People across County Durham are being encouraged to take part in physical activities as part of Mental Health Awareness Week.

Studies show that exercise not only helps with keeping fit, but also boosts a greater sense of calm, increases self-esteem and reduces the risk of depression.

Durham County Council runs a number of leisure centres across the county, offering fitness facilities for all ages and abilities from gyms, swimming and a wide-range of exercise classes.

One woman who knows the benefits of physical activity is Gemma Adams, from Sherburn, who joined Freeman’s Quay leisure centre over five years ago and takes part in the regular free classes included in her membership – including Pilates, Metafit, Bootcamp and Insanity.

She also believes that regular exercise has helped with her dyspraxia, which affects her motor co-ordination.

“The gym has boosted my confidence and makes me feel better about myself, and the classes in particular have helped relieve stress as well as allowed me to lose weight,” she said.

Another active gym user taking advantage of the county’s leisure facilities is Lynne Brown, who at 64 says she is fitter than ever after joining Freeman’s Quay.

Lynne was one of the winners of County Durham’s UEFA European Championship-inspired competition in 2016, during which members gained points for both their team’s results and their own gym sessions and swimming.

As the top performer for Freeman’s Quay, Lynne bagged herself £50 worth of shopping vouchers for all her hard work.

“You can’t beat the feeling when your happy hormones are released after a good workout and you feel good about yourself,” she said.

“I enjoy the wellbeing that comes along with regular exercise and the social aspect with other members and staff.”

A wide range of sports are on offer across County Durham, such as badminton classes which take place at Meadowfield Leisure Centre every Friday.

The Phoenix Badminton Club, which celebrates its tenth anniversary this year, is keen to attract more members to its two sessions and has already increased membership by 15 per cent since moving to Meadowfield in October 2016.

For more information on leisure facilities across the county visit http://www.durham.gov.uk/leisurecentres

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