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People with mental health issues need to be encouraged to be more physically active

Posted December 30, 2018

People, who are suffering from serious mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, usually have worse physical health as well. In fact, scientists have showed that their health condition is typically worse than any other part of population. It means that urgent solutions are needed – after analysing data from over 3000 people, scientists from the University of York came up to a conclusion that physical exercise improves outlook on general health in people with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

A lot of people with serious mental illnesses report wanting to be more physically active, but a lot of them pick up harmful habits instead. Image credit: Kelly via Wikimedia(CC BY-SA 3.0)

Interestingly, out of all these seriously mentally ill people included in the study, 61 % said that they want to be more physically active. Although it shows that motivation is in place in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle, 54 % reported eating just up to 2 portions of fruits and vegetables per day. Bad habits were present as well – 53 % drink alcohol, 45 % smoke and only 38 % are actually physically active every day. This means that the majority of people included in the study are not physically active and a lot of them have harmful habits.

These are worrying results, which can at least partially explain why people with serious mental illnesses usually reports poor physical condition. This is the first study of this kind to involve that many people. And this huge data pool could be leading towards effective ways of improving this situation. Professor Simon Gilbody, co-author of the paper, said: “The study helps us to think about how we can encourage physical activity, improve diet and encourage people with severe mental illness to quit smoking; these are the areas where NHS [National Health Service] could improve further”. Scientists already have their further steps laid out.

Although this research is already providing vital information and valuable insights into this massive problem, researchers are going to continue. They are planning to work with the same participants over the next four years in order to further understand the causes of health inequality. The ultimate goal is designing interventions that could increase physical activity in this group and help them make necessary lifestyle changes in order to maintain and improve the state of their health.

In many cases all these people need is a healthy dose of encouragement. Everyone knows that physical activity is good for you and their families and friends don’t have to wait for any results of any scientific studies. Just inviting them to run or play basketball together goes a long way.


Source: University of York

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