Physical Activity Program for Clients with Mental Illness

Abstract

Currently in the United States, one in five people has a diagnosable mental illness. Individuals with mental illness are more likely to have chronic health problems that lead to increased morbidity and mortality. In fact, current data indicates that people with severe mental illness are likely to have a 25 year reduction in life expectancy than the general population. This is due to many factors including living sedentary lifestyles, smoking and obesity which result in poorer health outcomes. It is well known that physical activity is an important component of a healthy lifestyle and the prevention of chronic diseases. Research indicates that for those with severe mental illness which includes schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression the importance of physical activity is equally more urgent. It has been shown to decrease the risk of metabolic syndrome, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. Participating in regular physical activity also has the potential to increase the quality of life of a person with mental illness related to energy, mood, and self-esteem. As students of physical therapy, we designed a weekly exercise program incorporating aspects of aerobic exercise, strength training, yoga, and stretching to occur at the Lemuel Shattuck Hospital in an intermediate care unit. This program intends to address the need for activity in those with severe mental illness. The clients we are working with in the program include males and females, age 19 through the lifespan, whose length of stay varies from weeks to years.