Clinical Eye

Let’s get moving

Exercise could become a valuable part of the treatment plan, says Ishbel Straker.

I have recently started to work with a personal trainer, which got me thinking – how much does exercise form a part of your treatment plan when seeing patients? Are we influenced by our own patterns of behaviour when considering this, ie if you exercise, do you recommend it to people?

personal trainer

It’s been at the forefront of my mind in conversations with patients. When we consider exercise and addiction it seems to be something that is placed on the backburner when dealing with significant physical issues – but does this need to change?

We know that exercise increases serotonin and dopamine levels in our brains, creating a more balanced state of mental wellbeing. So why don’t we encourage our addiction patients in the same way that psychiatric services do?

I asked myself about the last time I talked with a patient about exercise, in line with discussing nutrition. Am I influenced by my own levels of exercise? Do I feel competent to recommend exercise despite the evidence? I think the answer is clearly yes, and this needs to change.

The moral of this story is that there is no other area that I feel I have to know more about before I refer to a specialist. If a patient walks through the door with coexisting cardiology issues, I know I’m not the expert and feel comfortable to assess the markers and refer on. So I’m going to challenge myself to do the same with physiotherapists, sports psychologists or personal trainers.

Ishbel Straker
Ishbel Straker is a clinical director, registered mental health nurse, independent nurse prescriber and board member of IntNSA

With dwindling resources, am I flogging a dead horse? Possibly. But what may be more appropriate is, while we look at smoking cessation, vaccinations and nutrition, let’s also consider the element of exercise and discuss with GP surgeries the option of tapping into exercise on prescription within our gyms. We could even consider taking it one step further by connecting with local gyms and offering some addiction training, so in unity we could all increase our skills to produce better outcomes.


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