Using exercise to boost mental health

Exercise is known as one of the most effective ways to improve your mental health, as it relieves stress and boosts your mood.

Within a secure hospital such as St Andrew's, there are some structural barriers – locked doors and controlled access to facilities, for instance – which can make exercise a little more difficult, but we are taking great strides to ensure all of our patients can access exercise and sporting activities.

Meet Kim*…

Kim has recently been discharged from St Andrew's after being in our care for a number of years. As part of her recovery journey, our staff encouraged her to get more active – which had amazing results when she took part in Body Rockers, a 12-week patient activity and exercise programme.

Body Rockers is a Physiotherapy-led initiative which aims to promote physical wellbeing and interdisciplinary teamwork. The programme involves the whole multi-disciplinary team (dieticians, psychologists, occupational therapists and nursing staff), who work together with their patient.

Participants follow set timetables and structured activities which are mainly focused on healthy lifestyle and fitness. All patients have two or more fitness buddies, who work closely to inspire and motivate them to choose a healthy diet, maintain appropriate physical activity and think positive throughout the journey.

Since Kim started the programme, she has noticed real benefits. She explains:

“I'm so much busier since I started Body Rockers – I love it. My Mum and Dad say that when they visit me I'm so much happier now, as it's good for me to keep busy.”

“I have some knee and back problems – when I first started my back was in a lot of pain – but it's getting much better. The more I do the better it feels, and the more I push on. Hopefully the pool will be open tomorrow - I missed aqua aerobics last week because of the pain. We've got a lovely pool here, it’s really big.”

"It's a lovely day for walking, not too warm. I think it's better to be outside on a walk than inside. Being out in the fresh air clears your mind. That's why I like to get out for a walk every day, I just love it. This place is gorgeous; on a walk I'll see birds, rabbits, squirrels. It's lovely in the summer, and I love it when the leaves turn brown and then turn green ones again.”

"I want to start doing even more. When I first started I could only do a couple of sit-ups. You build up each week, five more, 10 more. Now I can do 40 crunches, 50 sit-ups. I want to walk further and do more. When I'm home I will keep it up."

"I have to thank the physiotherapy team; they've been brilliant – as has the dietician. She helps me choose the healthier options (not all the time but most!). I now love salad. Salad again! They laugh as I have salad every day; to start with I was like 'oh more rabbit food' but now I love it."

Throughout the Body Rockers scheme, our patients receive badges and prizes to encourage them to keep improving.

St Andrew’s Healthcare is passionate about encouraging patients to be more active, and get involved in sports and exercise. More information about one of our current research projects is available by clicking here.

*Not her real name.

The Body Rockers team are: Jyothi Kraleti (lead), and physiotherapy staff:  Monika, Caroline, Anne and Lydia.