Physical activity preferences, motivators, barriers and attitudes of adults with mental illness

Justin James Chapman*, Sarah J. Fraser, Wendy J. Brown, Nicola W. Burton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Adults with mental illness may have specific attitudes toward physical activity (PA). 

Aims: To assess the PA attitudes of non-institutionalised adults with mental illness, and associations with psychological distress.

Method: Participants completed questionnaires on activity preferences (type, context and sources of support), motivators, barriers and attitudes toward personal training (PT). Relationships between responses and distress were assessed using logistic regressions. 

Results: One-hundred forty-two participants completed the questionnaires. PA context preferences included activities done close to home, outdoors, with professional instruction, with people of the same ability, as part of a healthy lifestyle program and with a social component. The most commonly endorsed source of support was an exercise instructor. Most respondents had never received PT; however, PT had high acceptability. Common barriers included poor physical and mental health, and lack of money. Distress was positively associated with barriers of poor mental health, tiredness, disorganisation, exhaustion and being shy/embarrassed (p ≤ 0.001). 

Conclusions: Local outdoor walking groups that include social and healthy lifestyle components, and that are led by an exercise instructor who can provide support for overcoming barriers, may best meet PA interests of this group. PT could be an acceptable method for offering individualised support.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)448-454
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Mental Health
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2 Sept 2016
Externally publishedYes


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