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Fitness & Health

04th Nov 2019

Why working out as part of a group can boost your mental health

Training as part of a group is great for your mental health. This man knows that more than most, having created the world's largest functional fitness event

Alex Roberts

Working out in a group is invaluable for your mental health – and one man knows that more than most people

Scott Britton is the co-founder of Battle Cancer, the world’s largest one day functional fitness competition.

Although it was originally founded as a cancer fundraiser, Scott’s Battle Cancer event brings thousands of people together all lifting weights and working out as part of a community. This fosters a supportive environment, which has a huge benefit on mental health.

JOE caught up with Scott to discuss how influential exercise is for boosting mental wellbeing.

“Growing up, I always felt I was going to more funerals than weddings. I was so used to it. It always stayed with me. Then when I got older, I got to a good level in weightlifting, and I wanted to create a positive community out of this.

“The first kind of fundraiser I did was where 12 of us deadlifted for 12 hours in order to break a world record.”

Working out as part of a group

Scott’s background as a mental health professional informed his decision to form a supportive, fitness community.

He said: “I work in the emergency services, and have done for eight years on a frontline basis with people in mental health crisis. Males in particular really struggle to share or talk about things.

“But with Battle Cancer, fitness has been a bedrock for support. You constantly have a community of people around you.”

Scott believes mental health support in the Western world relies on medication. While that is sometimes essential, there is immense power in lifting weights to shift stress.

“I saw the power of community weightlifting”, he says.

Many men find it difficult to talk about their mental health, but Scott says the gym should function as a safe space to confide in others.

Why gyms can help men open up

“Behind the historical idea of testosterone-filled gyms, a lot of people might just see them as purely physical outlets – but they are emotional ones too.

“When you’re pissed off. you can take it out on something in the gym. Having that safe space is really effective.”

As a mental health professional, Scott knows the importance of coping mechanisms in boosting mental wellbeing. Training as part of a group offers a very practical solution to this.

Scott’s community pay particular attention to cancer, as it affects one in two people – and brings home a very real sense of mortality. This takes its toll on the mind as well as the body.

“Cancer can deconstruct you, and not just from a physical standpoint”, Scott says.

“As a young man, for example, you might lose strength – that takes a big toll on your pride as a man.”

How your workout defeats stress

Completing a to-do list is one way of coping with stress and anxieties. Finishing a set workout is no different, especially when you’re spurred on by a supportive group of friends.

Hitting the gym also allows you to be true to your emotions, Scott says.

“We all wear different masks. A lot of people put a number of different masks on, at work, with your partner or with your Mum and Dad.

“In the gym, even if you’re on your own, you can take that mask off. I’m not a huge fan of meditation, but training is my meditation. Even if you’ve just got your headphones in and you’re training, you’re emptying any emotional ‘litter’ from your brain.”

In the future, Scott plans to host qualified mental health professionals at his events. There, they will provide specialist support to anyone in need.

Scott’s recent Battle Cancer event in London brought together 1,400 competitors and over 2,000 spectators. They have raised over half a million pounds since launching in 2017.