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Exercise for wellbeing


More and more research is showing that increasing the amount of activity you do is as beneficial for your mental and emotional wellbeing as it is for your physical health.


Exercise is a great stress reducer because it dissipates "nervous energy," and it also helps you to feel relaxed. A single aerobic workout "burns off" stress hormones  rather than allowing them to linger in the body. Regular aerobic exercise actually decreases the level of stress hormones released during stressful responses such as anger and fear. Regular exercise will help you to feel calmer and more able to cope with stressful situations.


Below are some of the added benefits of exercise:


  • Improved self-esteem
  • Improved mental alertness, perception and information processing
  • Decreased feelings of frustration
  • Decreased feelings of stress and tension
  • Increased ability to deal with daily hassles
  • Decreased levels of anger and irritability



Getting started


If you do little or no physical activity at the moment it would be a good idea to start slowly. This should ensure that you don’t get too tired or discouraged with exercise, which may lead you to quit before you’ve experienced any of the benefits. Choose an activity that you enjoy and stick with it – walking is a good idea to start with as you can do it any time and anywhere. You can gradually add more and varied activities into your routine.


Start with 15 minutes every other day and gradually increase the amount of time and number of days. Thirty minutes five or six days a week is ideal, but if you are willing to do only 20 minutes four days a week, it's better than nothing at all! Aim to be active as often as you can. 


Intensity of exercise -- how hard you do it -- is important. If your activity does not make your breath or heart rate increase you are not exercising strenuously enough and you will not experience most of the physical benefits of exercise, nor will you experience maximum psychological benefits. Aim to be ‘breathless not speechless’ -  you should still be able to talk while exercising. If your exercise is too strenuous, you risk injury or it will be so uncomfortable that you may get discouraged and quit.

Top tips for active living
  • Find an activity you enjoy and make it fun so you can look forward to doing it.
  • Set yourself weekly or monthly goals and targets (i.e. increasing the distance you swim by 2 lengths extra per week) so you've always got something to aim for and can see how far you've progressed.
  • Get together with an exercise partner or group so you can motivate each other.
  • Try to keep adding new things to your routine to keep yourself interested.
  • Don't overlook the simple things - walk home rather than getting a bus or take the stairs rather than the lift.
  • Plan your exercise routine so that it fits into your everyday life.
  • Be realistic and don't expect too much too soon.
  • Stick with it and don't give up!


Use this NHS Direct interactive tool to find out how many calories you would burn for different activities.




Walking is one of the best forms of exercise there is. It is free, you can do it anywhere and at any time, and it doesn’t require any expensive equipment or specialised training.


30 minutes of brisk walking on 5 or 6 days of the week will improve your fitness and wellbeing. That might seem a lot at first but walking can be incorporated into your everyday life more easily than any other activity.


You can walk around your neighbourhood, in your local park or in one of the beautiful country parks around the county. Each of the seven country parks around Northamptonshire offer walks on marked routes and hard surfaced trails through woodland and meadow or by lakes, rivers and reservoirs. The parks also offer opportunities for other activities such as cycling, ball games, fishing and orienteering. All of the country parks are also on the lookout for conservation volunteers, which allow you to exercise and feel good about doing your bit for the environment.


If you are uncertain about walking on your own or don’t know where to go you could walk with a group lead by an experienced group leader. These ‘Health Walks’ are organised by independent walking clubs, local councils, conservation groups and some country parks.


For more information on country parks contact Countryside Services on 01604 237227  or click on the link below.





Cycling is great exercise, fun and affordable, and is good for the environment as well. Build exercise into your daily routine by riding your bike to work a few times a week. If you do not want to cycle on the road there are cycling tracks across the county and at some of the country parks you can even hire a bike so you can have a go at cycling before you commit to buying a bike yourself.





Swimming is a great form of exercise as it works out most of the major muscle groups so your whole body gets a workout. It is also a good choice for less mobile people because the water supports your weight and you don’t put pressure on your joints. As well as being good exercise, many people find swimming very therapeutic both physically and mentally.


For more information about swimming at your local leisure centre contact your local council on the telephone numbers or on the websites listed in at the end of this page. Many private health and fitness clubs have swimming pools – look in your local press for details of these.




Working out using the gym equipment, getting involved in studio classes such as aerobics and weight training all offer the opportunity to work on your overall fitness under the watchful eye of a qualified fitness instructor. Anyone, no matter what there current level of fitness is, can benefit from a fitness programme written and supervised by a trained instructor. Find out more information using the contacts below.


Sports Activities


There are many different sporting activities that are available so you may well find one that you enjoy or and interested in. As well as being good exercise, taking part in a sporting activity by joining a group or club will give you friendship, challenges and team work. Contact Northamptonshire Sport on 01604 237857 or follow the link below.





The ancient martial art of tai-chi emphasises the connection between the mind and the body. Tai-chi is a great stress reliever and you can use it to help you to relax. It also increases the your muscle strength and flexibility and is good for improving balance and posture.




Yoga can be practised by anyone at any age. It develops flexibility and incorporates techniques to relieve stress and bring the mind and body into harmony. Many people learn and practice yoga by attending classes but there are many books and videos available that will help you learn the basic of yoga.


Details of tai-chi and yoga classes in your area can be found by contacting the Adult Learning Hotline on 01604 237418 or click on the link below. The adult education service also offers group classes in other activities such as badminton, golf, keep fit and pilates.



 ‘Exercise on Prescription’


If you are suffering from anxiety or depression and currently lead a sedentary lifestyle you can ask your doctor or nurse about the exercise referral scheme. Your doctor or nurse can write you a ‘prescription’ that enables you to use the facilities of one of the three council owned gyms around Northampton for free for a certain amount of time. A qualified trainer will provide you with an individual programme of activity tailored to your needs.

For more information about exercise and activities in your area contact your local council Sports Development


01604 837837


01536 410333


01933 229777


01536 464000


01327 871000


01832 722000


0845 2300226


Search for your nearest sports facilities


Information about walking and 'green' exercise


Search for sports clubs in your area


Outdoor activities and things to do in Northamptonshire



Changing Minds, Mobile X3 Park Campus, University of Northampton, Boughton Green Road, Northampton, NN2 6AL