The Letchworth Centre has been running structured well-being physical activity groups since 1985, and today delivers over 80 classes and workshops to more than 1,000 people each week. The programme includes a wide choice of interventions, ranging from approaches such as Yoga and T’ai Chi to dance and singing.
We have delivered them in areas of economic disadvantage to the employed and the unemployed; to older people; to children and teachers in schools and to excluded pupils outside of schools; to health professionals; to the sick and the well. Regular feedback collected from participants indicate improvement in physical and mental health – and an independent study in May 2005 by researchers at Thames Valley University indicated a statistically significant connection between reduction in stress levels and participation in our classes. These techniques can offer particular benefit to older people.
Structured group-based interventions including T’ai Chi, Yoga, Meditation and Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction can offer a clinically and cost-effective means of helping to achieve the twin goals of enhancing well-being and improving mental health in the community which are articulated in New Horizons – a shared vision for mental health, in the Foresight Report, and in other recent government reports.
They have many benefits, chief amongst which are:
- Improved mental health and well-being
- Improved general health (here again there is a causal relationship between physical health and mental well-being and vice-versa)
- Social (the connection between depression and social isolation is well-known)
They tick many of the boxes set out in New Horizons:
- They provide choice
- They are recovery-based
- They are without stigma
- They focus on prevention as well as treatment
- They are evidence-based
- They are empowering – their self-help techniques can be used throughout life
Similarly, they address four of the five ‘Ways to Mental Well-being’ developed in the Foresight Report Mental Capital and Wellbeing:
- Connection with others
- Taking notice
Perhaps most significantly, they are enjoyable – which means that retention rate for participants is high.