About ten years ago I was going through a fairly difficult time in my life – as well as an emotionally draining job, I lived hundreds of miles from my family and most of my friends and I generally found it difficult to switch off. I am not sure what I expected when, struggling with low mood and tiredness, I went to see my GP. I don’t think I expected him to prescribe me physical activity! He said, “Although I believe there is a place for anti-depressants I’m a big believer in the power of being active. I recommend you try regular running, walking, swimming or cycling and see how you get on.”
He explained that getting out and moving my body daily when possible would, he believed, not only be good for my physical health but my mental health and wellbeing too. I decided to listen to his advice and, with the exception of running which I’ve never quite mastered, I started to move more.
I began to get out for a walk each day – sometimes walking just to clear my head and take some quiet time, and sometimes leaving the car at home for an appointment or meeting and making my way on foot. Sometimes I’d swim or go for a bike ride too. It turned out that the GP was right – physical exercise did boost my mood and improve my mental wellbeing. For me, this feelgood factor provided the motivation to keep going.
BetterPoints programmes can provide motivation to get active too. We recently heard from Deborah, a member of the Get Active Ebbsfleet programme. Deborah told us that she loves to walk and sets herself challenges to walk daily.
“I started using the BetterPoints app because it’s good to be rewarded for getting fitter. It encourages me to enjoy getting outside for walks, rather than wear out my living room floor.
“It’s really important to me to be more active. I have previously, on several occasions, suffered from depression and earning BetterPoints has really helped me to get out walking, which always helps lift my mood when I am feeling down."
Deborah and my experiences are backed up by evidence, with multiple studies finding that physical activity is associated with a reduction in depressive symptoms. The Royal College of Psychiatrists believes that a moderate level of exercise can be as good as antidepressants or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
Walking has so many benefits and I love that I can do it from wherever I am, and I don’t need any special equipment. I also like the fact that it is free!
Ten years on; that simple conversation with my GP has had a long-lasting impact. In that time I trained as a health walk leader, went on to change career and ran a programme helping inactive people walk more to benefit their physical and mental health. There I saw the impact of walking on others too – whilst people might turn up at a group walk with their shoulders hunched and looking down at the ground, after a half an hour walk they would be walking tall, taking in what was around them and, more often than not, smiling.
At BetterPoints we’re passionate about encouraging people to be more active, we believe it benefits mental health and wellbeing as well as physical health – that’s why we reward activity tracked with our app.