Exercise in mental health settings

Dr Florence Kinnafick and Dr Anthony Papathomas - Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences
Sport and Exercise

Exercise has the potential to dramatically improve the health of people living with severe mental illness.

However, they are among the most inactive groups in society. This is particularly true for those living in secure mental health settings. They contend with an absence of routine, medication-induced fatigue and staff shortages – making regular exercise difficult to initiate and maintain.

Florence Kinnafick and Anthony Papathomas’ work with St Andrew’s Healthcare – a charity providing specialist inpatient mental healthcare across four UK sites – is pioneering the health benefits of exercise for people living with severe mental illness.

A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed, formalising the exclusive research partnership which is exploring a range of issues.

A joint-funded PhD is exploring ways to improve adolescent patients’ mental health through sport and exercise by testing and evaluating an intervention designed to reduce psychotic symptoms and accelerate recovery.

Another PhD is devising ways to improve knowledge and attitudes towards exercise amongst staff and patients. A qualitative and quantitative analysis of institutional beliefs about exercise has been conducted, and an intervention will commence later this year.

Meanwhile, Masters students are working on a variety of projects. One has explored healthcare assistants’ attitudes towards promoting exercise among inpatients. The published findings suggest that although healthcare assistants perceived multiple benefits of exercise for patients, a range of barriers limited their implementation.

The breadth and success of this varied work makes the partnership a leading voice in this field.