Top tips for using physical activity to improve your family’s mental wellbeing

February 4, 2020

This is a charity feature

In support of Children’s Mental Health Week (3-9 February 2020), the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust, a charity working to equip young people with the skills to look after their mental wellbeing, has shared its top tips for encouraging your family to become more active and to experience the benefits of exercise for mental wellbeing.

Organised by Place2Be, Children’s Mental Health Week aims to shine a spotlight on the importance of children and young people’s mental health. A supporter of the initiative, the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust’s mission is to help people recognise the signs of depression in themselves and others, to equip young people to look after their mental wellbeing and to ensure expert help is available when needed.

Charlie Waller Memorial Trust’s top tips for using physical activity to improve your family’s mental wellbeing

A group of people standing in front of a crowd
Charlie Waller Memorial Trust fundraisers

Do what you enjoy

Research suggests that any type of physical activity can have a positive effect on mental health – so do what suits you and your children, and what you know you will all be happy and able to stick with. If a weekly family 5k run is out of the question, why not try a family dance class or a good old fashioned game of football? No time to go out? Try a YouTube exercise video in the living room. There are plenty of videos available and they can be a good way to get everyone involved.

Do it regularly

Whatever activity you choose, being consistent is important for maintaining the positive effects on your mental wellbeing. Set a day (or days) each week that your family can participate in the activity, hold each other accountable, and, importantly, look forward to it!

Do what you can

Three times a week is ideal, but if that feels like too much, just do what you can. Even a swift walk around the block will help boost activity levels and will give your children, and yourself, a much-needed breath of fresh air.

Go easy on yourself

If you or your family members are struggling with depression, you may tire easily – don’t worry, that’s normal. In addition, don’t expect mental health problems to be alleviated straight away. It can take some time, and you may need additional support alongside exercise.

Go at your own pace

It’s important that children understand that they may have different levels of physical fitness and ability from their siblings or school friends. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of competition, but it is important that children are encouraged to feel positive about their personal achievements, and to not compare themselves to others.

Just go for it

Exercise might help in just one area – perhaps improved levels of energy or sleep – or it may give you and your family an overall sense of achievement. Either way, it will be something to build on, can help bring your family closer together, and can help to prevent the development of mental health problems. 

A group of people in a park
Charlie Waller Memorial Trust fundraisers

What does the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust do?

The Charlie Waller Memorial Trust trains and educates parents, teachers, and college and university staff to identify when a young person might be struggling and to offer the necessary first line support. The charity works with a network of over 40 highly skilled mental health trainers, who deliver training across the UK on a daily basis.


Earlier this year, Charlie Waller Memorial Trust launched its #RunForWellbeing initiative which aims to raise awareness and create a conversation around exercise and wellbeing by asking people to share personal stories on social media of how exercise has helped them with their mental health, using the #RunForWellbeing hashtag.

  • Samantha February 4, 2020 at 10:50 am

    I think it’s so important that we talk more about Mental Health, especially with young people. IMO it should be prioritized just as much as physical health.

    Physical activity definitely helps me personally with my mental health. I started playing hockey a few years ago and found it a great way to exercise in a fun way (and make a few new friends too!)

  • Sarah Bailey February 4, 2020 at 4:39 pm

    It is amazing how getting outdoors and doing some exercise can really help uplift yourself and make yourself feel more at ease. These are some great ideas for making sure you get out and about with others.

  • Sarupa Shah February 4, 2020 at 7:12 pm

    Along with mental health support, it is so good to do family activities for bonding time, different conversations and time off screens which I am sure adults or children alike makes us slightly foggy in any case!

  • MELANIE EDJOURIAN February 4, 2020 at 7:55 pm

    I have always encouraged my children to exercise when they can and we walk to school most days. I’m looking to get them watches to count their steps as i know it will encourage them. I love to power walk as it’s really good for relaxing the mind and good for mental health in general.

  • Elizabeth Williams February 4, 2020 at 9:40 pm

    Never heard of the Charlie Waller memorial trust before but it sounds like they do amazing work. I think it’s really important to look at mental health and remember to consider the mental health of children.

  • Kristine Nicole Alessandra February 4, 2020 at 10:22 pm

    This is such a good suggestion for a family activity. I have to start thinking of a physical activity that all of us would enjoy. My kids love hiking so I guess we could start with easy ones first.

  • Helen of Fuss Free Flavours February 4, 2020 at 10:34 pm

    Physical activity is so good for mental well being, and I know we always feel better after a swift walk outdoors, or a hill climb or such like. I love the idea of promoting better and more physical activities with children in mind. Such a good organisation and the events sound like something most people can get involved with.

  • Valerie February 5, 2020 at 2:41 am

    Mental health is so important. It’s so sad that so many are dealing with different issues, some of which are debilitating.We need to stop the stigma and be talking about it.

  • Neha February 5, 2020 at 7:39 am

    Never heard of this trust but it definitely sounds great. Well done on getting out there and active. It is always so important to do what you like or else you never will do it with a whole heart

  • Kara Guppy February 5, 2020 at 9:56 am

    I always feel happier when I have done some physical exercise. Sounds like a great initiative

  • Eilidh Gallagher February 5, 2020 at 11:21 am

    My children are taking part in mental health week this week at school and have gone in bright clothes for it today. It’s great to see more awareness of childhood mental health. Such an important issue.

  • Jess Howliston February 5, 2020 at 11:34 am

    What a great trust and great tips too! My son is very active (swims 4 times a week and football training too!) and not only is it good for him physically and mentally but the friendships he makes doing the activities really help him and his happiness too! Now I just need to get my bum in gear and follow his lead!

  • Crystal (The Busy Mom Diary) February 7, 2020 at 1:04 am

    These are such helpful little tips and tricks to stay on top of mental health. I find when my family is more active, we’re more focused on the positive. When we are lazy and only stay home, we tend to get side tracked.

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