Be more active

Benefits of being active

Family gardening

Benefits of being active

Being active delivers immediate mental health and social benefits and has a long-term positive impact on our physical health.

Being active can lift your mood, improve your sleep, and make you feel connected and happier.

The resources and links on this website are designed to give you choices to find something free and easy to do that you enjoy. If you enjoy moving/exercising you’re more likely to stick with it.

And however you choose to be more active you should be proud of yourself for taking a positive step.

Being active has many health benefits 

    Given the overwhelming evidence, it seems obvious that we should all be physically active. It’s essential if you want to live a healthy and fulfilling life into old age.

    It’s medically proven that people who do regular physical activity have a lower risk of:

    • coronary heart disease and stroke
    • type 2 diabetes
    • bowel cancer
    • breast cancer in women
    • early death
    • osteoarthritis
    • hip fracture
    • falls (among older adults)
    • depression
    • dementia
    older lady doing yoga outside

    Movement and your mental health


    Activity is a powerful tool that can tackle loneliness, reduce anxiety levels, help you sleep better, improve your mood, improve your self-esteem and sense of achievement. 

    • better sleep by making you feel more tired at the end of the day
    • happier moods – physical activity releases feel-good hormones that make you feel better
    • gives you more energy to manage stress, anxiety or intrusive and racing thoughts – doing something physical releases cortisol which helps us manage stress
    • being physically active also gives your brain something to focus on and can be a positive coping strategy for difficult times
    • better self-esteem – being more active can make you feel better about yourself as you improve and meet your goals
    • reducing the risk of depression – studies have shown that doing regular physical activity can reduce the likelihood of experiencing a period of depression
    • connecting with people – doing group or team activities can help you meet new and like-minded people, and make new friends.
    lady on beach going for a run

    What if I’m feeling unwell?

    When you’re feeling unwell, it can be really hard to get started.

    If you’re in a really bad place, don’t be too hard on yourself if you can’t exercise. It can be easy to start feeling guilty or beat yourself up about not exercising, and this can start to contribute to feeling unwell.

    You may need to focus on other things for a while and build some activity into your routine once you’re feeling a bit better.

    Exercise can seem like an impossible challenge when you’re having a tough time.

    7 ways to improve brain health and wellbeing

    All living organisms that have brains need to move.

    This means that movement is linked to brain health and wellbeing.
    So, if we know that movement is vital to brain health, the key message is, to move it or lose it!

    There are many studies that have shown that increasing how much you move each day can improve your mental health.

    brain lifting dumbbells

    Move your body for better sleep

    Studies show that physical activity can help your sleep in 3 ways: by increasing sleep duration, decreasing the time it takes to fall asleep and giving you a better quality of sleep.

    Does this mean you need to go to the gym every day?
    Absolutely not! Physical activity includes things like walking, skating, biking, dancing, playing with animals and playing ball games, as well as many more examples.

    But what time of day is it best to move?
    Listen to your body. Try out different times and see what works for you. Probably best not to exercise vigorously too close to bedtime, but gentle stretching or a walk is okay.

    What really helps is to incorporate movement into as much of your day as possible – take stairs rather than lifts, walk/bike where possible and regularly get moving and get active!

    Be active for happier moods

    Choose movement for a natural high.
    Sounds good, but how do you change the ‘toxic stress cocktail’ into happy hormones?

    There are many studies that have shown that increasing how much you move each day and reducing the amount of time you spend sitting can improve your mental health.

    That’s because moving your body increases your heart rate and circulation and also helps burn off the stress hormones – adrenaline and cortisol – so you will feel more relaxed and freer from worry.

    Then after approximately 20–30 minutes of physical activity that makes you slightly breathless, like walking or biking, endorphins are released and will result in a mood and energy boost for two to three hours, and a mild buzz for up to 24 hours.

    Reduce the risk of depression

    Studies have shown that moving your body regularly can reduce the likelihood of experiencing a period of low mood or depression and also help you recover if you are feeling low or depressed.

    Walking for thirty minutes 5 x per week – raising your heart rate off its baseline – has the same effect as a mild/moderate antidepressant … but with no side effects. You can even do it in 10-minute chunks and it will still be as effective.

    But how do we get motivated to move when our mood is so low?

    Be active to build confidence

    Developing a regular routine of any kind of activity or movement will increase your belief in yourself which increases your self-esteem and overall confidence. It builds in 3 different ways:

    BE YOUR WORD – by doing what you say you are going to do you build a belief and trust in yourself and feel more in control.

    FEEL PROUD – during and after you complete the movement you can bask in the pleasure of your achievement.

    RIDE THE WAVE – the sense of achievement you feel will help you face challenges and meet other goals, giving your life more meaning and purpose.

    Make time to relax and reflect

    For our brains to be well-relaxed, focused and able to make good decisions, we need some privacy each day where we can step back from people and technology to be able to relax, reflect and daydream.

    This enables us to make sense of all the information we have recently taken on board, to problem-solve any challenges and to have the chance to think for ourselves.

    Ideally, you would do this a few times a day and movement can be a great way to help you relax and think.

    Be active to feel connected

    We are social creatures and to create a life that works, we each need to feel connected to friends and family. We are all different, so some people will need more connection than others, but we all need an emotional connection with at least one other person (or pet) to be mentally well.

    Joining a group of people who gather to exercise, or move can be a great place to make and build connections with others. Having an activity to do together is also a great way to ease social anxiety.

    You can take control and change how you feel. Start small and build up your toolkit of ideas, using movement as your foundation.

    Need help to be active? Find support local to you

    If you wish to make a referral into the Feel Good Suffolk service, your Feel Good Suffolk Advisor can support you to access information contained on this website or community assistance local to you.

    They can also advise you on the eligibility criteria for more intensive levels of support around managing a healthy weight, stopping smoking and being more active.