ESSA stays committed to the continuous progress of exercise and the benefits for mental illness

In 2018, the Federal Government’s budget firmly demonstrated a commitment to making the mental health of our nation a top priority. This Budget promised to see new investments of $338 million for the mental health sector concentrated in the areas of suicide prevention, older Australians and mental health research.

It was stated by Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA) last year that Australians deserve a responsive and strong health system that not only puts individuals at the centre of care when treating mental health, but that addresses the health gaps in our nation, providing a fair go for those who need it the most.

“Although not a magic bullet, physical inactivity is a key, modifiable risk factor that we overwhelmingly know how to address, and Accredited Exercise Physiologists play a vital role in achieving the motivation to move more to improve poor mental health and manage mental illness,” says ESSA Chief Executive Officer, Anita Hobson-Powell.

Over the last 12 months, we have seen a positive development in this sector, with Accredited Exercise Physiologists commenting on this progress.

“The role of an exercise physiologist prescribing exercises to people living with severe mental illness within a multidisciplinary team is slowly becoming a recognised adjunctive therapy. With the amount of research that is present today supporting the effect of exercise on severe mental illness, it is considered to be negligent if it is not offered as a formal part of treatment,” says Kirrily Gould, Mental Health Exercise Physiologist at St John of God Hospital and In2 Motion, NSW.

“Working with an exercise physiologist will provide the appropriate knowledge and motivation to help manage mental health symptoms (e.g. stress, anxiety, depression, PTSD, etc.) and improve craving levels and relapse rates for substance users. One of the most important roles of an exercise physiologist is their ability to empower their client to engage in movement, because something is always better than nothing at all with this population.”

The presence of Accredited Exercise Physiologists is also starting to grow in the private and public sector, highlighting a commitment from the government, stakeholders and the community to help build a nation where everyone is supported to be active.

“The emphasis on physical health is strengthening and with that, we are seeing exercise physiology positions grow, especially in the hospital setting,” explains Georgia Frydman, Community Mental Health Exercise Physiologist at Sydney Local Health District.

“It is important that medical and allied health students are exposed to the work available within mental health settings. Practical placements allow students to reduce the stigma of ‘the unknown’, and opens the doors to more facilities offering mental health friendly services.”

Continued funding and improved referral pathways that support targeted access to exercise interventions as part of standard care is one key solution that ESSA’s Active Nation campaign is suggesting to the Federal Government.

The ESSA Active Nation campaigns calls on the government, stakeholders and the community to commit to building a nation where everyone is supported to be active.

People with severe mental illness live between 10-32 years less than the general population. A major contributing factor to the lower life expectancy is poor physical health and higher rates of chronic illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes, which are preventable and treatable diseases.

“ESSA is committed to promoting the role of exercise interventions as a key component of a global strategy toward achieving a 50% reduction in the life expectancy gap of people experiencing mental illness by 2032.”

“Exercise, when provided suitably and tailored in a way that is specific to the needs of the individual, is an excellent addition to other treatment for the ongoing journey towards good mental health. Even one workout a week is known to have important, protective benefits for those living with mental health conditions like depression.”

To find out more about the Active Nation campaign, click here.

To contact your local Accredited Exercise Physiologist, visit the ESSA website.