Dr Kristy Howells explains why we need more sport and physical activity in our lives.

This week marks the start of the first ever Great British Week of Sport (19 to 27 September) which ukactive have developed in partnership with Sport England, the UK Government and the European Commission as the UK’s version of the European Week of Sport.  Over 30 countries will participate in the all-inclusive week with various partners encouraging people to be active through virtual activities that are being held daily.  Also through encouraging people to try free active walking and running aps such as ‘Active 10’ and ‘Couch to 5k’ which are linked to the Public Health England’s Better Health campaign.

The purpose of the week is two-fold, one to celebrate physical activity and sport, and two to shine a light on the importance that physical activity and sport has on supporting mental, physical and social wellbeing. As more and more sport and physical activity opportunities are beginning to opening up it is important to note how physical activity, sport and movement can help support mental health and why we need more sport and physical activity in our lives. 

In the All Party Parliamentary Group on Fit and Healthy Childhood report on Mental Health through Movement in 2019, we identified the importance of movement in a holistic way to improve and maintain positive physical, social and emotional health.  Movement can help remove distress, help develop a positive sense of identify and positive wellbeing.  This Great British Week of Sport, gives us the opportunity to celebrate and reminds us to enjoy spontaneous movement opportunities that we have at home such as dancing round the kitchen to our favourite song.  As well as the more organised and structured activities such as those run by Christ Church Sport and Active Health virtually in conjunction with OurParks or in the new reopened for face to face fitness classes. The act of coming together for sport whether it be physically or virtually together, can help develop a sense of connectedness and help to reduce loneliness and we need this more in our lives. 

Physical activity and sport can also help improve sleep, help restore our body balance and energy levels, we found in our 2018 work that movement could help aid in particular children who were having sleep difficulties.  Physical activity and sport can also help improve mood, sense of achievement, relaxation or release from daily stress and therefore all influence mental health and wellbeing. It is vital to find a physical activity and movement that you enjoy so you will continue this on, as this will help support your happiness and hope. It doesn’t matter about the space or having any equipment, movement is possible anywhere.  Consider also using green spaces to move within as these can help with positive sense of identity and wellbeing. 

It is time now, to start, to continue and to embrace being active as part of your everyday life. #BeActive

To find out more about the activities planned for the Great British Week of Sport visit www.gbwos.com

Dr Kristy Howells is Reader and Director of Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy in the Faculty of Education.