8 Aug 2006

We’re all aware of the effect physical activity can have on the body, but the effect it can have on the mind is lesser mentioned. Trickier to measure but equally beneficial, exercise has been proven to improve self esteem and confidence, prevent feelings of isolation and help develop coping mechanisms.

And now a Powys mental health charity is putting it to the test in a bid improve the condition of those suffering from the mental health issues.

A £550 Community Chest grant from the Sports Council for Wales has given the Brecon and District Contact Association the go-ahead to deliver an activity programme specifically designed for adults who experience mental distress – all of whom do not normally participate in physical activity.

As well as improving the mental wellbeing of participants, the group is hoping individuals will reap broader benefits. Research suggests that people who experience mental distress are at greater risk of cardiovascular disease and that regular exercise can help reduce the risk.

The activity sessions complement an existing programme aimed at progressing individuals towards leading a more independent life. With social isolation and marginalisation a major barrier to participation, the group is initially introducing 10 members to activity in a familiar and safe environment. Badminton, table tennis, keep fit sessions and walking will be first up on the activity menu, with the aim of increasing the range of opportunities and take-up over time.

Since 1999 the Sports Council’s National Lottery funded Community Chest scheme has spread its prize pot to just under 10,000 projects Wales wide, providing opportunities for people living in every area of Wales to get out there and active.

Communities across the principality have reaped the rewards of the Sports Council’s commitment to creating new and improved sport and physical activity opportunities.

Traditionally supporting sports clubs and sporting organisations, the remit has since expanded in response to the Welsh Assembly Government’s Sport and Physical Activity Strategy ‘Climbing Higher.’ So while the scheme is still supporting traditional sports and activities, it is also adopting alternative approaches to getting more people more active, more often. Priority has shifted to delivering opportunities for everybody to engage in physical activity, whether that be during work time, spare time, social time or retirement.

The Sports Council for Wales is urging more projects in Powys to come forward to apply for the £57,256 of Community Chest funding available to the area. For more information and to find out whether your project is eligible for a grant worth up to £750, please contact your local authority sports development team.