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Exercise and Mental Health

January is often considered to be the month with the highest levels of depression following Christmas and the New Year. Is this a myth or is it true? It certainly can feel like a ‘flat’ month after the festive period.

Psychiatry and Population Professor at University of Manchester, Nav Kapur, talked about the statistics of suicide on a BBC radio programme; ‘Is suicide seasonable?’

In older studies researchers believed spring and early summer is the time of the highest peak of suicide, and in fact in the past, doctors have been taught to be aware of the risk at those times.

A study at University of Manchester has shown there is a changing trend, and although the highest month is January, it is actually not significantly higher than spring or summer when the month is taken as a whole.

However if you track the rate of suicide by the day January 1st has a 40% higher rate of suicide than any other day in the year, compared to December 25th which is 25% lower than any other day.

It is in fact a myth that the month of January has a higher risk of suicide than other months. The research has actually shown that the start of new seasons or the turn of any month are also problematic times for those with mental health difficulties.

The ‘broken promise’ effect is the theory behind the rise of suicides during these months. People already suffering from depressive illnesses, or with lots of upset and change going on in their lives, don’t think they are doing as well as the rest of the world. Their own feelings of depression highlights the differences between their mood and that of everyone else.

Considering the busy and stressful lives we now seem to live, and the social pressures  around us which are often illuminated on social media, it isn’t surprising that some people feel they can’t cope.

This is particularly the case at Christmas when many people can spend more than they can afford and then don’t have the money to pay bills once the festive season is over. The truth is if you are feeling depressed or you have low mood there are things you can do.

The first is to share how you are feeling and seek help. You’ll be surprised how many people share the same feelings. With debt, ask for advice on how to manage any debt and consider a strategy to deal more affordably with Christmas 2020.

Here are some other tips for keeping up your mood during the first month of 2020.

Exercise and endorphins:


It is a scientific fact that when you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain.

Think of them as your body’s ‘feel-good’ chemicals, which can trigger a positive feeling in both your body and your mind, similar to that of morphine. Increased self-esteem is also a psychological benefit of exercise.  This positive feeling is often called the ‘runner’s high’, and can help you gain a positive outlook on life.

Exercising may also distract you from negative thoughts, and can improve social interaction. To get the most out of exercise, you also can give a thought to your diet. Eating more healthily alongside regular exercise will support and enhance that feeling of wellbeing – and could help you lose weight.

Snacking to refuel after exercise.


When you’re working out, your muscles use up their glycogen stores for fuel. Some of the proteins in your muscles also get broken down and damaged. Therefore, after your workout, your body tries to rebuild its glycogen stores and repair and regrow those muscle proteins. Eating the right nutrients soon after you exercise can help. It is particularly important to eat carbs and protein after your workout.

Do take a look at our healthier snacks which you can take with you when exercising or take to work – our snacks are allergen free, vegan friendly and with considerably less sugar than the market leading brand

Why not try RED January?

Hannah Beecham’s mum was suffering from depression, and Hannah wanted to help her improve her mental wellbeing, so she signed them both up for Walk the Walk Midnight Marathon.

Her mum hadn’t taken part in a physical challenge before, but they crossed the finish line together.  The change had happened before this however when after taking regular exercise with her daughter, Hannah’s mum began to feel better over time. Her mood started to lift.

Hannah began thinking about how her mum’s experience and how it supported the research that regular exercise helps to improve mental health.

Hannah started the Red January campaign in 2016 as an initiative to get people exercising to help their mental health, and blow the blues away.

The organisation Mind came on board in 2017 as the exclusive charity partner. The idea is to set yourself a challenge to be active every day; in your way.  You can run, swim, cycle, or choose your favourite fitness activity – and if you sign up officially you can raise money for MIND to give you a goal to work towards.

To find out more, and join up and set a daily goal visit Redtogether.co.uk

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