In England, there are more than 200 Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) services which offer talking therapies to support adults to better manage their mental health.
Yet, despite the evidence base of the benefits of physical activity on mental health, physical activity is not routinely a part of service delivery.
Service surveys showed there is almost unilateral support for the inclusion of physical activity into conversation – with 98% of staff respondents classing it as either extremely or somewhat important to talk to patients about how increasing their level of physical can improve mental health.
Yet only 5% did this routinely with every patient (Icope physical activity staff survey - June 2021).
The main barriers to this were not knowing what resources and local groups are available, followed by a lack of time and not wanting to appear judgemental.
Service users were also supportive of the inclusion of physical activity within conversations, with 70% saying a therapist talking to them about getting more active would be either very or somewhat helpful (Icope service user physical activity survey - June 2021).
With strong evidence of the benefits of physical activity and support from both staff and service users, we’re working in collaboration with two IAPT services - Camden and Islington’s ICope and Buckinghamshire’s Healthy Minds – to explore how physical activity can best be integrated into psychological treatment pathways.
This is one of our new initiatives to strengthen the connection between sport and physical activity and health and wellbeing, so that those reaching out for mental health support can also easily access physical activity opportunities and support that is right for them.
A variety of partners are working together in support of this work, including local authorities in Camden, Islington, and Buckinghamshire, LEAP Active Partnership, Koa Health and University College London.