Studies recognise the benefits to mental wellbeing of movement, running, being in nature and allowing the mind to settle.1 We’re taking these different strands of what’s proven to work and combining them to get the maximum benefit from a short, simple programme - Movement for Mind. It’s being designed by ASICS and our team of independent experts. To create Movement for Mind, we’re bringing together proven, practical, simple and effective techniques - based on scientific research and focused on improving mental wellbeing. From the start, Movement for Mind will be robust, well-researched and independently evaluated.
It’s vital that our programme shows measurable and demonstrable value. Therefore, once we have developed Movement for Mind with our team of experts, we want to put it to the test. The programme must work for people of all fitness levels and be flexible enough to appeal to everyone. We’ll refine the details of the programme in an initial feasibility evaluation study with ASICS employees, overseen by Dr Brendon Stubbs. Dr Stubbs’ internationally-renowned research focuses on physical activity and mental health and the mind-body interface. Next, we’ll partner with external organisations to run a larger trial, measuring the impact of the programme on the mental wellbeing of a bigger test group. With Dr Stubbs’ support, we’ll be able to talk confidently about the research-based benefits of Movement for Mind. And, armed with independent data, we’ll be in a position to approach a mental health charity to present Movement for Mind as a proven and effective tool to positively impact on mental wellbeing.
Robust research has shown that physical activity can help to maintain positive mental health and prevent depression2 and anxiety.3 There is strong, reputable research that backs up the idea that movement and mental wellbeing are linked and exercise can be useful to improve the mental health of people with multiple mental health conditions.4 5 The benefits are neatly summarised (and referenced) in an interview with Dr Lynne Drummond (a mental health research doctor and running coach).6 7
Why Mindfulness / Meditation?
Mindfulness and meditation, while ancient practices are fairly new clinical interventions. The science underpinning their effectiveness is young and developing, but there’s a decent volume of evidence for the benefits of mindfulness. In particular, research has shown that mindfulness can help alleviate stress over a long period of time – it can help reset the baseline level of stress experienced by an individual.8
There’s also evidence that even brief mindfulness practices can lower stress responses.9 This is why even a small element of mindfulness in our programme could be beneficial in reducing stress levels of people coming into the session and help them get more out of the activity itself.
Although the research is in its infancy there is evidence that being outdoors can be hugely beneficial for our mental health. Wellbeing, as reported by participants in a 2019 survey, improved significantly when people spent two hours a week in a natural setting. And a study10 based on 1200 UK adults showed that even 5 minutes exercise in a green space helped significantly improve mood, particularly in people with poor mental health.
A systematic research study into exercising outside compared to inside revealed that, “Compared with exercising indoors, exercising in natural environments was associated with greater feelings of revitalization and positive engagement, decreases in tension, confusion, anger, and depression, and increased energy.”11 The study notes that more research is required in this area, but on the evidence available, there are clear benefits to exercising outside.
Why in a Group?
As with all aspects of Movement for Mind, we’re looking for ways to combine activities in ways to achieve the maximum benefit while keeping things simple. Making the programme group-based has a number of benefits. First, it allows for a sense of community of “social support”, which studies show is something people often feel distanced from and is driving an increase in loneliness.12 There’s also a supportive element to a group programme and the chance to exercise in a non-competitive way with others – helping one another to feel better.
A large-scale US study from 201813 suggests that exercising in groups, or as part of a team, is the best way to improve mental wellbeing. And more anecdotal studies show that people who exercise with others report higher benefits to their mental health.14