Exercise toolkit looks to improve physical and mental wellbeing of patients in secure psychiatric facilities

A new physical activity toolkit for patients and staff in secure services has been launched by Loughborough University academics.

The ‘Move More’ resources, developed by Dr Florence KinnafickResearch Associate Dr Justine Anthony, and a team of researchers in the School of Sport, Exercise, and Health Sciences, aim to improve both the physical and mental wellbeing of patients.

The toolkit pulls together the findings from a research partnership with St Andrew’s Healthcare – a charity that provides specialist mental healthcare for patients with some of the most challenging mental health needs in the UK – focused on how physical activity behaviour can impact severe mental illness.

The Move More toolkit is an extension of a short online module, developed by Dr Kinnafick and team, that aims to improve staff's ability to promote physical health on secure wards.

It has been co-produced with patients and staff at St Andrew’s Healthcare and comprises two guides, one for staff and one for patients.

The staff guide provides information, activity ideas, and resources – giving workers the confidence to support patients to move more in secure care. The patient guide contains exercise ideas (including those that can be done without leaving a ward), a chart to track movement, and a reward system.

Of the toolkit’s importance, Dr Kinnafick said: “The overarching aim of our co-designed toolkit is to translate the research knowledge into practical action that staff and patients working and living in a secure psychiatric facility can use and implement.

“Those with severe mental illness have a reduced life expectancy of up to 20 years compared to the general population and are more likely to have a range of physical co-morbidities, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

“Improved levels of physical activity has the potential to contribute to reducing the growing health inequalities experienced by individuals with severe mental illnesses.

“As increased physical activity can improve mental and physical health symptoms, it also has the potential to save money through healthcare, early discharge, and reduced medication.”

Dr Kinnafick said the implementation of the toolkit has the potential to positively impact the physical and mental health of almost 2,000 patients in the care of St Andrew’s Healthcare.

Dr Kieran Breen, Head of Research and Innovation at St Andrew’s Healthcare, commented: “We have long known that there is a key link between physical and mental health, and the ‘Move More’ programme including the physical activity toolkit, will play a key role in increasing awareness of the importance of the physical activity of people with mental health problems.

“We plan to trial the toolkit on a number of wards throughout St Andrew’s Healthcare and then promote it in the wider context in the NHS provider collaboratives of which we are members.”

Healthcare providers wanting more information or to view the Move More toolkit can email Dr Kinnafick at: F.E.Kinnafick@lboro.ac.uk.

The Loughborough research team comprises Dr Florence Kinnafick, Dr Anthony PapathomasDr James King, and Research Associate Dr Justine Anthony.