Therapies — 07 April 2017

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People living with mental illness could add years to their lives by shifting their physical health in the right direction, according to three key health groups.

The Dietitians Association of Australia, Exercise and Sports Science Australia and the Australian Psychological Society have joined together to tackle the impact of chronic disease among people living with mental illness.

Recent Australian research reveals that people suffering from mental illness are two to three times more likely to suffer from diabetes, and the rate of cardiovascular disease in this group is almost four times that of the general population.

“By improving diet and exercise, side effects and complications of these chronic conditions can be reduced,” Gabrielle Maston, spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia, says.

Mental health and physical health are fundamentally connected. The World Health Organisation even states that “There is no health without mental health”.

But poor diet and low levels of physical activity can put increased pressure on the wellbeing of people experiencing mental illness.

“The stress of dealing with mental and physical health issues can be overwhelming,’ Australian Psychological Society president Anthony Cichello says.

The three health groups are working together to help people with mental illness access the help and services of dietitans, fitness professionals and psychologists to start to incorporate physical activity and healthier eating plans into their lives.

“Our associations and our members are well placed to help those living with mental illness become more healthy, which in turn will help them live longer and enjoy a better quality of life,” Anita Hobson-Powell, chief executive of Exercise and Sports Science Australia, says.

THE POWER OF EXERCISE

Studies have shown that where regular physical activity was prescribed to groups of people living with mental illness the results revealed:

*Improved cardio-respiratory fitness and reduced risk of death.

*Improved psychosocial functioning — meaning that activities of daily living, social and work lives became easier and less stressful.

*Mitigated weight gain that is often associated with medications for mental illness.

*Improved chronic disease outcomes; especially in Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

*Decreases symptoms of depression and anxiety.

*Improved sleep quality and an increase in self-esteem.

To find an Accredited Exercise Physiologist go to essa.org.au/find-aep.

Source: Exercise and Sports Science Australia

This piece was origally published on ‘The West Australian’6 April 2017.

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