What is mental health?

Mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the stress of life, can work fruitfully and productively, and is able to make a contribution to their community.

Image 1: http://www.samefoundation.org.za/mental-health-a-growing-condition-in-healthcare-for-south-africa/

Adequate and good mental health is essential to the well-being of individuals, families and communities. Poor mental health has been identified as one of the leading causes of poor quality of life, disability and reduced productivity. There is also a strong association between poor mental health status and individuals reporting multiple sites of pain.

It has been reported and documented that physical activity can improve quality of life for people with poor mental health status. As people with poor mental health status are also at an increased risk of a variety of physical health problems, including cardiovascular diseases, obesity and endocrine disorders, the benefits of physical activity not only reduce the risks of developing these types of diseases, but also improves mental health status.

The global Covid-19 pandemic has high-lighted and emphasised the importance of mental health awareness. Physiotherapists have an important role to play in the management of their patients’ mental health status.

Can regular physical activity improve your mental health?

The physical health and mental health benefits of regular physical activity or exercise include:

  • * Better sleep
  • * Improved cardiovascular fitness
  • * Better endurance
  • * A positive influence on diabetes presentation and metabolic syndrome
  • * Better mood
  • * Stress relief
  • * Less tiredness and increased energy levels
  • * Reduced symptoms associated with depression, negative mood, anxiety and social isolation
  • * Improved cognitive functions, self‐esteem and quality of life

What role can your physiotherapist play in improving your mental health?

Physiotherapists are deemed as experts in components of physical healthcare and can contribute to improving mental health status by offering:

  • * Pain management without the use of medication
  • * The development and delivery of patient-specific lifestyle and weight management advice and programmes, improving self-esteem and body image
  • * Expertise and knowledge in prescribing patient-specific exercise programmes, which can improve mood, address the risk factors of other diseases associated with poor mental health status and improve overall wellbeing
  • * Expertise and knowledge in motivating patients and promoting autonomy and self-management in the context of mental and physical health problems
  • * Interventions to address the physical problems of people with poor mental health status which limit recovery and social interaction and participation
  • * The management of falls, fear of falling and mobility problems for older people
  • * The management of developmental issues for children and young people


1.        World Health Organization. Media centre Mental health : strengthening our response. 2016.

2.        Mental Health, Physical Activity and Physical Therapy – Physiopedia [Internet]. [cited 2020 Oct 3]. Available from: https://physio-pedia.com/Mental_Health,_Physical_Activity_and_Physical_Therapy?utm_source=physiopedia&utm_medium=search&utm_campaign=ongoing_internal

3.        Vancampfort D, Stubbs B, Probst M, Mugisha J. Physiotherapy for people with mental health problems in Sub-Saharan African countries: a systematic review. Arch Physiother. 2018;8(1).