One of the standout presentations at the recent MadWorld Summit was from Asics, the sportswear brand. The company delivered the findings from its Movement for Mind initiative, a movement-based programme that has the potential to improve both employees’ mental and physical wellbeing.

Presenting the initiative and the findings were Gary Raucher, the brand’s Executive Vice-President, and Professor Brendon Stubbs, a renowned researcher on the relationship between exercise and mental health from King’s College London

Put simply, Movement for Mind consists of two thirty minute runs (or walks) over an eight week period. These activities were ‘guided’ via audio, easily accessible via the programme’s app or online. 

As well as proven, simple running techniques, the programme introduced themes such as breathwork, mindful movement, Sophrology, connecting to nature, music and mindful meditation on a weekly basis. Such themes and sessions were delivered by a team of specialists and the programme requires no previous experience or level of fitness to follow

Asics enlisted  200 volunteers to take part in an eight-week, randomised control trial. To analyse the programme’s effectiveness, Professor Stubbs used internationally recognised wellbeing measures, such as the Warwick-Edinburgh scale, to objectively study the impact of the programme on mental health. 

The initiative’s launch has been timed to address the stress epidemic many of the world’s employees are facing. Of course, this situation has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic which has meant more employees are working from home. This in turn has led to greater pressures and often a reduction in exercise and overall movement. 

“We think it’s time to rethink movement in the workplace through an approach that’s accessible, enjoyable, and crucially, proven to work,” explained Raucher. “We hope exercise and movement breaks become the norm, so people can achieve a sound mind in a sound body.”

Raucher highlighted that Asics has championed the positive relationship between good physical health and mental health since it was formed 70 years ago. Indeed Asics is an acronym from the Latin, ‘Anima Sana in Corpore Sano’ or a ‘Sound Mind in a Sound Body’.

 

What were the results?

Firstly, here are a couple of comments from participants: 

“I was personally not feeling great before starting the Asics Movement for Mind programme but wanted to give it a go anyway. I found taking part gave me a real purpose each week, it helped me get out and exercise and brought me and my colleagues closer together. We set up a whatsapp group to talk and encourage each other, this not only helped me but brought me and my colleagues closer together again.”

“I absolutely love the Movement for Mind programme! After the programme finished, I became an evangelist to all my colleagues and said what an amazing programme it is and they must sign up and take part. For me, it was truly wonderful and really made me feel confident, content and happy again.”

Praise indeed, but what about actual evidence of the programme’s effectiveness? And does it prove there’s a positive relationship between exercise and mental health? Here are some stats that prove its worth (and the positive relationship between regular exercise and mental health): 

  • Participants reduced their daily sedentary time by an hour by the end of the programme 
  • Using the Warwick and Edinburgh Wellbeing scale, those on the programme saw scores increase by 3.35 by the end, when compared to the control group, indicating enhanced mood and wellbeing. 
  • 70% of participants became more active after completing the programme.
  • Fewer than 1% of participants would not recommend the programme to a friend
  • Even though not focused on workplace performance, half of the participants felt it helped them improve at work
  • 71% of participants agreed that ASICS Movement for Mind helped them feel happier
  • More than half the participants felt the programme helped them cope better with the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic
  • 86% of participants enjoyed ASICS Movement for Mind

 

How could it be used by your organisation?

The programme could be something to introduce to your colleagues, particularly those working from home. With structured eight week guidance from a mix of experts, the plan feels like a trusted companion, motivating and encouraging movement without being overly pushy. It also allows users to learn new techniques and methods to enhance their wellbeing, rather than just ‘going for a run’ and ‘getting outdoors’. 

For example one session is led by chartered psychologist Dr Claire Renfrew, who focuses on how to connect our movements to music.  By paying attention to music, she demonstrates how we can harness music to improve focus and regulate mood.  

As we have explored before, helping employees understand how to incorporate exercise into their daily lives can provide a number of benefits. Encouraging them to regularly get away from their desks and connect with nature through exercise can massively boost serotonin levels and lower risk of cardiovascular disease. In turn it’s likely to boost their happiness and productivity, as the report shows. It’s therefore win-win!