Exercise is Medicine for Good Mental Health

FeaturedExercise is Medicine for Good Mental Health

Poor Mental Health: we are all concerned

Ways to recognise and deal with poor mental health are increasingly being highlighted in the media, making it the focus of many national and local initiatives in the UK to help tackle its consequences. According to statistics published on the Mental Health Foundation website, 4 to 10% of people in England will experience depression in their lifetime, some with tragic consequences such as suicide. We are all at risk to have poor mental health at some point in our life, from childhood to our older age, whatever our activity at home, at school or at work.

A Factsheet from Mental Health Network, published in 2017, highlights that deteriorating mental health has a direct negative impact on physical health, with people with a mental illness almost twice as likely to die from coronary heart disease as the general population, four times more likely to die from respiratory disease and are at a higher risk of being overweight or obese.

Restoring and maintaining your mental health

Whilst medication is reported as the most common type of treatment for mental health problems, there is a body of evidence that demonstrates that undertaking some form of exercise, together with other activities, will greatly help with instilling a feeling of wellbeing and maintain good mental health


Exercise is medicine for better mental health at Bristol University

On Mental Health Day (10th October), we spent some time talking to Peter Burrows, Physical Activity & Health Development Officer (pictured below) at Bristol University.

Bristol University like many other Higher Education institutions has sadly seen a rise in the number of suspected suicides among its student population. While trying to understand the reasons behind these untimely deaths, the University has taken a number of active steps to address poor mental health of students, one of which is introducing the Healthy Minds Scheme.

Bristol University: Healthy Minds Scheme

The Healthy Minds Scheme  is run by the Division of Sport Exercise and Health and is a pioneering approach to user-led physical activity that seeks to positively impact on students experiencing mental health difficulty whilst at University.

Students who approach the Student Counselling Team or the Mental Health Advisory Service showing symptoms of poor mental health are clinically assessed to be accepted on the Scheme. Peter and his team of exercise professionals then work to create an activity plan for them which is based around 3 months of free access to premium membership including the gym, pool, exercise classes and social sport opportunities. They get multiple contact points with their mentor in the gym to progress their routines and are guided towards an exit route that looks to maintain their health behaviour either through the gym or by joining an active club or society.

Peter Burrows
Peter Burrows, Bristol University

Last year I ran the programme entirely by myself and was able to support around 60 students through the scheme”, Peter says. “We have significantly expanded the programme this year to include a programme coordinator and embed the fitness team into the delivery of the project. As such we were looking for appropriate training to support our staff. We sought out the WRIGHT Foundation Level 4 Mental Health course earlier this summer with 5 of us from the University of Bristol attending. It turned out to be the perfect training opportunity to support the project and prepare our staff for working with this specialist population. The course was insightful and in depth and really reinforced the work I’d done previously in designing and implementing the project to support mental health through physical activity“. With the growing and newly qualified team in place, the Healthy Minds Scheme hopes to reach and support upward of 500 students in 2018-19.

Students Beth and Isaac took part in the Scheme. Put the volume on to listen to and watch their stories:

Healthy Minds for better mental health: future plans

Peter has ambitious plans to further expand the programme to offer a less intensive model which could make the programme more scalable and even extend the service to staff with a view to to taking a more preventive approach rather than what is currently a curative one.

In 2017, the ukactive Research Institute, in collaboration with Precor and Scottish Student Sport released a key report highlighting the important role physical activity can play in a university student’s life. This year, with the additional collaboration of British Universities & Colleges Sport (BUCS), the research covered Britain. This report titled ‘The ‘British Active Students Survey’, highlighted the benefits of physical activity on mental health. With this evidence in hand, Bristol University, in conjunction with nine other universities, has now bid for and been approved funding through BUCS and Sport England to continue to expand the scheme and help develop a delivery model that can be adopted by other institutions in the HE sector as the benchmark in physical activity to support mental health.

Lorraine Nicholson
WRIGHT Foundation Training Division Director Lorraine Nicholson

Lorraine Nicholson, Training Division Director at WRIGHT Foundation CIC, said “It is a great honour to be involved in the running of such a worthwhile Scheme that is reaping benefits for the students and improve their mental health. We look forward to working further with Bristol University, and indeed other universities that are thinking of adopting this model.”

If you want to find out more about the Healthy Minds Scheme at Bristol University, please contact Peter Burrows directly on 0117 928 9000 .

If your organisation wants to host a WRIGHT Foundation Level 4 Mental Health course or have any queries on this and other WRIGHT Foundation courses, please contact us on 01307469055 or info@wrightfoundation.com.


Northwich Paralympian helps launch project to help people with neurological disorders

Northwich Paralympian helps launch project to help people with neurological disorders
Picture of launch group
Photo courtesy of Winsford Guardian

An exercise programme in West Cheshire has been launched to improve the lives of those living with neurological conditions with the help of WRIGHT Foundation CIC.

Lorraine Nicholson, Training Director at WRIGHT Foundation, said: “This is a very exciting development and we are proud to be associated with it. Please read the full article here.”

For all enquiries, please contact us on 01307 469055 or email lorrainenicholson@wrightfoundation.com

Level 3 Diploma in GP Exercise Referral : Patricia’s story

WRIGHT Foundation CIC introduced the first medically-led  Level 3 Diploma in GP Exercise Referral to the UK. We have been training thousands of gym instructors, personal trainers and health care professionals over the years, growing a workforce with the capability to make a real impact on health and well-being in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Level 3 Diploma in GP Exercise Referral courses are recognised by REPs for a CPD value of 20 points and endorsed by CIMSPA for a CPD value of 10 points.

We are starting a series of stories, profiling some of our past students who are flying the flag of GP referral schemes.

Patricia’s story: Making a difference as an Exercise Referral instructor

Patricia Park Yorkshire
Patricia Park, Fitness Instructor, Yorkshire
Patricia Park is a fitness instructor in her local Leisure Centre in Yorkshire. She qualified with WRIGHT Foundation Level 3 Diploma in GP Exercise Referral in 2016. The GP Referral Scheme she works with had already been well set up when she took over from her colleague. The Scheme is very busy with two local GP surgeries referring patients in. Currently Patricia works with more than 20 clients.

Her employer, East Riding Council funded her WRIGHT Foundation course as part of their fitness staff development and because there was a need to continue to service the Scheme with qualified staff.

Patricia explained, “This is a very valuable course and without it, I would not be able to correctly advise and help people who are referred with a varied range of medical conditions. The most common condition referred are often linked to weight management and for me, it is important to give clients the right amount of exercise as not to cause them more pain.

The GP Exercise Referral Scheme also allows GPs to alleviate their workload as exercise is now recognised to help patients who live with medical conditions. As the Gym also carry out health checks, clients get an all-round fitness service in one place.

Level 3 Diploma in GP Exercise Referral: a win-win-win for all concerned

For Patricia, it has been the right career move with enhanced prospect and a higher rate of pay.

Gym instructor assisting woman in her workout.
Gym instructor assisting woman in her workout.
Helping people with medical conditions is a valuable service and can make people’s day to day life much easier and often with less pain.That’s where the training and knowledge comes into play. I am able to adapt exercise and propose alternatives.

The Scheme has also offered many benefits: referred patients tend to stay and become members after the referral period. Coming to the Gym gives them a new lease of life.” said Patricia

As many of Patricia’s clients say,  simply going along and doing some exercise a few times a week has changed their life.

Patricia highly recommends the training she attended with WRIGHT Foundation CIC.  “The lecturer was brilliant, the course covers many common medical conditions and prepares you well to run a Referral Scheme.”

She is continuing her training, currently studying for Cardiac Rehabilitation, Mental Health and Obesity & Diabetes courses.

Lorraine Nicholson
WRIGHT Foundation Training Division Director Lorraine Nicholson
WRIGHT Foundation CIC Training Division Director, Lorraine Nicholson (pictured) shares her views: “At WRIGHT Foundation, we are committed to the concept that Exercise is Medicine and passionate about helping as many people as possible on the road to recovery from a wide range of medical conditions through highly trained individuals with specialist knowledge gained from our courses.  

WRIGHT Foundation courses and its lecturers constantly receive excellent feedback about the quality, thoroughness and delivery. This then provides patients with first class motivated people to help them on the road to recovery and I am very proud to be involved in this.

What is Exercise Referral?

Exercise Referral is a specific and formalised programme whereby a medical or health professional refers a patient to a fitness professional to be given tailored exercise advice, often based within the community.

Exercise Referral helps

  • promote physical activity and exercise to individuals who are living with a medical condition,
  • improve individuals’ health, well-being and lifestyle, and
  • encourage habitual participation for long-term benefits.

Exercise Referral Schemes exist throughout the UK in various shapes and forms, involving hospital, health and medical care teams and services, linking to exercise and phu between medical practices and exercise facilities, such as gyms, leisure centres, etc.

Being part of an exercise referral scheme affords you as an exercise professional the opportunity to play a vital role in the promotion of regular physical activity and exercise participation to individuals with a real need to improve their health and well-being.

Level 3 Diploma in GP Exercise Referral

The current National Occupational Standards (NOS)* states:

‘Instructors who are responsible for designing and delivering structured and tailored physical activity programmes for referred patients or assigning them to an appropriate physical activity must have a range of knowledge and skills specific to the referral process, specified medical conditions and relevant health risk factors related to physical activity participation.’

A Level 3 Diploma in GP Exercise Referral is therefore a sought-after qualification by exercise professionals who want to help their clients improve their health and fitness. The Diploma clarifies the relationship between exercise, medical conditions and medication to allow professionals to deliver a safe and beneficial exercise programme to their clients. Once a person qualifies, they have the tools and skills to establish, or, if already in existence, to continue running a successful referral scheme.

*D463 Design, manage and adapt an exercise and physical activity programme with referred clients

Are you a past student of WRIGHT Foundation? Would you like to be featured on our blog?

Call us on 01307 469055 or drop us a line at info@wrightfoundation.com. We would be delighted to hear about your progress, ask you a few questions and share your story.

For all dates and locations of Level 3 Diploma in GP Exercise Referral courses, check our website wrightfoundation.com

WRIGHT Foundation Launch Training with Empiric UAE in Dubai

Dundee based WRIGHT Foundation, the UK’s leading provider of Level 3 & 4 Exercise Referral and Specialist exercise rehabilitation qualifications to the leisure and health sector, have teamed up with Empiric UAE, a leading provider of structured and progressive health & fitness education in the Middle East, to deliver their specialist qualifications in Dubai.

The partnership between the two training providers resulted in a pilot course being delivered in Dubai in November. The WRIGHT Foundation Level 4 Obesity & Diabetes course was identified as a need in the area and was oversubscribed in terms of demand. Designed to equip those who attended with all the key information on the aetiology and genetics of obesity, including the risk factors associated with obesity and diabetes. Exercise professionals who qualify in this respect develop the skills and knowledge to allow them to prescribe exercise appropriately, assess client status and negotiate the behavior change agenda, supporting lifestyle modification.

WRIGHT Foundation training division manager, Lorraine Nicholson said,

“We have over fifteen years experience in developing and delivering specialist qualifications such as this, including other subject areas such as Cardiac, Cancer and Pulmonary rehabilitation and we are delighted to be working with Empiric to help to raise standards and introduce specialist qualifications such as this to Dubai and hopefully other parts of the UAE in the future as needed.”

The first Level 4 Obesity and Diabetes course of this partnership was attended by 24 Health and Fitness professionals from the area in the prestigious Ontario Tower, in the Business Bay in Dubai from 11th to 13thNovember.

Empiric Managing Director Cara Standley added;


Cara Standley – MD of Empiric UAE

“Correctly structured programs to manage nutrition, exercise and psychological wellbeing are the key components of Obesity and Diabetes treatment and vital to delivering the UAE’s health targets and the long term wellbeing of the UAE population. Empiric is proud to be part of the continued regional health and fitness renaissance”

Learners fully enjoyed the course, with one describing it as “Perfect!”. The feedback was so positive that plans have already been made to deliver a further Obesity & Diabetes course from 13-15 April 2017.