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Report supports physical activity to supplement talking therapies

After nearly 400 interviews, the report illustrates the appetite for physical activity to be used within NHS Talking Therapy.

21st March 2023

A report exploring how physical activity could be better used within NHS Talking Therapies to help improve the mental health outcomes of service users has been published today.

Led by Transformation Partners in Health and Care, alongside us and the Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust, the new report is the result of interviews with nearly 400 people – including NHS Talking Therapies staff, community physical activity providers, commissioners and service users. 

We know there is overwhelming evidence that physical activity can reduce the risk of mental health problems such as anxiety and depression, as well as helping to manage the symptoms. 

Two men swim in open water

And the report found there was a widespread appetite to do more to increase physical activity levels through Talking Therapies services, but the majority of those interviewed said they didn’t think enough was being done currently – due to barriers like a lack of knowledge or time. 

Our national partnerships lead for health and inactivity, Suzie Gittus, has welcomed the report and hopes it will improve services in the future.

“This report clearly shows that there is an appetite from everyone involved to better use physical activity as part of NHS Talking Therapies, as a way of improving the mental health of people living with anxiety and depression,” she said.

“There is clear evidence already that shows physical activity can help, but the report highlights some of the barriers which currently prevent it being routinely used in treatment.

“Sport England, together with our partners, plans to reduce these barriers and encourage the implementation of the report’s recommendations, so that more people living with a mental health condition can reap the benefits of an active life.”

The report contains a series of recommendations to help improve the use of physical activity, from equipping staff with more knowledge and furthering collaboration between services, to the development of guides and communities of practice.

The recommendations include suggestions to:

  • Review and refresh national NHS Talking Therapies guidance and incentives to recognise physical activity as a priority for NHS Talking Therapies services. 
  • Equip and empower NHS Talking Therapies staff with the knowledge and skills to give advice on physical activity and motivate service users to move more. 
  • Facilitate collaboration and sharing of expertise between NHS Talking Therapies services and local partners to achieve shared goals. 
  • Develop a joint plan to better promote best practice and emerging work in this area with credible partners in physical activity and mental health. 

Find out more

Read the report sign up for a webinar on Thursday to learn more about how physical activity can be better utilised within NHS Talking Therapies.

Read the report

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