A MENTAL health charity is urging young people to walk or run during January as part of an initiative to improve their health.

Darlington Mind is starting its new Lose the Blues initiative to try and improve people's physical and mental health.

Chief executive Simon Davidson said: "January can be a very gloomy month for many, so they’re looking to put positivity back into that month, one step at a time."

He added: "Darlington Mind seeks to bring together young people to take part in regular online community activities, be part of new and exciting social action projects like Lose The Blues which look to help the local community and bring young people together to celebrate positive mental health."

The initiative is part of the charity's project for young people, called DeCaf, which is an activity club aimed at giving youngsters a safe space to talk about their mental health issues.

Mr Davidson added: "Lose The Blues is not just limited to young people though, it’s accessible and open to everyone. Any person can sign-up, especially if it means supporting someone in your bubble.

"After each excursion, or after each week, you can send us your total accrued miles and they get added to the database. Obviously, the benefits are all internal, so there is no need for a competitive element but there will be a soft counter to see how much a certain group or school can achieve as a collective.

"It’s meant to inspire other people to take it up and feel the effects of going outside, embracing nature and to get the endorphins rushing with exercise. Due to lockdown restrictions, it’s impossible to meet-up as groups, so there are online forums in which people can post their regular updates."

Doing physical exercise has been shown to improve mental health, and can help people sleep better, improve mood, manage stress and anxiety, improve self-esteem and reduce the risk of depression.

There are many studies which have shown that doing physical activity can improve mental health. For example, it can help with:

Darlington Mind, which works with people in County-Durham, Darlington, Hambleton and Richmondshire, is being supported by North Yorkshire Sports, and its mental health programme Fit 4 The Future.

Walking and running groups and businesses are also getting involved to help encourage people to sign-up.