In the industry, we then began to see more research be published on the benefits of exercise on our mental health.
In 2015, a consensus statement on the role of Accredited Exercise Physiologists within the treatment of mental health disorders: A guide for mental health professionals
was published by ESSA with a team of researchers to inform the broader mental health sector of the types of interventions, modes of delivery, and benefits associated with the role of an Accredited Exercise Physiologist in mental health care.
Then in 2016, Dr Robert Stanton (who was part of the consensus statement team) was awarded the prestigious ESSA Medal for 2015 for his thesis on 'Developing an understanding of exercise in the inpatient mental health setting
'. Dr Stanton's achievement further highlighted the growth in the exercise and mental health field.
From a national perspective, the benefits of exercise was being acknowledged more regularly in the Australian mental health sector. In 2015, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) released the Keeping Body and Mind Together
report which outlined the need for more to be done to address the gap in physical health and life expectancy between those who live with a mental illness and the general population. Then in 2016, the Mental Health Commission of NSW released the Physical health and mental wellbeing: Evidence Guide
which discussed the importance of looking after our physical health in order to improve our mental health.
Both resources indicate the need for mental health professionals to refer to and engage with an Accredited Exercise Physiologist.
In 2017, a joint position statement with ESSA, Dietitians Association of Australia, and the Australian Psychological Society: Addressing the Physical Health of People with Mental Illness
endorsed increased access to dietary and exercise interventions in addition to evidence-based psychological and medical treatment for individuals experiencing mental illness, as well as referral to appropriately qualified allied health professionals to address lifestyle issues and physical health needs (where indicated).
Internationally, the World Health Organisation (WHO) released the Management of physical health conditions in adults with severe mental disorders
guidelines in 2018 which added to the global conversation to increase the recognition of physical activity that ESSA and the exercise and sports science industry have been a key part of.
Also in 2018, ESSA, alongside the American College of Sports Medicine, British Association of Sport and Exercise Science, and Sport and Exercise Science New Zealand, officially released a joint international consensus station: The Role of Sport, Exercise, and Physical Activity in Closing the Life Expectancy Gap for People with Mental Illness
This was the first joint international consensus statement which aimed to define the key factors that must be addressed by key decision makers to increase access to appropriate exercise programs for people with mental illness and subsequently contribute to closing the life expectancy gap.
The statement identifies that exercise practitioners, such as Accredited Exercise Physiologists play an important role in improving the lifestyles of those with mental illness, with the ability to address major modifiable risk factors.
“Although not a magic bullet, physical inactivity is a key, modifiable risk factor that we overwhelmingly know how to address. Helping people experiencing mental illness to live active lives is not a gap in knowledge, rather a lack of implementation,” explained Associate Professor Simon Rosenbaum, lead author and mental health researcher, at the time of the international consensus statement release.
Since its conception in 2014, there has been a wide range of mental health blogs shared on the Exercise Right website, written by ESSA accredited exercise professionals, helping to promote the use of exercise in the treatment of mental health. Check them out here.
Then in mid-2018, ESSA published its first ever Exercise Right eBook, Exercise & Mental Health
, serving as a free resource for people to find out more on how exercise can be beneficial for mental health and a range of mental disorders.