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Are health care workers the answer to improving mental health patients’ physical well-being in secure hospitals?

More value needs to be placed in promoting exercise for people with severe mental health issues in secure hospital settings.

Researchers from Loughborough University have explored the way health care assistants perceive the benefits of exercise for their adult patients, as well as their attitudes to exercise promotion.

The study was carried out in collaboration with St Andrew’s Healthcare, as part of a wider project which aims to increase physical activity through the most effective methods to improve both physical and mental health of patients.

Following interviews with 11 members of staff from St Andrew’s, who all suggested that physical activity would have a positive impact on their patients, Dr Florence Kinnafick, who led the study, explored the barriers which were preventing regular exercise from taking place.

In a research paper, published in the International Journal of Mental Health Nursing, she explained that there are often obstacles preventing physical activity for mental health patients.
She said: “The health care assistants considered exercise to hold benefits for the patient.

“However, patients still engage in significantly fewer amounts of physical activity than the general population.”

Researcher Dr Anthony Papathomas, also from Loughborough, said: “A secure mental health setting can exacerbate barriers to exercise and facilitate physical inactivity and sedentary behaviour further.

“There are a number of core organisational and individual barriers which limit the health care assistants’ exercise promotion efforts.

“For example, safeguarding procedures and potential challenges associated with appropriate staffing allocation meant that exercise is often not a formal part of the patient personalised care plan.”

The health care assistants who took part in the study were asked about their personal experiences of exercise within a secure facility, as well as their perceptions of exercise as an effective treatment tool for mental health, and their perceived roles and responsibilities for exercise promotion.

Dr Kinnafick said, “An informal approach to exercise promotion was deemed to be the most effective in an environment where exercise could remain a normalising behaviour.

However, others proposed more formal strategies including compulsory sessions in order to ensure benefits were being optimised.

“With education and organisational support, we propose that health care assistants are well placed to be able to identify individual needs for exercise promotion and to put these into practice.

“Their involvement could lead to the development of more efficacious, person-sensitive interventions.”

Dr Kinnafick said that individuals with severe mental illness could experience a premature mortality of up to 20 years.

“This is largely due to physical health inequalities which can largely be improved by healthy lifestyle choices – for example, exercise and better nutrition.”

Johnny Fountain, Research Centre Director for St Andrew’s, said: “Here at St Andrew’s we go to great lengths to encourage our patients to be more active, with access to sporting facilities, gym equipment and group exercise classes.

“We regularly welcome our local sports teams for activities sessions across all of our hospital sites, and run programmes that focus on healthy lifestyles, diet and fitness.

“We are currently discussing with the group at Loughborough University how we can establish future research collaborations which will allow us to develop evidence-based strategies that will optimise the exercise therapies provided by St Andrew’s.”

ENDS

Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 18/86

Loughborough University is equipped with a live in-house broadcast unit via the Globelynx network. To arrange an interview with one of our experts please contact the press office on 01509 223491. Bookings can be made online via www.globelynx.com

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world for sports-related subjects in the 2018 QS World University Rankings, top in the country for its student experience in the 2018 THE Student Experience Survey and named University of the Year in the Whatuni Student Choice Awards 2018.

Loughborough is in the top 10 of every national league table, being ranked 4th in the Guardian University League Table 2019, 7th in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2018 and 7th in The UK Complete University Guide 2019. It was also named Sports University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2017.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’ and is in the top 10 in England for research intensity. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

The Loughborough University London campus is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities. It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.

 

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