Pembrokeshire residents are turning to exercise to help them improve their mental health during the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to a YouGov survey carried out in December, a third of those living in mid and west Wales said exercise has helped sustain or improve their mental health since the start of the pandemic.

One rural mental health charity, the DPJ Foundation, based in Pembrokeshire, has been encouraging farmers and those living rurally across Wales to run during January to help with their mental health and raise funds.

Founder Emma Picton-Jones helped create the @_run1000 challenge between England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the rest of the world to see whose team could run 1,000 miles first.

All countries have now reached the 1,000-mile mark and are now competing to see who can run the most miles throughout the month.

Emma Picton-Jones said, “January can be quite a tough month for farmers and those of us living rurally and this year we have lockdown to contend with as well. We wanted to create something positive for everyone to take part in that gets them out and active. It is not too late to get involved – just find @_run1000 on social media and there’ll be a link for more details. It might be the only way Wales beat England if the Six Nations doesn’t go ahead!”

The Welsh Government is also encouraging people to ‘help us, help you’ by practising self-care and adopting small changes to help improve mental well-being, particularly at a time when levels of anxiety are higher than usual.

The traditional benefits of exercise have been to improve and maintain physical fitness but, more recently, the benefit of exercise to improve mental health has come to the fore. Exercise decreases the stress hormones such as cortisol and increases endorphins. Endorphins are the body’s natural ‘feel-good’ chemicals, and when they are released through exercise, your mood is boosted naturally. As well endorphins, exercise also releases adrenaline, serotonin, and dopamine. These chemicals work together to make you feel good.

Professor Jon Bisson, deputy director of the National Centre for Mental Health (NCMH) and director of Traumatic Stress Wales, said: “There are several important ways to help reduce the risk of developing mental health consequences due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Eating healthily, taking exercise on a regular basis, keeping regular sleeping patterns, establishing a good structure for our days, and engaging in relaxing activities are always important to promote health and wellbeing.

“I would like to stress that if you are experiencing a mental health crisis or feel the need for additional support, please do ask for help. Some of us will need more formal input and services remain available and are keen to provide this.”

With more than £700m invested annually, the Welsh Government spends more on mental health than on any other aspect of the NHS.

If you are concerned about your mental health and would like confidential help and advice then you can call the mental health listening and emotional support line which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week on 0800 132737. Alternatively, you can text ‘help’ to 81066 or visit: