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It’s Mental Health Awareness Week – an opportunity for people and organisations across the UK to shine a light on the importance of prioritising our mental wellbeing.
'Together, we can tackle loneliness' is this year's theme. And sport plays a vitally important role in supporting people to make connections with others through participation, team work and communication.
But there is also a tangible link between sport and mental health, which is why at Ignite Sport we take the wellbeing of our staff and those we engage with very seriously.
We do this to ensure they feel happy and valued and can aspire towards fulfilling their true potential. In our latest blog, we consider the role physical activity has in supporting our overall mental and physical health.
The power of sport
COVID-19 created a mental health crisis across the UK, with many feeling fragmented from their real lives.
The void of group sports and activities meant children and young people especially were disconnected socially. And when organized sport finally returned, we noticed an immediate change in how people felt about themselves.
The link between exercise and feelings of positivity is clear. Exercise and activities help:
· Release endorphins which make individuals feel happy and energised
· Release cortisol – the hormone responsible for reducing stress levels and anxiety
· People to build new skills including communication, teamwork and problem solving
· Provide a social outlet for people to form friendships
Engaging all groups
Every week, hundreds of children and young adults connect with programmes delivered by our team including Multi-Sport Camps, PE lessons and Digital Training.
But our dedication to supporting mental health through sport reaches to adults too.
On Fridays, Ignite Sport Coach Will Sterling hosts free hour-long football sessions at Iffley Road Sports Centre for mental health charity Sport in Mind.
The sessions engage adults of all ages and abilities in a fun and interactive environment to support those living with mental health problems.
Will said: “It’s amazing to see the impact sessions have on participants and how valuable sport can be in helping people reach their true potential.
“Some participants have attended our sessions from the very beginning, and the results are clear to see. The initial shyness and insecurities have gone and everyone gets stuck in.
“Taking part in physical activity gives them the opportunity to build lasting friendships. It’s a great opportunity for people to get outside and be active.”
Mental Health Champions
Championing mental health will continue to be a key pillar of how we operate at Ignite Sport.
As part of our commitment to creating a supportive and open environment for our staff and customers, we’ve introduced several Mental Health Champions to our team.
Ellen Hopkins was one of our employees to complete the First Aid Mental Health programme, which equips her with the tools to listen to, discuss and address mental health issues.
She said: “There is always someone on hand to listen and help. You’ll never be in doubt about who to speak to.
“We participate in staff events very regularly, whether it’s conferences or away days, that help brings us together as a team and builds bonds between us.
“There is always a high level of support available to the whole team and those we engage with whenever they need it.”