Mental and Physical Wellbeing In Sync

13 May 2024

Gareth Hetheridge is Leonardo’s UK Director Digital Solutions, a UK armed forces veteran and serving reservist. He is also the Chair of Leonardo’s Wellbeing network group. To mark the start of Mental Health Awareness Week – this year focused on the importance of movement – Gareth shares some personal reflections on the valuable role physical exercise plays in maintaining his personal mental health.

At Leonardo, our wellbeing strategy has four pillars: financial, social, physical and physiological. As individuals, our wellbeing priorities will differ over time due to our personal circumstances.

For me, my physical wellbeing has always been a priority. However, keeping myself fit and healthy is how I underpin my personal mental health. Regardless of where I am and whatever challenges are going on in my personal and work life, physical wellbeing has always been crucial in protecting my mental health.

As a child I was a sports fanatic. I grabbed every opportunity to play team sports, watch my beloved Manchester United (as most people brought up in South Devon in the 90s did!) and turn any activity into a competition.

Throughout university and my Armed Forces career, sport became a fantastic opportunity to meet new people and bond around a common interest of sport. Much of my social life centred on sports clubs and this social aspect was so important. I knew if ever was worried or feeling particularly stressed, that there was always something I enjoyed to look forward to and to give myself a little perspective. It also meant that there was always someone available to speak to – not necessarily to share my concerns, but to just have a chat.

Nowadays, my team sports career is in its twilight years (although I am just about clinging onto my rugby boots for the odd match). However, I still get to enjoy the sport vicariously by watching Exeter Chiefs at any opportunity and helping coach my son’s age group at our local rugby club.

Whilst the type of physical activity has morphed over time, physical wellbeing remains a fantastic outlet for me.

In my current role at Leonardo, I travel frequently and time has become my biggest challenge, so I have had to adapt – more hotel gym time, less weekday cycling and less team sports. We will all have different priorities, different challenges prohibiting your planned physical activity and different sporting preferences – but I would encourage everyone to find your passion and prioritise your own physical wellbeing, be it running, cycling, swimming, team sports or yoga. Regardless of whether you are a semi-professional triathlete, a 5-a-side footballer or just getting started at running, it doesn’t matter!

Work and life will always find another task for you but any good boss or company now understands the importance of your health – both physical and mental – as it benefits not only the people on whom they rely but also improves morale and productivity. At Leonardo, our Wellbeing network group focuses on educating our employees on the benefits of a work/life balance. As a result, Leonardo constantly scores high with employees on Glassdoor on this subject and last year saw Leonardo awarded the Gold Level for the Investors in People’s (IiP) ‘We Invest in Wellbeing’ best practice standard at the inaugural Investors in People Celebration.

So I encourage you all to find your passion, protect it, and prioritise it against all of the other plates you are spinning at work and at home.

Wellbeing network group

Wellbeing network group

Leonardo UK's Wellbeing network group promotes and supports our company charter that puts our people and their wellbeing at the heart of what we do. Our activities are centred around four pillars of wellbeing: physical, psychological, social and financial, all of which are reinforced by our trained wellbeing champions.