liaise with my gym buddy. Having a gym buddy is accountability and shares the travelling cost. 

 A major benefit for me was that you don't have to spend lots of sessions or time lifting weights, because the benefits on your mind and physical health continue after your session has finished and in your resting.

Louise Hardwick

Louise Hardwick - County Development Officer (Social Value)

My excuse: it's raining, I can't be bothered! I'll do it tomorrow!

I have always been an early bird, now as I’m approaching that certain age I am up before the larks! Rather than just sitting at home I started going out for little walks, this has then developed to trying to go out every single day before the sun has even appeared, catching that gorgeous sunrise if the weather permits! 

I've also joined our local yoga studio in town and have been going religiously since September last year, the difference it has made is crazy - feeling better about my flexibility, mobility and just general wellbeing. 

Walking, by myself!!, it's MY time, no family allowed on the morning walks (not that they would want to come as they're all still sound asleep!!) allows me time to decompress, clear my head, breathe and just appreciate those early morning sunrises, the peace and tranquility - aside from the birds chirping furiously away - and revelling in the gorgeous surrounds that we are privileged to live in. I do try and do a lunch time walk several times a week, packing my trainers in the car when in the office so there's no excuse - planning ahead - get that clothing set out the night before so there's not another reason not to do it, your body and mind will definitely thank you!!

Janet Walker

Janet Walker - Senior Officer Internal Services

I have chronic pain and I feel low and hopeless at times. When my condition was severe I had physiotherapy treatment from Rachel Kili Physiotherapy and I now go weekly to Simply Fit (movement and exercise in the countryside). If I am honest I don't always feel like going, especially if it's wet and cold which makes my condition worse. I have a million excuses - last week it was because the dog had an operation - but I know I feel better if I attend so I try not to miss the sessions. 

Everytime I roll up, fatigued and unmotivated - but after an hour of being in the company of supportive people (we all have our good and bad days) with a leader who is a qualified physiotherapist with a different philosophy from fitness instructors I feel amazing! 

This is not boot camp - it's movement for life at a pace that suits each person in the group - it has helped us all to understand why we need to move better as we are naturally designed and evolved to do and develop core strength and balance - so we can keep doing the things we love and that make us whoever we are, all packaged up with being out in nature. It's my lifeline and I am really grateful that my line manager enables me to work flexibly so I can attend.

Helen Johnson

Helen Johnson - Digital & Telephone Befriending Officer

Excuse - my leg doesn't work anymore…

After an episode of ill health I found myself reliant on others to leave the house. I experienced limited use of one of my legs. After 6 months or so of watching daytime TV I ventured into Ponthafren to their art classes. I quickly realised how socially isolated and lonely I had become. I felt broken and useless. Ponthafren offered me acceptance and gave me a purpose again. I volunteered there for 18 months, every shift growing in confidence and self worth.

After raising my mental health came the challenge of making my body useful again. Firstly I joined up to Race at Your Pace and set a goal of running 25 miles a month. I devised that I could do a sort of run on a mini trampoline at home by the bannister so I could hold it when I wobbled. I couldn't run and definitely not outside on uneven ground but I found a way to move myself safely and achieve this great goal. As you can see from the photo I completed 2 months before going onto my next challenge which was to swim the channel in a pool for Diabetes UK.

The first time I went into a pool after my illness my leg floated away from me. I had no control of it at all. I knew I wanted to get stronger again but had no idea that with persistence and hope I would be able to swim all those lengths. It took me months to complete but I did it.

By moving myself from the sofa into the outside world I was able to improve my mental health. I supported others which encouraged me and then I was able to face the journey back to physical health.

My advice would be - if you can't make a start for yourself, make it about supporting someone else.

Gareth Marston - Development Officer Shared Prosperity Fund Grant Scheme

Invariably the reason I don't exercise more revolves around Sunday mornings and a Ladies only session at Maldwyn Sports Centre.

When for various reasons I've got up early on the Saturday I tend to sleep in a bit on Sunday to compensate. Ideally unless we're doing anything on the Sunday I should have my second trip of the week to the gym however on Sunday there is a Ladies Only session from 1100 to 1200 which means I have to be there by 1015 at the latest which I often don't get up and dressed in time for!

If the weather gets better! I will have the garden to work on this summer as an alternative and get out in the fresh air and get my steps up instead of the gym. I also walk to and from work at the PAVO Plas Dolerw office twice a week.

Claire Sterry

Claire Sterry - Senior Officer Third Sector Development

Every excuse under the sun for not exercising previously! it's raining, I'll do it tomorrow etc, etc, etc….

Now I've joined the local leisure centre as a member, so I want my money's worth so I'm doing swimming, aquafit, konga every week, as well as walking the dog.

Also joined a Garmin step challenge with my new friends I've made from going to exercise classes (an unexpected bonus) - so I go for a walk around my estate in the morning before work to get my steps in. I'll also park at the far end of the supermarket car park, and walk up and down all the aisles, whether I need anything from them or not.

The Garmin is a really good motivator as you can join challenges etc. to get you moving.

Exercise has made a massive difference to my mental health - if I'm feeling low or anxious, or just need to clear my head, it lifts me up and rebalances me. It's also helped me lose 3 stone along with using the Noom app - so physically feeling much better too. It's been a real life changer for me.

Clair Swales walking (and dancing with her daughter)

Clair Swales - Chief Executive Officer

This happened to me just yesterday! I was pushing myself to go for a walk (I set myself a target of walking everyday in April after a particularly unwell period and being rather sedentary).

My excuse: I couldn't get my earphones to connect to my phone and as such couldn't listen to a podcast. So I promptly took my coat and trainers off and sat back on the sofa, with the tv playing some awful programme and mindlessly scrolling through social media on my phone at the same time.

I had to kick myself up the bum and later that day force myself to go for a walk after I had fixed my earphones - no more excuses once they were fixed! Trouble was had I gone when I was originally going, it would have been sunny but instead I got soaked! Walking is great for my mental and physical health. Getting some fresh air in the lungs, taking in the sights and sounds of a country walk, being with my dog all help me to clear my mind of work and tasks.

Update: I managed to walk over 62 miles in April and go dancing! Having a daily walk as a focus has really helped to improve my mental health and wellbeing. In February and March I had been quite poorly but getting outside has helped significantly. Never one to say no to a challenge I am now taking on a fundraising walk this Sunday with Hay football club and walking 23 miles from Hereford to Hay.

Thank you to PAVO colleagues for their wonderful contributions! 

You can find out more about the connection between physical activity and mental health 

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