Healthy Body and Mind: How the gym can aid mental health and wellbeing

The topic of mental health has become increasingly prevalent in 21st Century western culture. With discussions developing from what needs to be done to who is to blame for the rise of mental health issues particularly in young men and women.

With Clare Allan professing that politicians are to blame for the rise in mental health issues with her article in the Guardian titled “The mental health crisis is down to government policy, not stigma.”

The issue has struck a chord with me in recent weeks after attending the opening of a holistic charity gym in Cheltenham. Focusing on using the gym to improve your physical fitness and mental health and well being, founder of ‘The Armoury’ Jon Taylor started the project after suffering with depression when his mother passed away three years ago.

The Armoury team including founder Jon Taylor (right)

Jon spoke of the impact he is looking to make to improve mental health in young men and women in Gloucestershire, saying that traditional gym’s in the area ‘neglect your mental, emotional and spiritual health.‘ He believes that all of these are intertwined, and if you focus on one aspect of your health you should focus on every aspect, to improve you’re whole being.

Jon’s story is fascinating. He’s gone from sitting in his room at Durham University thinking how he can make a difference, to running fitness classes around the county to raise the funds to open the now ready to use gym facility in the centre of Cheltenham.

This has opened the issue of mental health right up for me, particularly the political aspect.

Clare Allan article labels the situation ‘the mental health crisis’ she states ‘a large proportion of the reasons behind the problem are government policy.’

In the modern day when politics has come to the fore, with Brexit debates boiling over, causing all sorts of mental health issues for elite politicians, with MP’s stepping down in some circumstances.

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It’s ironic that the Armoury team believe participation in some form of sport can aid mental health and well being in young people, but the government has cut school budgeting in recent years which can go towards PE equipment, with many UK schools now competing for lottery funding to purchase basic sports equipment.

My secondary school has faced funding cuts of £115,00 over the last 5 years, £94 per student, this loss has seen slashes to creative budgets such as art and design, as well as sport.

The exact impact this is having on mental health is unclear, but with cuts to the creative curriculum, the idea designed by the government to promote expression in young people, is obviously going to pose more negative’s than positives.

With the vast changes taking place within government in the UK in 2019, leaving the EU and all of thew policy changes that will come with it, now appears to be the best time for a governmental plan to address the mental health crisis, with increased levels of physical activity being one potential solution. There is a grass-root desire for change, identified clearly through the creation of The Armoury, but more support from higher up is needed to break the rise in mental health issues in younger generations.

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