Authors: Fiona Lee, NSW
Event: 2006 TheMHS Conference
Subject: PHYSICAL HEALTH, Reducing Aggression; Forensic issues, MENTAL ILLNESS, EXERCISE, FORENSIC
Type of resource: Conference Presentations and Papers
Abstract: There is a growing body of evidence showing people with mental illness experience higher rates of heart disease, obesity and diabetes than the general population. Exercise has been proven to reduce weight gain and improve general physical health. Exercise also has a positive impact on mental health, improving self-esteem, reducing depression and the experience of hallucinations and improving cognitive functioning. People who have mental illnesses face challenges in maintaining adequate levels of exercise, such as motivation and limited finances. These challenges are exacerbated in in-patient forensic settings by security and minimal access to community facilities. This paper will discuss the pilot of a structured exercise program within a medium-secure forensic psychiatric unit in NSW. During the program 6 clients participated in twice weekly training sessions in the unit’s gym. Qualified personal trainers from a local facility ran these one-hour sessions. Outcomes of the program were evaluated using fitness and psychometric testing at commencement of the program, at three months and at six months. Participants described their perceptions of the program through an interview and self-report measure. At completion of the program participants had reduced body fat, improved cardiovascular endurance and flexibility, increased self-esteem, reduced psychotic symptoms and anxiety with increased hopefulness. Participants reported increasing their activity levels outside of the program and changing their eating habits. Despite the confines of a locked unit the participants formed meaningful connections with a community program.