The Power of Movement

Posted on: 13 May 2024

By Charly Dale, Head of Health at New Horizon Youth Centre

This year for Mental Health Awareness Week, as we shine a spotlight on mental health and movement, and the importance of physical activity for mental well-being, let’s not forget, how many young people, especially those experiencing homelessness, deeply struggle to integrate movement and physical exercise into their lives. These challenges often include limited resources and financial constraints, safety concerns, fatigue and exhaustion, lack of motivation or support, transportation limitations, and the constant instability of their living situations. 

Studies show that young people who have experienced homelessness often face challenges in both mental and physical health, with a higher likelihood of being physically inactive even after transitioning out of homelessness. This highlights ongoing health disparities among this population. Sadly, young people experiencing homelessness are particularly vulnerable to future health risks such as diabetes, heart disease, and musculoskeletal disorders due to factors like poor hygiene, stressful living conditions, and inadequate nutrition. Stressors associated with poverty and homelessness can also contribute to the development of chronic illnesses like cardiovascular disease and diabetes. 

Ensuring access to physical activities for young people experiencing homelessness is crucial, as it can play a vital role in building resilience, promoting mental well-being, and preventing diseases.  While they may not offer a sole solution to issues like homelessness or mental health challenges, they have the power to spark transformation. At New Horizon Youth Centre, we have seen how our initiatives such as Faith United and FC Hope football teams, Basketball and boxing, gardening projects, and dance classes unite young people from diverse backgrounds, foster positive transformations and bridge societal gaps. 

In light of this week’s theme and my own commitment to make my therapeutic interventions as a counsellor more accessible (as detailed in my upcoming blog) I took a therapeutic stroll with Simon, our Sport & Men’s worker, to shoot some hoops and explore his perspectives on the significance of sports and physical activities in nurturing a sense of community and belonging among the young people we support. Here’s what he shared: 

“It’s evident that the young people who participate in our Sports offer have formed important relationships, there is a sense of camaraderie when the players get together on Thursdays for FC Hope and Faith United. These friendships in turn offer additional support for the individuals who may be in or may have been in challenging and traumatic situations.

“Boxing sessions have young people who have formed solid friendships where the young people have been attending additional sessions together outside of NHYC. The basketball players have also formed a good core group who support each other and respect each other.

“There is evidence to strongly suggest that being part of the sessions and teams gives them a heightened sense of belonging and pride in what they can achieve together. Team building is for me an essential element along with having fun and the sessions being inclusive, everyone is treated equally and encouraged to take part regardless of their ability. It also helps with feelings that they have being isolated and lonely.”

With that being said, we are kicking off the week with tons of activities aligning with this year’s Mental Health Awareness theme from: Gardening, Spring Nature Photography Competitions, Interviews with Young People, Workshops that ‘Power Up Your Mental Health’, A Women’s Wellbeing Walk, and the 2024 New Horizon Youth Centre Sports Day!  

Let’s keep striving to provide supportive communities where young people can thrive and find joy in movement no matter their situation #MomentsForMovement.

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