Tips for getting physically active

Getting started with regular exercise can be a daunting prospect. But new healthy habits can bring substantial benefits for your mental health. Here are some ideas to help you get started, and suggestions of free and low-cost physical activities available in West Sussex

Research has repeatedly shown the vital link between physical and mental health. Regular exercise can boost your mood, improve your sleep, reduce stress and help you make social connections – all of which are highly beneficial for your mental health.

But getting started with exercise can be difficult and people often face barriers to being more active, such as time and cost constraints, physical health conditions, access to good facilities and previous negative experiences.

The good news is that new habits can be formed quickly, and there are plenty of low-cost and even free options available here in West Sussex.

Tips to get started

Starting a new exercise routine may seem daunting, but remember that every journey begins with a single step. Here are some tips for getting started:

  • Try out a few different things and find something you enjoy. Exercise shouldn't feel like a chore. Find an activity you genuinely enjoy, whether that’s dancing, walking, swimming or playing a sport.
  • Start small and gradually increase the intensity and duration of your activity as you build strength and stamina.
  • Enlist the support of friends, family or local community groups to help keep you motivated and accountable. Think about teaming up with friends or family to do an activity together and make it more fun. You'll get your social fix at the same time!

Time constraints are one of the biggest barriers to staying active, but with some creativity and planning, it's possible to incorporate physical activity into your daily routine. Here are some tips for starting new healthy habits:

  • Treat physical activity as non-negotiable time for yourself. Schedule it into your calendar just like any other appointment, and then stick to it!
  • Combine exercise with other activities, so that it becomes part of what you do. Think walking or cycling to work, or doing a workout while watching TV.
  • You don't need to dedicate hours to exercise. Short bursts of activity throughout the day all add up. Take the stairs instead of going in a lift, or go for a brisk walk during your lunch break.

Low-cost options

When people think exercise, they often think about gyms. Gym memberships usually come with a hefty price tag, but you don’t need lots of expensive equipment or a pricey membership to get active.

People who get support with West Sussex Mind can access a wide range of free physical activities, such as walking, running, table tennis, seated yoga and badminton. The groups are always fun, supportive and friendly, and cater to people of all abilities. Find out more.

There are also plenty of opportunities locally to exercise for free or low cost.

Outdoor activities

Take advantage of the stunning natural landscape in and around West Sussex. There are lots of great local walks and free walking clubs and activities throughout the county.

Most councils in West Sussex have a free healthy walks scheme. These are organised, guided walks at different locations. They are open to anyone and you just turn up and walk!

The Gay Outdoor Club (GOC) Sussex offers walks on the second Sunday of each month to enjoy the countryside and coastline in a friendly, inclusive community.

Home workouts

With the rise of online fitness platforms and YouTube channels, you can access a wide variety of workout routines for free. From yoga to HIIT workouts, there's something for everyone, and all you need is a bit of space in your living room. For example:

Community initiatives

Look out for community-based initiatives and events, which are free to join and provide a supportive environment for individuals of all fitness levels to get active.

By prioritising physical activity and finding affordable ways to stay active, even during the current cost of living crisis, you can take proactive steps to safeguard both your physical and mental wellbeing.

Remember, it's not about perfection. It’s about progress – one step at a time!

Check out We are Undefeatable, which supports people with physical and mental health problems to get active.

See Every Body Moves, where you can find activities near you and according to your physical or mental health need.

Ideas from Mind for getting active to help you manage your mental health.

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