Fun, commitment and support: getting physical with the Mood Active exercise program

mood active.jpgABOVE: Tennis, music and company – stories from the Mood Active court PHOTO FROM MOOD ACTIVE SITE

Tania Curley is the General Manager of the Mood Active Exercise Program. She visited Buckingham House to fill us in about what this service has to offer. 

Even though we all know we’re meant to be exercising, many of us don’t. Admittedly, it’s not always easy to workout when we’re feeling down or having a bad day, and it can be tough when we’re already so busy. For example, when I visited my beauty therapist she said to me, “I know I need to exercise, but it’s just another job!” 

I think it feels like this for a lot of us.

It’s no secret that exercise is necessary to keep healthy, and it provides many other physical benefits, too. But what if I told you that exercise can offer a lift for your mental health, too? Research has shown that regular physical activity can be an effective treatment option for mild to moderate depression, anxiety and stress. 

The Mood Active Exercise Program exists because we want to motivate people who have these struggles to get back on their feet and get physical. 

Mood Active is a not-for-profit association that’s existed since 2013, and our aim is to provide low-cost or free programs for people who are experiencing mild to moderate depression, anxiety or stress. Our groups are all about fun, commitment and support. 

We provide exercise classes tailored to people’s individual needs. Our supported eight week exercise program runs three days a week, and we keep the numbers small to ensure that the trainer can provide everyone with the attention they need. Lots of people have told us that simply taking ownership of their health and wellbeing by doing something positive has provided a real mood lift. This class runs at Camperdown, Prince Alfred Park at Surry Hills and Kingsford. We’re also starting a fourth one at Rockdale. The number of participants ranges from 8 to 12, but can go as high as 20.

The founder of Mood Active has bipolar and has a lived experience of using exercise as an adjunct to medication. 

We’ve also launched a shorter four week wellbeing workout for those who cannot commit to eight weeks. This once-a-week group is a great way to start setting health goals and rebuilding your confidence. It goes for two and a half hours per session, with the first ninety minutes spent on theory work. We learn about what to do when the going gets tough, practice mindfulness, engage in exercise-related behavioural therapy, and discuss how to keep active long-term. This is followed by moderate exercise such as yoga, circuit, cardio or something else. 

Thanks to funding from the City of Sydney Council, all our wellbeing workout classes are free. And unlike the usual rigmarole you get with the health system, Mood Active doesn’t require a referral. The program is open to anyone between 18 and 65, and carers and support people are welcome to come along. There is a pre-check and post-check fitness assessment to make sure it’s safe for you to engage in this level of exercise, though. These checks involve yoga, doing a circuit, some cardio tennis, and a game we call Pickle Ball. We do our best to accommodate everyone, and I would love to expand our services to be even more inclusive. 

The Mood Active team provides a complete service. Our Program Manager is an exercise physiologist with an undergrad in psychology, so when participants decide what their goals are, she can figure out how to make them happen. And while the primary role of our qualified personal trainers is to focus on creating a positive and productive exercise environment, they also have a knowledge of mental health first aid. That means they can provide some extra support when someone is down. As people tend to isolate when they’re not traveling well, we’ve found that it’s often best to reach out to them a bit more in such cases.

When you complete one of our programs, we will encourage you to stay active by transitioning into services like Buckingham House and other free community programs. We want all our participants to learn how to stick to their exercise routines even when the going gets tough. To make this easier we started a social exercise group on Facebook where people can arrange to get together for physical events like bushwalks, cardio tennis and yoga. We’ve found including a social aspect to exercise can play a major role in encouraging people to stick with it. 

For details, contact Mood Active at or call our Program Manager on 0412 190 842


Tania Curley.jpg

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