Exercise and Mental Health in Kensington and Chelsea

A photo of Minds United football group

This week we have been celebrating National Workouts and Wellbeing Week. We are proud to have been working with Minds United FC to help talk about how sports for mental health can help manage mental health conditions. They were brilliant in showing us how exercise and mental health are important. We were pleased to be able to interview both the founder of Minds United FC Tarik Kaidi and two of the group’s players Andrius and Adam. You can check out parts of their interview in this post or all of them on our Instagram

What is Mental Health?

Mental health refers to how we think, feel and behave. It is how we control our emotions, actions and manage and respond to our thoughts. Mental health can affect our daily lives, relationships and even our physical health. Mental health is a significant part of all our lives. Most of the time, we don’t even think about it as is not a problem. Yet 1 in 4 people in the UK deal with mental health problems. These problems can affect their daily lives, their relationships and physical health. We sat down with Minds United FC a football charity that supports people with mental health difficulties. They were kind enough to tell us about some of the problems they face.

What are some Mental health problems?

Many mental health problems can affect people. They can all vary in degree of severity. Some common mental health problems are things like anxiety disorders, mood disorders and schizophrenia disorders. This article won’t cover all these disorders but if you are interested in finding out more click here:

Some mental health conditions such as anxiety or mood disorders can range in the level of impact that they have on people and their everyday lives.

Some Anxiety disorders can be phobias which are disproportional fears of objects or fears. Other anxiety disorders can be things like a panic disorder, where people experience sudden paralyzing terror or sense of danger. There are others like Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) where a person obsessions and compulsions that drive them to do specific actions repetitively. While these mental health difficulties can be challenging to manage, they are often less disruptive to people’s daily lives.

There are, of course, more disruptive mental health difficulties that can severely hamper peoples lives and make it hard to follow routines that many of us take for granted. The founder of Minds United FC Tarik and players Adam and Andrius were kind and brave enough to talk about the mental health conditions that impact their daily lives and the symptoms they face.

Tarik Kaidi- Experience with Bipolar disorder

Some Symptoms:

  • Depression where you can feel very low and lethargic
  • Mania- feeling very high and overactive

Andrius experience with Paranoid Schizophrenia

Some Symptoms:

  • Experiencing delusions
  • Hearing voices

Adam experience with Borderline Personality Disorder:

Some Symptoms:

  • severe mood swings
  • Blurring between reality and fantasy (delusions)
  • Emotional dysregulation- The inability to manage your emotions in different situations

What can bring on mental health problems?

Many circumstances can bring on mental health conditions. In the video, Andrius explains how his father and brother, and then he were diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia. Though mental health problems do not just occur because of hereditary reasons. Mental health problems can be brought on for by many reasons of which some are below:

  • Childhood abuse, trauma, or neglect
  • Social isolation or loneliness Link to social isolation blog post)
  • Job loss, or high-pressured jobs
  • Severe or long-term stress
  • Long term health problems

These are just a few factors that can cause mental health conditions to occur. These problems can widely range in terms of their impact on your daily life from being a minor issue to being a huge obstacle. The question then is, how do exercise and mental health go hand in hand?

What is physical activity?

In the simplest of terms, physical activity or exercise is any movement of your body that uses your muscles and expends energy. There are many ways to exercise, and there is an activity out there to suit almost everyone.

The NHS recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week or 75 mins of vigorous exercise a week.  It is best to try and be active every day, thus making it easier to meet the weekly recommended amount of activity.

Exercise and Mental health, how does one help the other?

Exercise has several benefits for our mental and physical health. Physical activity has a positive impact on our mood. One study found that people felt better after a workout compared to after periods such as inactivity. In the study, people were asked to rate how they felt after exercise (e.g. going for a walk, or doing housework). They were then asked to rate how they felt after inactive activities (e.g. reading a book, or being on the computer). They reported being in a better mood after a period of exercise.

Exercise and Mental Health: combating stress

Stress occurs when we face events that make us feel threatened or upset our balance in some way. This can cause our bodies to become more defensive and create a stress response, which may make us feel a variety of physical symptoms and make us act differently as well as increasing the intensity of our emotions.

Common signs of stress are reactions like sleeping problems, sweating, loss of appetite. These symptoms are caused by a rush of stress hormones, otherwise known as the ‘fight or flight’ response. This can increase your blood pressure, rate of sweat and blood pressure. Exercise has been found to help lower all of these.

Exercise and mental health also go hand in hand when considering our ‘self-esteem’. Self-esteem is how we feel about ourselves and our sense of worth. It is a crucial measure when assessing our understanding of mental wellbeing.

Exercise has a positive influence on our self-esteem and self-worth. This is the case across all age groups and genders.

Dementia and Cognitive decline

Exercise and mental health are essential when considering Dementia and cognitive decline in older people. The main symptom of Dementia is memory loss, and it is a progressive disease that causes people to become more impaired over time. Older people who do not develop Dementia can experience cognitive declines. These can be things such as attention and concentration issues. Exercise is a  protective factor against both cognitive delay and Dementia. For people who already have Dementia, physical activity helps delay further decline.

Depression and Anxiety

Exercise can be an alternative treatment for depression and anxiety. Physical activity can help reduce levels of anxiety in people with mild symptoms, and it can also help tackle more potent forms of anxiety as well.

Places in Kensington Chelsea

There are many places in Kensington and Chelsea that you can do exercise. Though below is a list of some areas that are low cost and/ or sites set up to provide a sports outlet for people struggling with their mental health.

Minds United FC are set up to allow people with mental health to have an outlet. The group train every Saturday at Emslie Horniman’s Pleasance from 12 -2 pm and compete in the Middlesex FA North West London, mental health league once a month. They have partnerships with the London FA, build on belief Charity and the NHS. They also accept self-referrals for people who feel they want to join and need some help.

Build on Belief

Times: Wednesday 3 pm – 5 pm or Sunday’s 12 pm – 2 pm

Cost: Free

Location: Harrow Club

Set up to help people who are struggling with or are in recovery from substance use; namely drugs and alcohol. The charity plays at the Harrow Club twice a week and is a good outlet for exercise and Mental Health. The sessions are free and are designed to be social and help benefit people who suffer from low moods and depression. If you are interested in playing with ‘Build on Belief’ then you can get in touch with them through the contact details below:


07739 796045

Chelsea Running Group 

Cost: Free

Meeting Time: Every Monday at 7:15 pm


Chelsea Fire Station 264, Kings Road

Kensington and Chelsea Guide to activities:

K&C has produced an excellent guide of other activities that are free or are at a low cost.

The guide covers multiples activities from walking groups to gym club, and there is most likely activity for anyone.


A little pricier than the others. Though you can search for any activity, you can think of, and there is usually an option available. It is a great place to find groups near you and build friendships and a regular exercise routine.

Westway CT: how we help enable Exercise and Mental Health?

We now know the importance of doing exercise and how it can help our mental health. As shown, there are plenty of options in Kensington and Chelsea for you to do sports activities. Though, sometimes while there are the places, getting to those places is not always easy for us all. This is where we at Westway CT are happy to help. We run a range of services that can help groups or individuals get to hard to reach places.

Our group services have a range of standard and accessible minibuses that can seat 14- 16 people. If you run a community group or voluntary organisation based in the boroughs of Kensington & Chelsea, Westminster or Hammersmith & Fulham, you may be entitled to become a member and access our vehicles. You can book our minibuses either with a driver or use your own (terms and conditions apply). We have helped many groups with our minibuses access opportunities that they would struggle to otherwise. Minds United is just one organisation we have helped. Find out how they have benefitted from our minibuses in the video below:

We also have our Green CT cars, volunteer car scheme or our Shopper Service to help individuals get out and about.

So what are you waiting for? Find out how we can help you or your group access different exercise opportunities today by filling in the contact form below.

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