In a new partnership campaign, Public Health Scotland (PHS) has joined with SAMH and Sportscotland to encourage people to ‘Feel Your Personal Best’ by making small changes to improve physical and mental health. In this blog, PHS staff Manira Ahmad and Flora Jackson view the campaign through a public health lens and share their personal experiences of the recent launch event.

Chief Officer Manira Ahmad

When I was asked if I would support the new Feel Your Personal Best Campaign, I jumped – literally – at the chance. While my role at the launch, held in Meadowbank Sports Centre in Edinburgh, was to endorse the importance of physical and mental wellbeing in the wider context of public health, it didn’t feel like ‘work’. Maybe it’s because I love to be active, in my own unique way, with the treadmill always peeking out from behind me on my Teams calls. And because I need to constantly keep my own mental wellbeing in check. 

We all know that being active is good for our health and wellbeing, however sometimes we all find reasons not to do it (especially if you are in my household when I’m cooking and the smell overpowers any will).

However, the great thing about Feel Your Personal Best is its ethos that you can be active in different ways and for different reasons, by yourself or with others – it doesn’t matter. What matters is finding your own way to get moving more, feel good about yourself, and experience the health and wellbeing benefits.

Image caption PHS Chief Officer Manira Ahmad taking part in a game at the campaign launch

It’s important that the places we live in support us to look after our health and to live well. For many people local parks, for example, offered a lifeline during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our work suggests that using spaces differently to encourage more walking, wheeling, and cycling will improve health, reduce health inequalities, make streets safer and reduce air pollution. Being active outdoors has added mental health and wellbeing benefits by providing stress relief and solace. It can also help us to cope with ‘eco-anxiety’, thereby helping us to feel empowered to take action in relation to climate change and biodiversity loss.

Improving our places and communities to enable exercise, play and recreation, active travel and social connectedness requires a concerted effort across a range of national and local policies and delivery approaches, and PHS supports this through work including the provision of public health leadership on the climate change agenda, and implementation of the Place Standard Tool – another valuable partnership.

Individually, let’s continue to do what we can to Feel Our Personal Best too.

Health Improvement Manager (Physical Activity) Flora Jackson

For me, this event was the first time I had been out the house for a work commitment since March 2020. It was also the first time I’d met my colleague Manira Ahmad in person! Any anxieties I had about stepping back into the fold were gone as soon as I entered Meadowbank Sports Centre and saw Manira, Robert Nesbitt from SAMH and Mel Young from Sportscotland.

Reflecting on the tired Meadowbank Stadium of old, I was lifted by the promise that this new space provides the local community. In a former life, sport facilities such as this and traditional school gymnasiums were my home from home. Having spent the past 17 years working nationally on physical activity-related public health policy and practice, it was nice to be back in familiar territory. It also reminded me why we do what we do – events such as these are a welcome opportunity to reaffirm our shared ambitions to improve health in Scotland.

I was instantly drawn to the smiling faces of everyone at the event, the chat and natural ripple of laughter than enriched our experience. It didn’t take long to see the social and emotional benefits from simply moving our bodies come to life.   

Image caption Health Improvement Programme Manager Flora Jackson taking part in a long jump at the campaign launch

Throughout the darkest days of the pandemic we were reminded of the importance of movement for our physical and mental health. The Feel Your Personal Best Campaign reinforces this message and gives stakeholders and partners across Scotland a focus for further promoting the activities, support services and work that they do locally to help people in their communities to feel their personal best.

The Feel Your Personal Best launch event was very much a session in practicing what we preach and – despite the dull pain in my hip from an over-ambitious attempt at the long jump – it was so worth it!

If you would like to support the campaign a partner toolkit (external website) with digital assets for organisations and individuals to share on own channels is available.

Last updated: 16 September 2022