Mental health practitioners’ reported barriers to prescription of exercise for mental health consumers

Kirsten Way, Lee Kannis-Dymand, Michele Lastella, Geoff P. Lovell

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


Exercise is an effective evidenced-based intervention for a range of mental health conditions, however sparse research has investigated the exercise prescription behaviours of mental health practitioners as a collective, and the barriers faced in prescribing exercise for mental health. A self-report survey was completed online by 325 mental health practitioners to identify how often they prescribe exercise for various conditions and explore their perceived barriers to exercise prescription for mental health through thematic analysis. Over 70% of the sample reported prescribing exercise regularly for depression, stress, and anxiety; however infrequent rates of prescription were reported for conditions of schizophrenia, bipolar and related disorders, and substance-related disorders. Using thematic analysis 374 statements on mental health practitioners' perceived barriers to exercise prescription were grouped into 22 initial themes and then six higher-order themes. Reported barriers to exercise prescription mostly revolved around clients' practical barriers and perspectives (41.7%) and the practitioners' knowledge and perspectives (33.2%). Of these two main themes regarding perceived barriers to exercise prescription in mental health, a lack of training (14.7%) and the client's disinclination (12.6%) were initial themes which reoccurred considerably more often than others. General practitioners, mental health nurses, and mental health managers also frequently cited barriers related to a lack of organisational support and resources. Barriers to the prescription of exercise such as lack of training and client's disinclination need to be addressed in order to overcome challenges which restrict the prescription of exercise as a therapeutic intervention.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)52-60
Number of pages9
JournalMental Health and Physical Activity
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Australia
  • Depression
  • Exercise
  • Mental health
  • New Zealand
  • Practitioner


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