National Stories

People with mental health problems put off of sport because they are not ‘gym body ready’ 

New research, released today by Mind href=”#_ftn1″ name=”_ftnref1″>[1], shows that four fifths (80 per cent) of people with mental health problems who do not take part in sport, are put off because they feel self-conscious about their bodies. Nearly 70 per cent of people told Mind that they feel their mental health makes taking part too difficult. The findings come as Dudley Mind launches Get Set to Go, a new programme which will support local people with mental health problems to take up sport.

Dudley Mind will hold monthly multi-sport taster events around the borough, so people can try a variety of new activities to find something they enjoy. Get Set to Go will kick off at 1pm on 20th July at Dudley Leisure Centre with coaching support from Worcester Warriors. Local people will have the opportunity to try out sports including touch rugby, football, cricket, netball and badminton.

On Friday 24th July, at Mary Stevens Park in Stourbridge, park activators will lead sessions in walking football, Nordic walking, handball and cardio tennis.

Mind’s poll, of 660 people, found that four fifths of people don’t feel confident in their sporting ability. Get Set to Go, supported by Sport England and the National Lottery, will help people with mental health problems become more active through sports projects at eight local Minds. People taking part will receive one-to-one support from others with shared experiences, who understand the additional challenges a mental health problem presents to those who want to get active.

Of those who do take part in sport, more than one in five say it is because their GP or another health professional had recommended it, while more than ninety per cent participate because it is good for their mental wellbeing.

Nearly three quarters (72 per cent) of people with mental health problems say they enjoy taking part in sport, or exercising, however around nearly two thirds (64 per cent) are worried about taking part in sport by themselves.

James Austin, Sports Coordinator at Dudley Mind says: “Structured physical activity programmes can play a key role in someone’s recovery from a mental health problem, and in staying well long term. However, as this research shows, mental ill health in itself can create significant obstacles that prevent people from taking up sport in the first place.

“Feelings of low self-confidence, exhaustion or fear of crowded spaces can seem insurmountable when facing a mental health problem. Get Set to Go will help more people in Dudley enjoy exercising, so they can better look after their physical and mental health.”

Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, the mental health charity, says: “Our research shows that people with mental health problems do want to participate in sport, however feelings of low self-confidence, exhaustion or fear of crowded spaces are preventing them from getting started.

“We want more people with mental health problems to be able to enjoy exercising and Get Set to Go will help people to better look after their physical and mental health through sport. Our online community, Elefriends, is also a great place to find support and advice from others with mental health problems who use sport and exercise to stay well.”

Mike Diaper, Sport England’s Executive Director Community Sport, says: “The research released by Mind mirrors our own which shows that concerns over body confidence, ability and the fear of judgement hold people back from doing sport and exercise. Our own campaign This Girl Can seeks to liberate people from these issues so they can get healthier and more active.

“This is why Sport England has committed National Lottery funding to this exciting programme, Get Set to Go. Mind really understands the people it serves – and how to help them – which makes them an ideal partner. Sport has the power to improve the lives of people with a mental health problem and we’re confident that this programme will really benefit people who take part in it.”

Mind’s research also revealed a perception amongst respondents that you need to look a certain way to participate. Over half (55 per cent) of people told the charity they are not ‘gym body ready’, saying they are not members of sports clubs, gyms or leisure centres, because they are embarrassed about their body shape or size.

Statistics also showed that:

  • Sixty two per cent wouldn’t feel comfortable talking about their mental health with other members.
  • Fifty seven per cent of those who are not members say it’s because they would feel uncomfortable talking about their mental health with a coach or instructor
  • A third of respondents with memberships to sports clubs, gyms and leisure centres concede they would not want anybody to know about their mental health problem.

Dudley Mind is working with local sports providers and volunteers to offer the weekly sport based groups where people can try something new and get more physically active in a relaxed supportive environment. Current groups include football, tai-chi and netball, with swimming, badminton, yoga and running groups starting soon. As well as regular group support, people will be offered the opportunity for one to one support to help them maintain their participation.

Further details about any groups and multi-taster events organised by Dudley Mind can be found at href=””> or by contacting Dudley Mind’s Sport Coordinator, James Austin on 01384 442938, or href=””>

href=”#_ftnref1″ name=”_ftn1″>[1] Mind conducted a Survey Monkey poll of 660 people (488 of whom have mental health problems) between 11 May and 06 July 2015.