As an individual experiencing mental health difficulty, you may already be familiar with the struggle to maintain a healthy lifestyle. However, by taking control of your lifestyle, you may be able to improve both your physical and mental health leading to better long term health outcomes. The SHAPE Programme has been specially designed to improve physical health for individuals experiencing serious mental health concerns.
You can also access information and recommendations regarding exercise, healthy eating, mental health and medication, and lifestyle advice including smoking cessation and substance use specifically designed for you.
The SHAPE Programme
SHAPE stands for Supporting Health and Promoting Exercise. The SHAPE programme is a physical health intervention offered to individuals receiving mental health treatment. The 12 week exercise and lifestyle therapy programme provides education and discussion on healthy lifestyle behaviors and exercise.
Weekly sessions are delivered in two parts:
- A 45 minute group education session on healthy lifestyle behaviors, including: managing anxiety and depression, mindfulness and relaxation training, substance misuse, smoking cessation, healthy eating and nutritional advice, and healthy relationships.
- Followed by a 45 minute exercise session (including activities such as circuit and resistance training, yoga, team sport) led by qualified exercise instructors. The exercise sessions are designed to introduce participants to a wide range of activities that have proven to be effective in improving physical health and mental wellbeing in individuals with mental health difficulties.
Who runs the SHAPE programme?
SHAPE is provided by clinical staff and peer support workers from designated health service teams across the UK. A member of the clinical team oversees the delivery of the educational programme and provides support to exercise facilitators.
Lifestyle sessions may be delivered by health professionals, an outside agency, or a guest speaker who is an expert in the field (i.e. nutritionist, drug worker, psychologist). Exercise sessions are delivered by a qualified fitness instructor or coach who is trained to work with this population group.
Before you are able to take part in SHAPE, you will need a physical health assessment completed by your current nurse or support worker.
This will comprise of questions related to your lifestyle, such as smoking status and level of physical activity, as well physical health measurements such as body mass index (BMI), waist circumference and a blood test.
Mental health services now have a responsibility to ensure they are monitoring your physical health needs as well as your mental health condition.
We know that certain medications have side effects that may increase your risk for chronic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes and certain heart conditions. These tests provide valuable information to assess your risk of disease and to provide targeted services specific to your needs.
You will be encouraged to consent to the initial health and lifestyle assessments. If you choose not to perform the assessments, this may not necessarily stop you from taking part in the programme. However, it may restrict your ability to take part in some of the physical activities.
For example, we need to assess your blood pressure and heart rate to ensure it is safe for you to exercise. Your reasons of refusal will be documented and reviewed by the health service team.
All personal health information will be kept confidential within the health service team. We may also ask for your feedback in order to evaluate the SHAPE programme; this data would be collected anonymously and used to improve programme delivery.
Depending on your physical health needs, you may be referred to a specialist organisation (i.e. smoking cessation, help with substance use) or provided access to specialist support (i.e. nutritionist).
You may be able to take part in other activities run by your local health service team such as local walking groups, exercise sessions or access to local facilities.
SHAPE is delivered as a rolling 12 week programme. We encourage participants to attend every week, however we understand that sometimes this is not possible. To get the most benefit of the programme, we suggest you attend the initial first three sessions in order to get started with the education sessions and structured activities. Many participants return to the programme after the 12 weeks to join in the exercise sessions independently or as part of the group.
- Please do not stop your medication without speaking to your care team, stopping medication may trigger a relapse of your mental health condition.
- Please speak to your support worker or nurse or psychiatrist, it may be that reducing the dose or switching to alternate medication may resolve the issue.
- By taking an active role in your managing your wellbeing and by increasing activity will reduce the risk of weight gain.
If you suddenly stop smoking this can increase side effects with certain medications as it can interact with levels of certain medication. This may result in an increase of side effects or loss of efficacy in treatment.
If you are planning to reduce or stop smoking, please discuss this with a health care professional who will be able to advise you and offer the support you need.