Australian, American, British and New Zealand organisations join forces to close the life expectancy gap of the mentally-ill

exercise for mental illnessIn mid-May of this year, Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA), the American College of Sports Medicine, the British Association of Sport and Exercise Science, and Sport and Exercise Science New Zealand officially released the first joint international consensus statement dubbed as “The Role of Sport, Exercise, and Physical Activity in Closing the Life Expectancy Gap for People With Mental Illness“.

The joint statement emphasized the important role of exercise interventions in closing the life expectancy gap of people suffering from mental illness. It outlined increasing access to appropriate exercise programs as one of the solutions to alleviate the life expectancy gap between the mentally-ill and the general population.

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Co-author and ESSA Chief Executive Officer, Anita Hobson-Powell said, “This statement represents a significant piece of work between like-minded organisations after two years’ worth of collaboration. These international relationships allow our organisation and industry to work collaboratively on global issues that need addressing,”

ESSA pointed out that 9% of premature mortality worldwide is caused by physical inactivity and the increased access to appropriate exercise programs for the mentally-ill aims to consequently confine the gap.

Dr Simon Rosenbaum, lead author and researcher with the School of Psychiatry, UNSW, Sydney, and Black Dog Institute affirmed this and said, “Although not a magic bullet, physical inactivity is a key, modifiable risk factor that we overwhelmingly know how to address. Helping people experiencing mental illness to live active lives is not a gap in knowledge, rather a lack of implementation.”

Another key factor mentioned in the statement is the important role exercise practitioners like accredited exercise physiologists play in advocating for positive lifestyle change.

“This is a great step towards increasing awareness of the critical role that enhancing physical activity can play in improving the lives of people living with mental illness. Enhancing the role of exercise and sports science professionals working with people with mental illness will provide a huge boost to the quality of care they receive” said Professor Philip Ward, co-author and director of the Schizophrenia Research Unit, South Western Sydney Local Health District, and Ingham Institute for Applied Medical Research.

“We believe that enhanced training of our members, facilitating culture change within mental health services, and advocating for the provision of required infrastructure are the cornerstones of achieving this goal,” added Dr Rosenbaum.

Photo by R.H. Lee on Unsplash

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