Workshop 2: Role of physical activity in treating and preventing mental illness


Why physical health and activity is a priority for mental health (Paul Durrands)


Early Intervention Network – Steve Bell (Oxford Health) and Keith Dale (Aylesbury Cricket Club)
Anxiety and Depression Network- Ineke Wolsey (Anxiety & Depression Clinical Network Lead, Oxford AHSN), Charlie Wardle (Climb Your Mountain) and Jess Keeley (Health Trainer)


The importance of exercise is not adequately understood or appreciated by either mental health professionals or patients. Evidence suggests that exercise is an often-neglected intervention in mental health care. Aerobic exercise reduces anxiety and depression. Mood improvements are likely due to increased blood circulation to the brain, an influence on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and hence physiologic reactivity to stress. Other hypotheses cite distraction, self-efficacy, and social interaction. While structured, group physical activity programmes can be effective for individuals with serious mental illness, lifestyle changes focused on the accumulation and increase of moderate-intensity activity throughout the day may be more appropriate for the majority of patients.

Early intervention

The first half of the workshop focuses on engagement, working with both clients and providers to support physical health activities. We will cover:

The therapeutic importance of physical health activities for clients

  • The importance of developing networks and engaging with physical activity providers
  • What’s needed to engage with clients and outside organisations?

Anxiety and Depression

For the second half of the workshop, we will focus on adults with anxiety and depression, asking:

  • What role can physical activity play in recovering from anxiety and/or depression?
  • How important is physical activity in the self-management of Long Term Conditions and co-morbid anxiety and/or depression?
  • What can we do to overcome the barriers to supporting higher levels of physical activity for those suffering with depression and/or anxiety?
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