Mental Health Awareness Week at Oakleaf 2024

Mental Health Awareness Week at Oakleaf 2024

The 13th-19th May is Mental Health Awareness Week for 2024, a time for increased conversations about mental health and what we can do to improve the wellbeing of ourselves and those around us. This year’s theme is ‘Movement: Moving More for Our Mental Health.’

In a survey of 2,271 people, commissioned by ukactive and conducted by Savanta, more than half of UK adults (54%) reported that their main motivation for keeping physically active was to help their mental health, while 49% said it was getting in shape.[1]

This year’s focus on movement underscores the transformative power of exercise in mitigating anxiety, depression and other mental health challenges. By encouraging individuals to engage in physical activities, we not only enhance their physical health but also build on their mental strength. Through education, advocacy, and community support, #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek serves as a beacon of hope, inspiring proactive steps towards a healthier mind and body for all.

Staying physically active is crucial for maintaining overall health and wellbeing. However, many people encounter various barriers that hinder their ability to engage in regular exercise. Identifying and addressing these obstacles is vital for cultivating a more active lifestyle.

So, we have come up with some of the most common barriers to physical activity and effective strategies to overcome them as well as included some lovely client quotes to show just how impactful movement-related activities at Oakleaf can be:

Lack of time: For many individuals, busy schedules and numerous commitments leave little room for exercise. Research suggests that 30% of UK adults find it challenging to find the time for physical activity.[2] However, prioritising physical activity is paramount. One effective strategy is to integrate exercise into your daily routine by scheduling it like any other important task. Even short bouts of exercise can be beneficial, so focus on consistency rather than duration. Whether it’s a quick morning stretch, a brisk walk during your lunch break, or a brief workout session before or after work, finding small pockets of time to move can make a significant impact on your mental health.

“I am physically fitter and mentally calmer since I found Oakleaf. Thank you.” – Oakleaf client

Physical limitations: For individuals with physical health conditions or disabilities, certain forms of movement may seem daunting or unsafe. However, it is essential to remember that any form of activity, no matter how small, contributes to your overall health. Consulting with a healthcare professional can help identify suitable activities and modifications tailored to your individual needs. Whether it’s adapting exercises to accommodate mobility issues or exploring low-impact activities like swimming or yoga, there are countless ways to stay active and improve your physical wellbeing.

“Liane [Fitness activity leader] is superb. She can see strengths in each of us as individuals and push us in an encouraging way all whilst maintaining a sense of calm. There has never been a time when I have attended a fitness session and regretted it. Each week, Liane helps to build my confidence, offers wise advice and points out little adjustments and improvements that can be made, and it always makes a positive difference..” – Oakleaf client

Environmental factors: External factors such as weather, access to facilities, and safety concerns can significantly impact physical activity levels. When faced with such barriers, it’s important to adapt and explore alternative options. Indoor exercise options like home workouts or gym memberships provide convenient alternatives during bad weather or when outdoor activities are impractical. Additionlly, seeking out safe and accessible outdoor spaces for activities like walking or cycling allows individuals to enjoy the benefits of nature while staying active.

“Yoga at Oakleaf has been a positive beacon in my weekly timetable and mental stability.

I’ve been attending Oakleaf since 2019 and during the Covid lockdowns, it literally saved my life.” – Oakleaf client

Low motivation: Maintaining motivation to exercise can be challenging, particularly during periods of fatigue and stress. Setting realistic goals and finding activities that bring enjoyment are key to staying motivated. Whether it’s joining a group fitness class, participating in team sports, or simply exercising with a friend, social support and accountability can significantly enhance motivation. By focusing on activities that align with personal interests and preferences, individuals are more likely to stick to their exercise routine in the long term.

“I get out and about more. I enjoy the two exercise classes (bootcamp and yoga) because I’ve got to know the people a little and it’s nice to exercise in a non- judgemental environment. Working on ourselves and getting out into the real world will help us move forward.” – Oakleaf client

Lack of resources: Limited access to equipment, facilities, or financial resources can pose significant barriers to physical activity. However, there are numerous budget-friendly or free options available for those looking to stay active. Online workout videos, community fitness programs and outdoor recreational activities are just a few examples of accessible alternatives. By getting creative and exploring various resources, individuals can find enjoyable ways to incorporate physical activity into their lives without breaking the bank.

“Going to Oakleaf’s fitness sessions on a regular basis has really improved my focus and keeps my anxiety and depression at a maintainable level. Exercise has become a cornerstone of my mental health and I learn so much each week.” – Oakleaf client

Sedentary lifestyle: Desk jobs, remote working arrangements and sedentary leisure activities contribute to lack of movement throughout the week. To counteract the effects of a sedentary lifestyle, it’s essential to prioritise physical activity in your daily routines. Implementing small changes such as taking short breaks to stretch or walk, using a standing desk, or incorporating movement into household chores can make a significant difference. By making movement a habitual part of daily life, individuals can combat the negative effects of prolonged sitting and improve their overall health and wellbeing.

“I got a lot from the therapeutic dance. For the first time in my life, I did not worry if I got some of the moves wrong. I did not fear looking stupid. I was able to completely let myself go, due to being in a safe environment.” – Oakleaf client

Mental health challenges: Mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety or stress can significantly impact one’s motivation and energy levels, making it difficult to engage in physical activity. Prioritising self-care is crucial in managing these challenges. Activities that promote relaxation and stress relief, such as yoga, meditation, or spending time in nature, can help improve mood and alleviate symptoms. Additionally, seeking support from mental health professionals or joining support groups can provide valuable resources and encouragement on the journey to better physical and mental health.

“Initially there was value in getting out of my home and walking to the weekly Yoga sessions at Oakleaf. It was the first group attendance I achieved. Then there was the physical exercise which really helped improve my wellbeing. I even had the opportunity to learn breathing techniques, which helped with my calmness and anxiety.” – Oakleaf client

By addressing these common barriers and implementing practical strategies, you can overcome obstacles to physical activity and embrace a more active lifestyle. Remember that every step counts, and small changes can lead to significant improvements in your overall health and wellbeing. Prioritize self-care, set realistic goals, and find activities that bring you joy and fulfilment.

At Oakleaf, we offer registered clients a wide range of wellbeing activities and support groups designed to help encourage exercise and movement, ranging from: Walks for Wellbeing, Pilates, Yoga, Football, Karate, Therapeutic Dance and more. Click here to view our client calendar for the Month of May.

If you are interested in volunteering or facilitating activities for Oakleaf, we are currently looking for some passionate Activity Leaders to help us run our wellbeing activities! For more information, please contact Sophie: or Ana:

We also run a gardening service for the public, which clients and volunteers can get involved with, actively working as part of a team, learning skills in garden maintenance, and feeling the positive effects of exercise and the outdoors. To find out more, click here.

Click here to learn more about all the volunteering opportunities at Oakleaf.

If you are keen to stay active but would like to raise funds for Oakleaf while doing so, you can always take part in one of our upcoming sporting challenges or events:

The Big Charity Fundraising Walk (Sunday 19th May): Rotary in Guildford invites you to join The Mayor in Guildford in walking 3.2k, 10k and 16k routes in Shalford Park in aid of your chosen charity.

Ride-London Essex (Sunday 26th May): This popular event returns with their 100-mile route, cycling through the closed roads of London and Essex in aid of Oakleaf.

Twilight Runway Challenge (Saturday 21st September): Support Oakleaf by running, cycling or scooting at this fun, family-friendly event, taking place at Blackbushe Airport.

You can even host your own fundraising event or set up a personal online fundraiser page in aid of Oakleaf. For tools, ideas and resources on how to do so, please see our brand new fundraising pack

Oakleaf will also be promoting our Wall of Positivity during Mental Health Awareness Week, where we will be asking the general public to leave a message to encourage or inspire. Individuals will also have the opportunity to participate in a cycling challenge to be in the chance of winning a raffle prize. If you are in the Guildford area on Friday 17th or Saturday 18th May, please feel free to stop by the first floor of The Friary in Guilford (between Next and Urban Outfitters) to say hello to our team and get yourself #MovingForMentalHealth.

In summary, there are plenty of things you can do throughout the week – and for weeks to come – to increase movement in your daily life. To find out more about Mental Health Awareness Week 2024 and the ways in which you can get involved, click here.

If you would like to find out more about becoming a client at Oakleaf or join in with any of our wellbeing activities, work-related training, employment support, counselling sessions or volunteering opportunities, please click here.

At Oakleaf, we are dedicated to empowering our clients to embrace movement as a tool for self-care and resilience. Donations play a crucial role in supporting our efforts to provide resources and programs that encourage active lifestyles, from fitness classes to outdoor group activities; promoting not only physical health but also emotional wellbeing. Donate now.

If you or someone you know is struggling, please make use of the resources below: 

Oakleaf: 01483 303649 |

Mind: How to Find a Therapist

Samaritans: 116 123 (24 hours)

SABP Crisis Helpline: 0800 915 4644

Citizens Advice: 03444 111 444 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm)

Guildford Safe Haven: 6-11pm, 365 days a year


[2] Data collected by Opinium Research. Sample 6,000 UK adults, weighted to be nationally representative. Survey from 12 to 21 March 2024.

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