Title: Attitudes towards exercise in an acute older people’s mental health inpatient service
Author(s): Patrick Livermore, Geoff Davidson & Daneill Davis
The benefits of exercise in reducing morbidity and mortality in physical disease is well-known. Lesser recognised, is the increasing evidence demonstrating that psychiatric symptoms in adults and older people can also be alleviated with exercise interventions.
This study explored motivating factors and barriers to exercise as an intervention for mental illness in an acute older people’s mental health inpatient unit to inform future service design that incorporates exercise as part of usual care.
Surveys exploring perceptions were completed with three cohorts, consumers (N=13), carers (N=5) and multidisciplinary staff members (allied health, peer work, nursing and psychiatry) (N=37). Relevant data was cross referenced from the Your Experience of Service (YES) consumer questionnaire 2019-2020 (N=240). Current practices and procedures that support exercise and physical activity in the service were also reviewed.
Pleasingly, all cohorts acknowledged the benefits of exercise and recognised it as an important component in the treatment of older people with mental illness. Barriers included the need to build service capacity and knowledge to implement exercise interventions, which would incorporate a significant cultural change in public mental health services who are supporting the recovery of people experiencing psychiatric symptoms. Appropriate support for the transition back to the community to facilitate the consumer’s ongoing plan is needed. Existing ways of working should be challenged to look towards the meaningful engagement of exercise health professionals as part of usual care. The importance of family, friends and social connections in sustaining exercise participation was also evident. Finally, consumers have identified the vast challenges they face in engaging in physical activity and exercise when they are unwell. They will need to be partners and leaders in this journey, every step of the way.