Mental Health and Physical Activity Roundtable

Posted on April 11, 2011

Ready, set, go! The Mental Health and Physical Activity Roundtable on Thursday May 5, 2011 did just that in a successful day that included the exchange of ideas through networking, keynote addresses, a consumer discussion panel, and a Circuit Café. Mental health professionals and consumers came together. They celebrated and discussed mental health and physical activity at the Metro Central YMCA, who generously donated their space for the day.

The Minding Our Bodies project is a collaborative effort of the Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario with many other organizations in the physical activity and mental health fields. Passion and a joy of helping others united professionals and consumers alike to enjoy an eventful day.

Participants were served a healthy breakfast, followed by a physical warm-up. The Minding Our Bodies video was launched. Keynote presenters Paul Gorczynski and Kelly Arbour-Nicitopoulos from the University of Toronto discussed their academic findings. Paul addressed how theory-based projects are working to help professionals and consumers understand barriers to physical activity; by increasing the confidence of consumers, the effects of barriers are decreased. Kelly discussed her work with women who have schizophrenia taking part in the Healthy Lifestyle Promotion Program (HELPP). She demonstrated that using inter-professional collaboration to run a skills development/health education and physical activity program increased activity levels, consumer satisfaction in physical appearance, and self efficacy in maintaining a healthy diet. Their presentation can be viewed here

Other programs were highlighted by a number of additional presentations, including:

Consumer Experiences and Leadership:

• The peer leader panel was moderated by Jim Ward and was made up of consumer/survivors and health professionals from Hadimand-Norfold Resource Centre, CMHA Thunder Bay, Physical Activity for Consumer Survivors (PhACS), and “Active Recovery” CMHA Cochrane-Timiskaming. The discussion noted that transportation, cost, fear, and previous bad experiences can act as barriers to physical activity. It is important to include people with mental illness in the implementation of projects to encourage self-respect, give ownership, enhance commitment, and encourage best practices.

Physical Activity Training Opportunities:

HIGH FIVE , a national quality standard for children’s sport and recreation founded by Parks and Recreation Ontario was presented by Tia Wintre and LJ Bartle. They discussed children’s emotional wellbeing and the importance of developing resiliency in childhood through sport and recreation. They also introduced five principles important in developing programming for children: A Caring Adult, Friends, Play, Mastery and Participation.

• Sam Casmey from the YMCA talked about the various programs that they have to offer, including group fitness, conditioning, free weights, and swimming. They also have leadership courses in physical activity.

• Low intensity physical activity is just as valuable for healthy gains according to Dr. Roni Jamnik of York University. She emphasized that physical activity is movement and doesn’t have to be classified as ‘exercise.’ She also presented the revised PAR-Q fitness appraisal method. This questionnaire allows the participant to determine if they should check with their doctor before increasing their activity levels.

Successful Programs:

• The Healthy Living program was created as an 8-week pilot project by Kelly Delaney, a nurse with CMHA Durham. The weekly educational series had an inter-professional collaborative approach. Professionals from various areas of health and physical activity would present workshops that included smoking cessation, stress management, healthy eating, and physical activity. The many success stories through this project include weight loss, smoking cessation, and an increase in self confidence. 

Active Recovery is a walking and running initiative by Shane Wakeford, a case manager at CMHA Cochrane-Timiskaming. It is partnered with the YMCA of Timmins. Their purpose is to achieve recovery goals, create energy and encourage assistance to those on waiting lists for counsellors.

FRESH, a peer support model to physical activity is about finding recovery through exercise and hope. Presented by Michael Aucoin from the Gerstein Crisis Centre, FRESH incorporates a range of activities into their physical activity and mental health collaboration. These include YMCA classes, yoga, ice hockey, nutrition education, and arts and crafts. WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) was also introduced, which provides self-management tools to consumers through peer support. 

The afternoon was capped off with an interactive discussion called the Circuit Café, with a number of questions from the field of mental health and physical activity being answered by participants. The Circuit Café was about promoting physical activity while having interactive discussions. Participants walked throughout the YMCA to each question station to become engaged in conversation. Questions regarding barriers and solutions, building confidence in leading and sustaining physical activity, getting the message out about connecting mental health and physical activity, and overall inspiration from the day were included. Many ideas came out of the small group discussions (See attached document below).

Throughout the event, participants were challenged to a pedometer competition. The person who took the most steps during the conference received a prize. The winner was Helen Downie from CAMH, whose winning strategy to achieve the most steps was to walk as much as she could during the day, including a leisurely stroll outside during lunch.

Before leaving, both health professionals and consumers gave their feedback through a questionnaire. Results were positive and helpful (See full summary attached below):

“Loved the variety of audience members in profession, location, and services offered, and the invitation to consumers as the professionals.”

“Thank you! Excellent event with much to take away and motivation to see there are successful programs out there already.”

The Mental Health and Physical Activity Roundtable emphasized the importance of linking physical activity to mental health programming success. Moreover, it highlighted the need for partnerships between the physical activity and mental health sectors. By bringing the two together for just one day, connections began to form, as participants shared their experiences and contacts. This is evident in a participant follow-up a few days later:

“Thanks for having us; it was a great experience. I have already been contacted from several participants and have even been offered assistance to find and secure funding; what more could I ask for!”

The Minding Our Bodies team was thrilled with the turnout and energy at the roundtable and would like to thank all of the presenters and participants for making the day such a success. Imagine what could happen if we got together more often!

Event Poster1.04 MB
Summary of the Circuit Cafe Discussion139.3 KB
Summary of Feedback from Participants210.11 KB