Rx Nutrition Resource Center
Rx Nutrition Resource Center
May 31, 2019
2 min read

Exercise, nutrition education benefit psychiatric inpatients

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Implementation of physical exercise and nutrition education in inpatient psychiatry resulted in positive changes in both psychological and physical outcomes, according to a study published in Global Advances in Health and Medicine.

“Multiple studies have indicated that a multidisciplinary approach focused on mind–body connection has been instrumental in promoting well-being in the general population,” David Tomasi, PhD, from University of Vermont Integrative Health, and colleagues wrote. “In the context of inpatient psychiatry, the specific needs of complex diagnostic presentations represent a challenge to the commonly utilized combination of psychotherapy and pharmacological intervention.”

To encourage physical health, fitness and exercise in this patient population, Tomasi and colleagues administered 60-minute exercise and nutritional education sessions four times a week to 100 adult patients from two inpatient psychiatry units at University of Vermont over a 12-month period. Participants completed pre- and post-session surveys that asked about mood, willingness to engage in further education, physical condition, physical fitness/readiness, movement-based practices, nutrition group attendance and perceived body image.

The exercise sessions involved a combination of cardiovascular training, resistance training and flexibility development that included free-body exercises; stretching and strengthening exercises; and muscle activation using fitness equipment. The nutrition education sessions involved recognizing food groups, understanding healthy food choices, budgeting and meal preparation/planning.

running on the treadmill 
Source: Shutterstock.com

Tomasi and colleagues reported positive changes in patient-perceived psychological and physical terms. The research yielded positive outcomes in exercise, fitness, and physical health in psychiatric inpatients as well as in the therapeutic management of depressive symptoms and patient-centered approach to mania, angry outbursts, and generalized disruptive behavior.

Over 90% of patients in both inpatient psychiatry units responded that exercise improved their mood and that they were happy with the way their body felt after exercising. Most participants also expressed interest in continuing a fitness routine (97.6% in one inpatient unit and 100% in the other).

The researchers also found that classic cognitive behavioral and dialectic behavioral psychotherapy modalities combined with integrative approaches such as exercise and nutrition supported the general improvement in well-being following each session.

"The fantastic thing about these results is that, if you're in a psychotic state, you're sort of limited with what you can do in terms of talk therapy or psychotherapy. It's hard to receive a message through talk therapy in that state, whereas with exercise, you can use your body and not rely on emotional intelligence alone,” Tomasi said in a press release. “In practice, we hope that every psychiatric facility will include integrative therapies — in our case, exercise in particular — as the primary resource for their patients' psycho-physical wellbeing.” – by Savannah Demko

Disclosure: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.