Encouraging a step forward for your wellbeing

June 7, 2021

Earlier this year, more than 150 North East media partners, including North East Times, Dentsu, Drummond Central and Narrative Communications, embarked on a challenge to circumnavigate the globe virtually, by running, walking and cycling in excess of 23,000 miles as part of the annual RED January UK movement. Steve Underwood, who led the North East challenge, and Hannah Beecham, founder of RED January, discuss the movement that involved more than 50,000 participants in the UK this year.


Tell us about the RED January initiative?

Hannah: RED January is a nationwide movement that empowers people to get active every day in January, to ‘beat the blues away.’ I was inspired to start RED January after witnessing the transformative effective that regular physical activity had on my mum’s mental health, particularly during the winter months, a time when many of us need an extra boost of motivation.

Since 2016, RED January has inspired 200,000 people to embrace physical activity to support their mental health and has raised more than £3 million for mental health charities.

How can physical activity help to support your mental health?

Steve: Evidence shows that regular physical activity can help relieve stress, improve sleep and boost your mood. The list goes on!

One of the reasons RED January exists is to combat the seasonal variations in physical activity and mental health, as people are likely to be less active and feel ‘down’ in the winter months.

Hannah: Insight from RED’s research partner, the University of Oxford, shows that 74 per cent of RED participants reported being more active or much more active than usual, with 50 per cent experiencing less stress and reduced signs of depressive symptoms.

What if exercising every day seems too daunting?

Hannah: As many RED participants have experienced, ‘small steps lead to big steps’.

We encourage people to take steady steps towards moving their bodies more in January, with a focus on moving in a way that works for them and their lifestyle.

Year-on-year, RED participants use the movement to build up to being more physically active. Whether it be starting the day with a stretch, leaving the car at home and walking to the local shops, or going from couch to taking part in a 5k run.

Which organisations can provide mental health support?

Hannah: We team up with a community of partners that provide the RED community with mental health and wellbeing support all year round.

RED’s official charity partner Sport in Mind uses sport and physical activity to improve the lives of people experiencing mental health problems.

In partnership with NHS Trusts, Sport in Mind are here to help people take the first step towards starting or rekindling being physically active. In addition, the Happiful magazine, directory and app is devoted to better conversations around mental health, wellbeing and signposting people to find the help they need.

What is the future of RED January, and how can people get involved?

Hannah: We’re focused on reaching and empowering more people to start, rekindle or continue being active during the winter, while also taking strides forward with Sport in Mind to ensure funds raised by the RED community go towards local physical and mental health support. We’re also here to help you find ways to keep active throughout the year.

Sign-up for seasonal expert tips, fellow REDer stories and fitness inspiration, delivered to your inbox.

How can RED January effectively support the wellbeing of your team?

Steve: The flexible and fun nature of the RED January challenge is shown to not only help employees form a healthy habit with physical activity, but also build camaraderie.

Hannah: We spoke with organisations after RED January 2021, including Dentsu, HSBC and PwC, and the feedback we received was that their employees felt calmer and more productive, with many sharing that it wasn’t only good in getting them active, but also in them feeling more connected with their colleagues.

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