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The benefits of running for overweight or inactive women are often thought about in terms of weight loss and the gains that can be had for your physical health, but have you ever thought about the benefits that an activity like running can have on your mental health? I know for sure that my running over the past 10 years has really helped me to manage occasional bouts of depression, and helped me feel less self conscious about my body, and on a day to day basis it simply allows me to let off steam and achieve something positive when everything else around me might feel like its going to pot.

But new research, released today by Mind , shows that four fifths (80 per cent) of people with mental health problems who do not take part in sport, are put off because they feel self-conscious about their bodies. Nearly 70 per cent of people told Mind that they feel their mental health makes taking part too difficult. The findings come as Mind launches Get Set to Go, a new programme to support 75,000 people with mental health problems to take up sport.

And of course its not just running, its any sport you enjoy.

supporter_zumba_GSTGTwenty-three year old Claire Greaves dances to manage her anxiety, and says: “I used to shut myself away not spending time with anyone or doing anything but I knew that I enjoyed being active. I remember worrying about walking into a new dance class and fearing people would stare at me or I wouldn’t be able to find where I was going. My mind threw a hundred excuses as to why I could not go. I wouldn’t be good… I would make a fool out of myself… I found that when I actually did it, it was absolutely fine!

Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, the mental health charity, says: “Our research shows that people with mental health problems do want to participate in sport, however feelings of low self-confidence, exhaustion or fear of crowded spaces are preventing them from getting started.

“We want more people with mental health problems to be able to enjoy exercising and Get Set to Go will help people to better look after their physical and mental health through sport. Our online community, Elefriends, is also a great place to find support and advice from others with mental health problems who use sport and exercise to stay well.”

Icon 1I hope to highlight this issue more and more over the coming months, particularly whilst I develop the scope of our virtual running event OneBigFatRun which takes place on the last Sunday of every month. Since its humble beginnings back in 2013 the event has seen over 3000 participants get involved, with people (mainly women but a few men for good measure) covering their 5K distance in a way that suits them.

The event is great if you feel a little isolated and want to be part of a wider community of running folk…especially if you are not ready to take the plunge and run with others in person or at big races which can be overwhelming, but equally OneBigFatRun is a great excuse to get a small group of friends or family together and to do it as a team.

The next event takes place on Sunday 26th July and you can sign up here

The Fat Girls Guide to Running is committed to working with partners to help reduce stigma and start positive conversations about mental health. That’s why we have signed up to The Sport and Recreational Alliance (SRA) and Professional Players Federation (PPF) mental health charter.

So come on folks, if you are feeling a little blue or are struggling to cope with what life is throwing at you, put on your shoes, head out the door and see what difference being outside in the fresh air can make, whether you walk, jog or run we really don’t mind, just get involved and take control of your physical and your mental health all in one go.

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