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Welsh Athletics unveil a two-year partnership with Mind Cymru to improve mental health through running

Supporting the mental health of runners in Wales.

06/02/2024 00:00, In Blog /

Today we are delighted to announce we have launched a new two-year partnership with Mind Cymru aimed at improving mental health through the power of running.

As part of the partnership, Mind will train mental health champions in each our 100 affiliated running clubs and 60 Run Wales social running groups across Wales.

Following training each champion will be equipped to:

  • Confidently start conversations to support or improve the wellbeing of those experiencing mental health problems
  • Challenge stigma and signpost to mental health services
  • Help spread the benefits of movement for mental health within communities
  • Support people to start, continue or return to running

This is the first partnership of its kind in Wales - improving mental health within running communities and using the sport to promote the wider benefits of physical activity.

It will also increase awareness of the help Mind offers through its services, including its Infoline and network of local Minds in Wales, and boost much needed support to keep these services running.

Research shows that being physically active also gives your brain something to focus on and can be a positive coping strategy for difficult times. It can also boost self-esteem and reduce the risk of depression by up to 30%*.

James Williams, CEO, Welsh Athletics, said:

We are incredibly aware of the impact and scale of our sport, with close to 500,000 people running on a regular basis across Wales. This opportunity to use the power of running to support improvements in mental health is huge, and this partnership will enable us to build a sustainable network of support that will have a lasting impact across all parts of Wales.


Most of us know that physical activity is transformational for our bodies and minds, but having a mental health problem can make it really difficult for some people to get started. Having a negative body image, a lack of self-esteem – not knowing how to get started or having no one to go with – can all be reasons preventing people from moving for their mental health.


This important partnership will aim to combat some of these issues. Our mental health champions can not only support existing runners, clubs and groups, but also widen their reach in communities by embedding and promoting the messages about the benefits of running for mental health. The partnership will also improve the approach to mental health across Welsh Athletics and its programmes by embedding mental health into existing programmes and communities.

Sue O’Leary, Executive Director of Mind Cymru, said:

We know that being regularly active is not just good for our bodies but can also improve our mental wellbeing, which is why we’re really pleased to work with Welsh Athletics on this initiative. A number of our local Minds have developed physical activity programmes that are supporting people with the mental health through becoming more active. We believe this partnership will add an extra dimension to the support we can provide locally and contribute to greater awareness around mental health in Wales.


Running is one of the most accessible and low-cost ways to be active. We hope that this partnership will not just improve mental health within sport, but also encourage more people to take part by offering a supportive, welcoming and open space.


Mind’s own research shows that our physical and mental health are intertwined, and there’s good evidence that getting more physically active can have real benefits for mental wellbeing. This includes better sleep, happier moods, effectively managing stress, anxiety and intrusive thoughts. Hopefully this partnership can be a platform for promoting each of these benefits, and encouraging more people to move for their mental health.

Simon Clarke, social runner and founder of Speakeasy club shared:

I’ve always worked in sport, and it’s sad to say that too often in sporting environments, difficult conversations just aren’t the norm.


That’s why I wanted to set up Speakeasy, to use my own experience of hitting rock bottom to do something different. My view was yes, let’s talk about mainstream issues and hook people in that way – but then let’s also delve into the deeper topics. If it’s sporting figures we’re talking to, then let’s be curious about issues like loss of identity, about the mental health impacts of injury - let’s really get to know people.


I want to make being curious cool; I want people to be able to identify their ‘clubhouse’ – whatever that might be, and to be able to see it as a space where they can meet like-minded people and be the most authentic versions of themselves.


This partnership will really achieve that – and strengthen an already-strong community. For Welsh Athletics to be able to partner with such a prominent force as Mind, utilising its expertise and profile to champion the exercise piece, is huge.


The physical benefits of running are well publicised and accepted – but this partnership can really trigger conversations and connection, which can be absolutely huge for someone at their point of need.

Keep up-to-date on our social channels for updates on the partnership.

*(UK Department of Health & Social Care (2019), UK Chief Medical Officers' Physical Activity Guidelines), page 36.