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Let’s Get Physical: Moving for Mental Health

13 May 24

“Movement: Moving more for our mental health” is the theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week.

This month, we want to share with you some of the great work that teams across our services are doing to encourage our service users to include movement into their day. We know that movement has physical health benefits, but it could also assist with things like overall wellbeing, mood, or could even reduce stress. But what does this movement or physical activity look like? It can look like many things and could happen almost anywhere.

Our teams understand the importance of this and have built activities across our services that highlight the importance of the connection between movement and mental health.

Our occupational therapists and physiotherapists have built programmes that allow service users to come together as a group to participate in activities like: aerobic and strength activity, table tennis, cardio drumming, bowling, outdoor walks, and adapted Tai Chi.

“We had a lovely time together this morning. We spent about 30 minutes of quality time. We laughed, and it was a lot of fun” - Service User.

There’s also the chance for 1:1 sessions with staff, and opportunities for service users to use the on-site gym to accomplish personal goals. Staff meet with service users weekly to talk and explore ideas about other activities they might want the team to design for the week.

“Thank you, I feel much more relaxed, it's always nice to do a bit of exercise,” - Service User.

We know that exercise has positive effects on depression and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines for depression recommend that exercise be included as part of the treatment for depression.

On our dementia long stay wards, the Occupational Therapists lead dance sessions and have adapted movement activities to match the season like a Christmas reindeer hoopla and more recently an Easter Bunny bowling!

Because there is increasing evidence that exercise programmes may remove some physical limitations or improve independence in our dementia assessment and treatment wards, some group programmes have been developed for service users. This includes the offer of some group interventions including aerobic and strength activities and body awareness and self-movement classes.

“I love doing exercises, thank you. It makes you feel ahh (relief),” - Service User.

Many of our service users would be unable to follow traditional structured exercise sessions so the physiotherapy team try to tailor our interventions with different activities that they may have enjoyed during their lives: golf, boxing, or football. Whatever physical activity programme we develop, it is done with staff, service users, and carers with the intent that it will satisfy any unmet needs for service users.

We also try to involve carers in sessions and have supported carers to try different movement activities when visiting their loved ones. This has been valued as it can make visits a more positive experience.

We understand that supporting service users and their carers doesn’t end when they leave our wards. This is why our teams are developing ways to support service users off ward. Work has begun on planning group walks to local parks to help facilitate this change.

We believe, where possible, movement should be incorporated into patient care because it can impact lives and make a difference.

If you would like to learn more about the activities that our teams have created to add movement into care of our patients, please contact Hannah Twyford at hannah.twyford@nhs.net.

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