Exercise To Be Mental Health Treatment

A new scheme encouraging those with mental health problems to become more physically active could prove "extremely beneficial'', according to the Scottish Government.

The project is being funded with almost £1 million of the £150 million ministers have set aside for improving mental health care.

It will initially operate in the Lothian, Fife and Ayrshire and Arran health board areas, and will build on well-established links between exercise and improved mental wellbeing.

Jamie Hepburn, minister for sport, health improvement and mental health, said: "Even moderate physical activity can have remarkable benefits for mental wellbeing. This programme has the potential to be extremely beneficial to patients.''

The charity SAMH is being awarded £992,000 over three years to run the new programme, which will involve patients being helped to improve their self-esteem before taking part in a 12-week exercise programme based around their interests, abilities and level of fitness.

Mr Hepburn stated: "When we announced the additional £150 million for mental health, we wanted to use some of it to fund innovative projects that help to prevent people from developing more serious health issues. This is exactly the kind of project that we had in mind.

"This scheme does not just offer people the option of physical activity, it encourages and supports them to achieve goals that will make a real difference to their mental health. They will be fully supported throughout.''

SAMH chief executive Billy Watson said: "It is well known that regular exercise can have a hugely positive impact on both our mental and physical well-being.

"Yet, nearly 80% of people who are referred to physical activity programmes as part of their treatment either fail to complete the programme or do not incorporate physical activity within their lifestyle after the programme has ended.

"Our goal is to change behaviours, which is why this project embeds cognitive behaviour approaches within the physical activity programme, delivered by SAMH staff.

"This innovative intervention will ensure people build their knowledge and skills to engage with physical activity on a long-term basis, helping people towards making active lifestyle choices for the future.''