Movement for Mental Fitness Goes Mainstream

Third Space

More people are taking up physical activity to improve their mental health.

Mind in Motion

Exercise is good for the mind and body, with benefits extending far beyond the reach of pharmaceuticals.

  • A large review from Australia found physical activity to be “highly beneficial” for improving symptoms of “depression, anxiety and distress”.
  • A recent study from Amsterdam’s Vrije University found running to be as effective as antidepressants for treating mental health.
  • 54% of adults’ main motivation for exercising was for boosting mental health, ahead of the 49% who said it was getting in shape.

With 40% of Brits experiencing a decline in mental health over the last year, 32% are exercising more to combat the effects.

Class in session. It took a full fledged crisis to catalyse the shift, but London is breaking the stigma with mental health shops popping up on high streets and classes coming to fitness clubs.

  • Gymbox’s new MIND category comprises five “mental fitness” classes, including strength-based stress relief and guided journaling.
  • MINDFIT offers classes designed to provide cognitive and emotional boost.
  • Third Space’s Mind & Body classes, combine sound, ballet and Pilates with “quiet rooms” for guided meditation.
  • Fitness First and The Gym Group provide mind- and body-focused sessions, such as meditation, stretching and breathwork.

Outside the studio, adidas is partnering with Calm to increase mental resilience through audio-guided mindfulness runs.

Takeaway: As NHS waiting lists reach record highs, there’s an opportunity for operators to address mental and physical health. With evidence that movement is medicine and more people exercising for mental health, a collaboration across government, healthcare and fitness could be a fruitful finish line for all.

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