Academics from the NCSEM-EM are undertaking research on a range of areas where physical activity can help enhance mental health.

Physical activity and mental wellbeing

A Loughborough University academic has worked with the mental health charity Mind on a landmark two-year study showing that people with mental health problems who are more regularly active have better mental wellbeing.

"This programme aimed to increase interest in physical activity, reduce barriers and increase participation in physical activity to improve mental health."

Dr Florence Kinnafick
Lecturer in Psychology, Loughborough University

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Exercising in nature


We know that being active, rather than inactive, is good for us, but NCSEM research from Sheffield Hallam University has shown that exercising outside in green environments could have more benefits than simply going to the gym does.

"Physical activity in green environments provides added psychological and emotional benefits, rather than just the usual physical benefits that we know activity brings."

Professor Keith Davids
Professor of Motor Learning, Sheffield Hallam University

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A number of scientific studies have shown that resistance or strength training is beneficial in slowing the cognitive and physical decline of people suffering with dementia.

We have produced a series of videos which demonstrate how to do seated exercises using a resistance band which aim to improve upper and lower body strength. This provides benefits for walking, climbing stairs, standing from a chair, holding items and co-ordination of arms and hands in daily tasks.

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Download the seated resistance band workout booklet.




Your diet and exercise could be negatively affected if you don’t look after your sleep. Dr Iuliana Hartescu of Loughborough University’s Clinical Sleep Research Unit has studied the benefits of a restful night and the relationship between sleep, exercise and diet, which, she says, operate as a 'health trinity'.

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Sleepful - Effective treatment for insomnia

Sleepful is a therapeutic programme designed to help people with insomnia benefit from the principles of cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) to help improve sleep quality.

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Maternal mental health

Across many different populations, those with better social support tend to fair better in the face of adversity. Undergraduate students in Loughborough University’s School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences have been exploring maternal mental health and the roles of different forms of support, including physical activity.

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Physical activity has been shown to have a positive effect on mental wellbeing and many interventions now include physical activity as part of the prescription for good mental health. But for some groups – such as transgender and non-binary identifying people – engaging in physical activity, exercise and sport can pose a great challenge.

"Anything that we can do to help break down the barriers identified in our research could have a very positive effect on the mental health of transgender and non-binary identifying people."

Dr Gemma Witcomb
Lecturer in Psychology, Loughborough University

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Elite sport and wellbeing

Most of us play sport to escape the stresses of everyday life, which is well-evidenced as having a positive impact on our physical and mental health. But for those regularly competing at the highest level, what effect can this have on their wellbeing?

Dr David Fletcher reflects on the implications of his stress and resilience research for those who aspire to sustain performance at the highest level, both within elite sport and other performance domains.

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Disordered eating


Elite athletes need to be both physically and psychologically resilient to cope with the stress and pressures of competitive sport. For a small proportion of athletes, the stress of competitive sport can elicit mental health difficulties.

Achieving success in sport often requires a close attention to diet and weight. Differentiating between what is ‘normal’ for an athlete in the context of their sport and identifying those with potentially disordered eating habits is challenging. Dr Carolyn Plateau has information and advice for coaches and sports professionals.

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Download: Eating disorders and disordered eating in sport booklet

Return to work toolkit

A new online guide which allows employers and staff to talk about mental health has been made available to businesses across the UK. The Return to Work toolkit gives bosses and their employees information, downloadable material and advice on how best to approach absences and returns due to stress, anxiety or depression.

"Mental health affects one in six people in the workplace, so the likelihood is, that if you work in a large office, a number of your colleagues have been through or are going through mental ill-health."

Dr Fehmidah Munir
Reader in Health Psychology, Loughborough University

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