Parent organisation of Community Links, Foundation and Bridging the Gap

Moving for Our Mental Health

Mental Health Awareness Week 2024
Moving for Our Mental Health

It is well documented and evidenced that physical activity plays a crucial role in overall health and well-being, with the theme of this year’s mental health awareness week highlighting this with a strengths-based approach of not only improving but supporting ways to protect our mental health and well-being, under the frame of “moving more for our mental health” (1.)

When considering a level playing field of such opportunities, a trauma-informed approach recognises the gaps and biases that can exist within our systems, for minoritized individuals and groups within our communities (2.) This disparity can widen when we consider an individual’s experience of trauma, which can cause further isolation and compound further mental and physical health support needs (3.)

To address this, a trauma-informed approach to physical activity can make a significant difference, with application of the trauma-informed principles to support safe spaces, which recognise trauma, prevent re-traumatisation, and strive to collaborate and involve those with lived experience (3).  Enabling the removal of barriers and an equity-based approach to improve services and experiences for all; fundamentally shifting perspectives to consider, “What does this person need?” rather than “What is wrong with this person?” (4.)

Spaces and environment’s which support and encourage a focus on physical activity and mental wellbeing share many similar qualities with trauma-informed practice, including promoting relationships, social inclusion, and empowerment (3.)

Creating such spaces and opportunities enables people to have choice and autonomy over ways to build and add to their mental health and well-being. This is something being achieved at Our Way Leeds (OWL), one of our services within Foundation, where they have co-created a client gym space.

For the clients at OWL, physical activity and access to a gym could reduce social isolation and improve clients’ overall wellbeing. These are key areas that meet our Every Child Matters Framework. Matt, Housing Support Worker leading this project, believed that changing the location of support sessions to somewhere like a gym would improve engagement and conversations with clients.

Coproduction with clients during support sessions garnered interest and Matt was attending the gym with clients; but this was ultimately at a cost to them, and without funding this was unlikely to be maintained. In May 2023, the initial idea was to get clients discounted gym memberships to reduce the barriers to exercise and movement and encourage clients to access this type of activity.

 But it was soon realised that going to the gym, though beneficial, barriers such as the weather, oversleeping and travelling to the gym itself, could prevent clients going. So, in November 2023, work started on creating a home gym at one of OWL’s Core 2 properties with the help and support of the clients.

Clients are using the gym and making the most of it. Clients have shared their appreciation for this facility and are happy to continue using it.

We caught up with Matt, who initiated the project and he said:

‘Very pleased for the clients and that they appreciate the work. Supporting clients to be active in a way that meets their needs and reduces barriers is key to what we do. This space can encourage client conversations and improve their overall wellbeing.’

Our Way Leeds provides floating support, supported accommodation, pre-tenancy support and crisis intervention to young people who are at risk of homelessness.

For further tips on how to move for your mental health:


  1.  Mental Health UK – Forward Together ( (1)
  2.  focus.20190027 ( (2)
  3.  Trauma-Informed Practice in Physical Activity Programs for Young People: A Systematic Review ( (3)
  4.  Working definition of trauma-informed practice – GOV.UK ( (4)