The perceptions of mental health clinicians integrating exercise as an adjunct to routine treatment of depression and anxiety

Garvey, Loretta ORCID: 0000-0002-4985-4280, Benson, Amanda Clare ORCID: 0000-0003-2959-8969, Benger, Debra, Short, Tamsin, Banyard, Harry ORCID: 0000-0002-6079-4020 and Edward, Karen-leigh ORCID: 0000-0001-8697-4006 (2022) The perceptions of mental health clinicians integrating exercise as an adjunct to routine treatment of depression and anxiety. International Journal of Mental Health Nursing. ISSN 1445-8330


Individuals with depressive symptoms often experience changes in physical activity and lifestyle factors. Despite the benefits of exercise, mental health clinicians often do not refer for or prescribe exercise as part of traditionally accepted models of care for consumers with depression and anxiety. The aims were to investigate: (i) mental health clinicians’ understanding of the relationship between exercise and mental health, (ii) if and how exercise is used by mental health clinicians in treatment for depression and anxiety, and (iii) the barriers to prescription of exercise. A descriptive qualitative method was used, and data were collected via individual semi-structured interviews. Ten mental health clinicians with varying backgrounds participated in this study. The data driven inductive analysis of participants views identified three themes: (i) knowing and not knowing, (ii) consumer comorbidities – the risk and benefit dilemma, and (iii) protecting vulnerable consumers. Enhancing clinicians' knowledge of the beneficial role of exercise in treatment for consumers’ experiencing depression and anxiety is an important step. Mental health services can support integration of exercise by implementing policies and training for staff to support exercise prescription, and the role and referral of exercise and physical activity specialists, as part of routine care to improve clinical outcomes for consumers. Additional considerations should be given to fiscal support to access exercise as an adjunct therapy.

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Item type Article
DOI 10.1111/inm.13089
Official URL
Subjects Current > FOR (2020) Classification > 4205 Nursing
Current > Division/Research > College of Health and Biomedicine
Keywords mental health, depression, mental health clinicians, anxiety, physical activity, mental health nursing
Citations in Scopus 0 - View on Scopus
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