People with long-term health conditions around the UK are to be given greater access to physical activity thanks to a new partnership between Sport England and a group of eight charities.
The Richmond Group of Charities, which includes Diabetes UK, the Alzheimer’s Society and Breast Cancer Now, all support sufferers of various common long-term health conditions – many of whom do little or no physical activity.
They will each receive a share of Sport England's £1.3million investment to support research projects and pilot studies around physical activity across the UK, including those launched by mental health charity Rethink.
Brian Dow, Deputy CEO at Rethink Mental Illness told ConnectSport how physical activity can be life-changing for people with mental illness. He said: “The benefits of regular physical activity are well known, but what’s perhaps less known is how life-saving this could be for many people living with a mental illness.
“People with conditions like schizophrenia die on average 15 to 20 years earlier than the rest of the population, largely due to preventable physical health problems caused by a number of factors, including the side effects of medication.
“We believe that supporting people to become more active will help bring down this scandalous figure."
In the first year, Rethink will co-design a toolkit with physical activity experts and people with lived experience of mental health issues. It will be piloted with six local groups and evaluated. In year two it will be rolled out to a further 20 groups, then another 20 in year three before becoming nationally available.
“People living with severe mental illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder face barriers to physical activity," added Brian. “Our partnership wants to establish whether these barriers can be overcome by embedding physical activity into peer support groups, and to explore the impact this may have on physical and mental health.”
Another charity in the partnership is the British Lung Foundation. Mike McKevitt, Director of Patient Services, told ConnectSport: “We are really excited to be included in this project that will benefit so many people with long-term health conditions. Our plan is to develop a telephone health coaching service to support and empower people living with lung conditions to become and stay active.
"It’s so important for people with a respiratory disease to stay active as it can help improve breathing and quality of life.”
Sport England chief executive Jennie Price also highlighted the benefits of physical activity for people with long-term conditions, saying: “Exercising when you have a long-term health condition can be hugely beneficial to your mental and physical wellbeing but it can also be daunting.
“We are committed to sharing what we learn about how to help people get active, and think this has real potential to help people lead happy, healthier lives.”
For more information on projects being launched by the eight charities, click here.