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Fitness and Mental Health

  • Springfield Community Campus Beechfield Road Corsham, England, SN13 9DN United Kingdom (map)

With so much talk about mental wellbeing these days we felt it was time to look at how fitness professionals can do more to understand and help those who suffer.

Our guest line-up includes…

Karen Spence - Head of Public Health, Wiltshire Council

Karen Spence is the recently appointed Head of Service for Public Health at Wiltshire Council. In her previous position as Public Health Specialist with a remit for mental health and wellbeing she was responsible for raising awareness about mental health and improving understanding about the things we can all do to look after our own emotional wellbeing… in the same way we would our physical health.  

Outside of work, Karen is a carer for her husband (a former member of the armed forces and professional rugby player) who suffered a stroke 10 years ago at the age of 38.   

All of this leaves limited time for hobbies and interests but Karen loves the theatre and has previously been known to appear in amateur productions. She also regularly participates in the Saturday morning Parkrun in the park behind her house. 

Clare Webb - Health and Activity Manager, Wiltshire Council

With a background in Sports Development Clare holds a Degree in Leisure Management and a Post Graduate Degree in Sport and Physical Activity. Currently studying for a Chartered Institute of Management Diploma in Leadership and Management, Clare will discuss her work around loneliness and isolation.

As a netball plater Clare knows the physical and mental benefits of an active lifestyle and when she’s not playing her favourite sport she runs, enjoys a good spin class and loves lifting weights!

Jess Ryan - Mental Health and Older People Public Health Specialist

Jess works in Public Health in Wiltshire and is based in Trowbridge. She started as a Public Health Practitioner working on Local Area Coordination, a multi-agency led programme preventing loneliness, social isolation and empowering individuals and communities.

More recently, Jess has been appointed as the Mental Health and Older People Public Health Specialist and has been working on her Masters in Public Health at UWE. She is just finalising her first year assignments and exams. 

Jess has a background in law, having practised in private practice after qualifying as a lawyer in 2015 and holds a Law Degree and a Masters in International Business Law from Exeter University. 

Ben Wimbush - UK Active Unsung Hero, 2018

Ben won the U.K. Active Unsung Hero award for his tireless work encouraging more people to be more active, more often. Since winning the award Ben has been through a difficult time with his own mental wellbeing so we’ll be talking about this along with his views on what the fitness industry could be doing to help combat mental illness.

Those who have heard Ben speak before will know that he doesn’t mince his words so get ready and fasten your seatbelts!

Ben Wimbush

Ben Wimbush

Lynne Coward - Walking Group Member

Lynne had moved to Shrewton from Eltham in November 2015 with her husband Len but sadly Len passed away in April 2016 leaving Lynne feeling lost and very isolated.

Lynne joined the “Get Wiltshire Walking” Shrewton group in 2016 having read about the new “Stroller Walk” in the local parish magazine.

The first encounter with the group was not a huge success as the walk was too slow and too short for Lynne but a further chance encounter with one of the few people she had come to know in the village led to her attending the ‘Strider’ walk the following week.

One of her neighbours, a regular on the walk, actually went and collected her and they went together thus removing that element of anxiety and embarrassment at being “the new girl” in the group.

That walk has in Lynne’s own words “changed her entire life” meeting so many local people who were welcoming, interested and interesting. The support for Lynne did not end there however…..her neighbour invited her in for post walk lunch and some days later on a scary trip to Salisbury Lynne met another of the walkers who asked her to join her for a coffee in town.

The group like most GWW groups has a cross-section of ages and personalities and Lynne has found the experience of mixing with a more diverse network of friends hugely rewarding and in her own words “you should never Judge a book by its cover”.

Of course the walking has not only had mental well being and social benefits for Lynne –she has also lost weight and is now a very comfortable size 14 instead of an 18.

So appreciative of “finding her feet” Lynne has formed a “bereavement group” which meets every month with others who attended the initial group at Salisbury hospice. Lynne says of her new group “it is an opportunity to give something back for all the kindness and friendship I have received”.

We look forward to giving Lynne a warm welcome to our event.

David Stalker - CEO MyZone

Former UK Active CEO Dave Stalker is now CEO at MyZone and works with a multitude of fitness operators both here and abroad. Renowned as a witty and engaging presenter Dave is now regarded as one of the true industry leaders and we are honoured to have him spend the day with us to discuss mental health.

Contributing with personal and professional stories Dave will discuss how the fitness industry can work creatively and intelligently to provide evidenced outcomes around mental wellbeing.

Lindsay Mifsud - Crossfitter and Mental Health Advocate

Lindsay is the type of person who trains in your gym. By day she’s a Senior Team Leader with Vodafone but at night she’s a Crossfit athlete….

Lindsay Mifsud has suffered with anxiety since the age of 15, mainly as a result of bullying in High School. This contributed low self-esteem and very little self-worth.

The anxiety continued in to her early 20’s and eventually (coupled with a stressful lifestyle) contributed to a mental breakdown. Anxiety attacks were a regular occurrence and Lindsay was prescribed anti-depressants, which she took for 2 years.

Eventually, Lindsay decided something needed to change. She no longer wanted to flood her body and brain with chemicals. Whilst the tablets helped her in day to day life, she knew there was something deeper she needed to work on. Herself.

She told me that she needed to sort out what was going on inside, not mask it.

So Lindsay started running…a lot! She ran five 10ks, four half-marathons, a full marathon, and completed a Tough Mudder. Lindsay says it gave her a buzz, an adrenalin rush and she felt free. No one could tell her she wasn’t good enough because it made me feel like she was. It made her feel unstoppable.

Lindsay then started Crossfit and it was a real turning point for her as she ditched the anti-depressants.

“I strongly believe, to this day, that if I hadn’t found CrossFit when I did, I would still be on the anti depressants”

Exercise for Lindsay, is not just about having a better physique. “It is not just about body confidence (which it can give you in abundance) it’s what it does for your mind. It’s what it does for your self-belief, your self-worth, and what it does for your mind”.

Lindsay wants to help people to understand that prescription drugs are not the only answer to mental health issues. Looking after yourself, training for HEALTH and not just vanity, having a more self-love is the way forward!

I think you will all enjoy listening to Lindsay’s frank opinions on fitness and mental health!

Lindsay Mifsud

Lindsay Mifsud