Exercise is a powerful mental workout for your mind, not just your body. Now more than ever we are having to think differently about how we exercise. Claire Cole, founder of Movement for Mums, tells us just that. Claire has launched a free live fitness platform with daily mood boosting home workouts focused on mental health. But this isn’t in response to coronavirus; she’s been doing daily live home workouts since Movement for Mums launched last year.

As a working mum with more than 20 years’ experience in a high pressure corporate environment, Claire is on a mission to inspire women to find a way to incorporate movement into their daily life. Understanding first-hand the struggle of balancing a career and family life, helps Claire relate to the challenges faced by her clients.

Movement for Mums isn’t just about physical movement. It’s about finding a way to fit intuitive movement into their lives. Claire doesn’t believe you should get stressed by your workout; she doesn’t believe you should feel guilty if you don’t work out or worry about wearing the right lycra!

“Do something you love, do something that makes you feel good and do it little and often”, is Claire’s mantra. This is why Claire streams home workouts that are 25 minutes long. Focused on bodyweight, no equipment, no leaving the house, you can wear what you want, and fit it in around the neverending to-do list.

Claire’s drive and ambition to support mental health comes from her own experience. Suffering from agoraphobia in her 20s and later with postnatal psychosis after the birth of her first child in her 30s, Claire reveals she was: “scared of the thoughts in my head, scared of being a bad mother, scared of judgement. I felt like I was locked inside fear. I think there are other mums who feel like I did but are too scared and ashamed to admit that we need support. I still don’t think we focus enough on the relationship between our physical and mental health. My healing journey has always featured fitness, so it felt completely natural to take my corporate skills coupled with my fitness and well-being knowledge to deliver motivational live home workouts to other mums like me.”

Smoking 40 a day in her 20s, she managed to replace her nicotine addiction with exercise and gradually started to recover her mental strength. Fast forward to 2013 and the birth of her first son and Claire soon realised that what she was feeling wasn’t just the baby blues.

Twelve weeks in with a baby, she started experiencing terrifying thoughts. Claire realised that she could no longer hide her postnatal depression from her family and it was at this moment that she returned to the gym for some “me” time. As her physical strength improved, so too did her mental strength. In that moment Claire decided that she wanted to be the lighthouse for other mums who felt like she did, and so Movement for Mums was born.

Here she gives five of the best mental health benefits of exercise:

1. Boost your productivity

Exercise improves the cognitive functions associated with decision-making, and therefore enables you to be more switched on and productive for the rest of your day. This is exactly what we need when we’re trying to balance working from home and the childcare!

2. Get out of your mind

Scientific studies show that during exercise we don’t think about the day’s stresses. The neurotransmitters that start firing like popping candy in our brains when we work out, wash away the stressed and anxious chemicals boosting our mood for the day.

3 More is NOT better

You don’t have to run a marathon to boost your mood, 20-30 minutes movement every day is optimal. ALL movement counts. Walk the stairs, try a Disney dance off in the kitchen, just move your body in a way that makes you feel good.

4. Sleep matters

Exercise increases the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone, and this helps you relax and fall asleep. We all know that feeling of waking up and being able to take on the world and win when we’ve had a good night’s sleep, and exercise helps you sleep.

5. Keep your sanity!

Set the alarm, get up 20 minutess early and do something for you. Yes the spilt juice, hair pulling and fighting will still be there if you have kids, but you will be better able to cope when you’ve done something that makes you feel good.

Find Claire’s free live online fitness classes at www.movementformums.com