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A new guidance paper sets out how psychological theory and techniques can be applied to increase physical activity levels in a pandemic.

Image of two people running along the waterfront as the sunrises.

Physical activity is key to both our mental and physical health. For patients with severe mental health problems, physical activity can be particularly challenging, due to the sedative effects of medication, weight gain and increased incidence of physical health problems. Psychological barriers such as low motivation, anxiety and low mood are also recognised to be crucial and yet are rarely addressed in physical activity interventions.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, physical activity has been even harder to achieve for many people and yet is perhaps more important than ever.

Dr Rowan Diamond, lead author of the paper and based at the University of Oxford, explains,

'At a time in which physical activity is so much needed and yet so challenging to perform, every health care worker has a role in encouraging it. Psychological therapists are uniquely placed to assist with this by applying their knowledge of psychological theory and therapeutic tools.

'This new paper addresses the psychological barriers to activity, such as negative thoughts (“I won’t enjoy it”, “I won’t have enough energy”) and low motivation. Specific strategies are presented with links to easy access clinical resources for practitioners to use alongside their existing psychological knowledge and skills.

'In the shifting landscape of the COVID-19 crisis, new priorities for treatment are emerging for which psychologists already have applicable skills. We propose that psychological therapists should engage in this area, and consider including physical activity as a treatable clinical target.'

  

We want to encourage a greater focus on physical activity in psychological therapies during the pandemic, and hopefully well beyond it too!Dr Rowan Diamond, Department of Psychiatry. 

 

To read the full paper, Physical activity in a pandemic: A new treatment target for psychological therapy.

 

 

 

 

NIHR OXFORD HEALTH BIOMEDICAL RESEARCH CENTRE NEWS

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