Physical Activity and Mental Health in Islington

Find out:

  • The benefits of physical activity for mental health and other benefits
  • Activities for people in Islington with a mental health condition
  • The amount of physical activity the NHS recommends that we should do. 

The leaflet to the right, Physical Activity in Islington, has information about physical activity: its benefits, the offer in Islington, and how to get started. 

Benefits of physical activity for mental health

Being physically active improves your mental health because it:

  • cuts the risk of depression 
  • helps to manage stress
  • can improve the quality of sleep 
  • improves memory and brain functioning
  • provides opportunities to be sociable and meet new people
  • improves mood, confidence and a sense of self-worth
  • is an opportunity to be in nature

Being active can help in the treatment of many mental health conditions including depression and anxiety.

Mind has more information about the benefits of physical activity for mental health.

Research suggests that walking or jogging, yoga, and strength training are more effective than other exercises for treating depression, particularly when intense.

Other benefits

Being physically active:

  • Cuts the risk of a wide range of physical health problems
  • May help to stop smoking 
  • Means young people are more likely to do better in education, and earn more as an adult
  • Can increase productivity in the workplace
  • Can bring people together, which can create friendships, reduce loneliness, and strengthen communities.

Activities for people in Islington with a mental health condition

There are over 60 types of physical activity on offer in Islington at more than 100 clubs, leisure centres, libraries, parks, community centres and other venues. There is something for everyone, whatever your physical ability, age, or whether you have a disability. Many of these activities are free or low-cost.

Sport and physical activity has full information about physical activity in Islington including a map showing the activity on offer across the borough.

There are activities for residents who are service users of the secondary care offered by Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust. The activities are by referral only.

  • Football: Mondays, 11am-1pm; Fridays, 12-2pm
  • Qi Gong: Tuesdays, 10.30-11.30am
  • Swimming: Wednesdays, 1-2pm
  • Tennis: Tuesdays, 1-4pm; Thursdays, 10am-12pm
  • Walking or running: Tuesdays, 12-1pm

Islington Mind supports adults (18+) with a mental health difficulty. Islington Mind offers a range of free therapeutic activities and support for service users including physical activities such as yoga, walking groups and table tennis. Any Islington resident in need of mental health support can self-refer through the website. 

Recommended levels of physical activity

The NHS recommends we are active to stay healthy. The recommended level of activity varies by age.

People aged 19-64

  • Be active every day
  • And do at least 150 minutes/week of moderate activity or 75 minutes/week of vigorous activity or shorter periods of very vigorous activity, or a mix of all three
  • And do muscle-strengthening exercises on two or more days a week
  • And cut the time spent sitting or lying down and break up long periods of not moving with some activity

People aged 65+

  • Be active every day, even if it is just light activity
  • And do at least 150 minutes/week of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity/week, or a mix of both
  • And do muscle-strengthening exercises on two or more days a week
  • And cut the time spent sitting or lying down and break up long periods of not moving with some activity

People aged 5-18

  • Be active every day for an average of at least 60 minutes of moderate or vigorous intensity physical activity
  • And take part in a variety of types and intensities of physical activity across the week
  • And cut the time spent sitting or lying down and break up long periods of not moving with some activity, and spread activity throughout the day

Under 5s

  • Babies (under one year) should be encouraged to be active throughout the day, every day, in a variety of ways, including crawling
  • One- to two-year-olds should be physically active every day for at least 180 minutes
  • Three- to four-year-olds should spend at least 180 minutes a day doing a variety of physical activities spread throughout the day, including active and outdoor play. This should include at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity
  • All children under five should not be inactive for long periods, except when they are asleep

Moderate activity should make you breathe faster and feel warmer, and just about still able to talk. It will raise your heart rate, and make you breathe faster and feel warmer. You can still talk but cannot sing. If you start sweating, then that is good; it is what you are aiming for. Vigorous activity should make you breathe hard and have difficulty talking.

Muscle-strengthening exercises should include the arms, shoulders, chest, abdomen, back, hips and legs. A repetition is a complete movement of an activity. Try to do eight to twelve repetitions or more, until you struggle to complete another one. Do not overdo it.

Examples of moderate activity:

  • Brisk walking
  • Water aerobics
  • Riding a bike
  • Dancing
  • Doubles tennis
  • Pushing a lawn mower

Examples of vigorous activity:

  • Jogging or running
  • Swimming fast
  • Riding a bike fast or on hills
  • Walking up the stairs
  • Sports such as football, rugby and netball
  • Skipping rope
  • Aerobics
  • Gymnastics
  • Martial arts

Examples of muscle-strengthening exercises:

  • Carrying heavy shopping bags
  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Tai chi
  • Lifting weights
  • Working with resistance bands
  • Push-ups and sit-ups
  • Heavy gardening
  • Wheeling a wheelchair
  • Lifting and carrying children

Examples of very vigorous activity, for adults aged 19-64:

  • Lifting heavy weights
  • Circuit training
  • Sprinting up hills
  • Interval training
  • Spinning classes

Examples of light activity, for adults aged 65+:

  • Getting up to make a hot drink
  • Moving around your home
  • Walking at a slow pace
  • Vacuuming
  • Making the bed
  • Standing up

Any activity is better than none. There are many ways to be active. Playing sport is just one of them. There are many others, such as walking, doing a fitness class, and play for young people.

If you have a question about the content on this page, contact John Thorne: john.thorne@islington.gov.uk; 020 7527 7096.

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