Mind in Croydon

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

New research, released today by Mind[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 Mind launches Get Set to Go, a new programme to support 75,000 people with mental health problems to take up sport.

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.

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, said

“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.

Twenty-three year old Claire Greaves dances to manage her anxiety, and says:

“I used to shut myself away not spending time with anyone or doing anything but I knew that I enjoyed being active. I remember worrying about walking into a new dance class and fearing people would stare at me or I wouldn’t be able to find where I was going. My mind threw a hundred excuses as to why I could not go. I wouldn’t be good… I would make a fool out of myself… I found that when I actually did it, it was absolutely fine!

“I felt a bit uncomfortable walking in to my dance class but it’s okay to feel uncomfortable. Everyone gave me a warm welcome and once we started dancing my focus was purely on that; I managed to tell myself that everyone was focusing on themselves too.”

Get Set to Go is now running in eight areas in England*.

Richard Pacitti, CEO of Mind in Croydon, said:

Mind in Croydon are really pleased to be part of Get Set to Go. We believe that being active is a really important element of good mental health, we also know that a lot of the people that we work with need extra help and support in order that they can take part in sporting activities. A scheme that recognises this is very welcome.

Mind has also published new information about how to get started with physical activity and how sport can improve physical and mental health. For more information, visit www.mind.org.uk/sport or visit Mind’s social network Elefriends, www.elefriends.org.uk.


[1] Mind conducted a Survey Monkey poll of 660 people (488 of whom have mental health problems) between 11 May and 06 July 2015.

  • Get Set to Go, Mind’s new programme backed by Sport England and the National Lottery, aims to support people experiencing mental health problems – such as depression and anxiety – to join mainstream sports clubs, go to the gym or take up a new sport.
  • The programme is running at Brent Mind, Croydon Mind, Dudley Mind, Herefordshire Mind, Rochdale and District Mind, Lancashire Mind, Middlesbrough & Stockton Mind and Tyneside Mind.
  • To find out more visit www.mind.org.uk/sport
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