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Innovative ways we encourage our service users to move more for their physical and mental health

16 May 24

It is Mental Health Awareness Week and this year’s theme is about moving more for our mental health.

Our Occupational Therapists and Physiotherapists work closely with our service users to support them in their recovery and utilise a variety of activities and techniques to help them.

Here are some examples of what they do.

Tai Chi
Tai Chi consists of sequences of slow and fluid movements and is very effective as a warm-up and cool down exercise in group or individual gardening sessions, especially when practised outdoors with service users. Some exercises have names alluding to nature such as ‘parting the clouds’ and ‘picking fruit’ and are a fun way for service users to focus the mind and prepare the body for gardening activities.

Tai Chi forms part of the overall therapy programme on the wards. We have people who choose to join the sessions regularly. One person from the ward told us that her anxiety was reduced by the end of the session, and that she was much calmer in mood and was eating better. She wants to continue with the sessions because they help her feel at peace and more confident.

Boredom, a lack of meaningful activity, and inactive behaviours can be some of the challenges within mental health inpatient services.

After discussion with service users, the Occupational Therapy teams decided that access to a gym and physical activity could have a positive impact and supported service users with increased access to the gym by training additional ward staff to facilitate gym sessions.

One service user said: “I am feeling much healthier and alert thanks to the gym.”

How we interpret and react to the information we receive from our senses is important and can influence our action, our communication and our ability to do activities that are important to us.

Sensory integration
Our Occupational Therapists work with service users to recognise their sensory preferences, and to understand how the way in which they interpret sensory information has an impact on their choices and behaviours.

Once we know if service users have sensory needs (like the need to have more physical stimulation, or a quiet environment) we can then try to meet their needs.

For instance, Occupational Therapists working with one person identified opportunities where heavy muscle work and deep pressure could help them, and so they combined this with their love of the gym to develop an exercise routine to meet these needs.

Rebound Therapy can be used for many things, like promoting balance or relaxation. We’ve used it with service users in Essex as part of our physiotherapy treatment, and formerly had a trampoline on site, which we found was hugely successful.

We now work with Bouncability, a trampoline club for children and adults in Colchester, to offer this activity to our service users. Through this partnership, our staff have been able to work with service users to provide physiotherapy around positioning and exercises.

The mum of one of our service users feels that the trampolining has been so beneficial that she has one at home. She states that it gives him the sensory feedback he needs to feel calm and relaxed and he is at his happiest when he is on the trampoline.

Walking groups
Offering walking groups across the wards is beneficial to our service users for a number of reasons:

  • Ensuring service users can walk safely outdoors in preparation for returning home.
  • Allows us to assess how far someone can safely walk before getting tired.
  • Enables some time off the ward and spending more time outdoors.
  • Establishes a routine and increases their awareness of the community in preparation for discharge.

Our walks are inclusive and include service users who are not able to walk longer distances. We support them by using wheelchairs.

We offer different types of walking experiences and another involves therapy dogs.

The PAT (Pets as Therapy) dog group encourages healthy exercise whilst walking on the hospital grounds. Service users receive therapeutic benefits from the walk and interaction with the dogs.

Time spent with therapy dogs also provides emotional and social support that could help with stress and promotes resilience because service users can improve their social skills during the walk.

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