MENTAL health experts have encouraged people to take some exercise today to help beat 'the most depressing week of the year'.

Depression affects 10 per cent of men and 12 per cent of women in Lancashire.

And January is peak season for Seasonal Affective Disorder, a condition which affects one in three people, according to the mental health charity Mind.

Dr Neel Halder, a psychiatrist from Greater Manchester West Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (GMW), which provides mental health services across the north west and substance misuse services in Blackburn with Darwen, said unemployment and debt levels were also key factors.

Last year GMW had around a 40 percent rise in referrals in January compared to December.

He said: “January is a depressing month in general. The days are short and the nights are cold. Many people go to work in darkness and come home in darkness and there is a lot of research that shows light makes a difference to your mood.

“However, you may argue that the bad weather and short days are present in December too, so why isn’t December as depressing? The main difference is that we have Christmas to look forward to.

“It is no surprise that counselors say there is a 50 percent rise in enquiries post Christmas. We tend to be out of pocket after buying Christmas presents and debt can be both a cause and consequence of mental health problems.”

However, research has shown regular exercise is linked to lower rates of depression and anxiety and that people who participate in any “heavy-intensity leisure-time activity” are less likely to suffer from depression or anxiety over the next five years compared with less active people.

Dr John Searle, of the Fitness Industry Association, the industry body of the UK’s gyms and leisure centres, said: “Exercise plays a crucial part in preventing depression and anxiety. Given the highly stressed lives we now seem to lead, it’s good to know that exercise can be both fun and far better for us than pills and or large amounts of alcohol, when it comes to reducing our stress levels.”

An NHS Stressline in England was launched earlier this month where people can receive practical information and advice from trained health advisers by calling 0300 123 2000 from 8am to 10pm.

Alternatively visit the charity MIND at or

Five ways to help beat the January blues: 1. Keep active and take some excercise 2. Follow a balanced diet 3. Try to spend at least an hour a day doing something you enjoy 4. Treat yourself 5. Take a break