Barriers to exercise among people with severe mental illnesses

Psychiatr Rehabil J. 2013 Mar;36(1):45-7. doi: 10.1037/h0094747.


Objective: Lack of exercise is a risk factor for various negative health outcomes. Some research suggests people with severe mental illnesses are less likely to engage in exercise than the general population. The purpose of this report is to document, analyze, and understand self-identified barriers to exercise that may be especially specific to people living with serious mental illnesses. Producing such knowledge can assist in the development of effective interventions.

Methods: Thirty-one people with serious mental illnesses participated in in-depth one-on-one interviews to discuss health behaviors in general and exercise more specifically. The authors then engaged in thematic analysis of data to identify common barriers to exercise.

Results: Participants reported psychiatric medication side effects, symptoms related to SMI, and physical comorbidities as barriers.

Conclusions and implications for practice: Clinicians should incorporate physical health goals as a part of treatment planning. Agencies also can play a role in increasing exercise through the implementation of programs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Interview, Psychological
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Mental Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Middle Aged
  • Severity of Illness Index*