In a bid to explore whether including physical activity as part of IAPT interventions will improve outcomes for people using our service, our IAPT service, iCope, is involved in an exciting new project funded by Sport England.
In this project, we’ve partnered with the IAPT service in Buckinghamshire (Healthy Minds), local authority colleagues in Camden, Islington, and Bucks, Experts by Experience and UCL, who will be evaluating the project.
Numerous mental health studies have shown that increasing physical activity is good for your physical health and also your mental health and wellbeing.
We know that physical activity levels are often low in people with common mental health problems.
We also know that interventions which specifically focus on increasing the level of physical activity in people with common mental health problems can lead to improvements in mood and reduction in symptoms of anxiety.
• Those who regularly exercise are 16% less likely to develop depression. This rises to 22-31% if people meet the government guidelines of 150 minutes of exercise per week.
• Multiple research studies have shown that regular exercise is an evidence-based treatment for depression and has a similar effect size as talking therapy and medication.
• Research has shown that regular physical activity improves resilience to stress, increases our energy levels, and improves overall quality of life.
So, we have developed 3 different approaches within our services:
• A Cognitive Behavioural Therapy group for people experiencing depression. This incorporates physical activity directly into regular group sessions over 10 weeks. Group members are encouraged to spend 30 minutes of their session time doing some physical activity, either as a group or on their own. This might involve getting out and going for a walk or an online workout.
• ‘Getting Active with a health condition workshops. These psychoeducational workshops support people experiencing mental health challenges who are living with an existing long term physical health condition into activity. The workshop introduces behaviour change resources and practical support tools to help reduce the barriers to being active. Peer support and reflection is also used to encourage and motivate service users.
• Foundations app. This is a self-help app which is available to anyone starting treatment with iCope. The free app, uses a practical and evidence-based approach to help people better manage their wellbeing. It features support on sleep, diet, mindfulness, and includes a new support feature on increasing physical activity levels through 3 ‘move more, feel better’ programmes,
We want to see whether incorporating physical activity into our iCope interventions:
• improves our clinical outcomes
• leads to people getting more active
We also want to get the views from patients and staff about how they find the interventions
We plan to share the learning from this project to help other IAPT services across the country develop their own approaches to integrating physical activity into their work.
If you would like to learn more about how you can refer people to this service, please contact Josh Cane at
To find out more about how to increase your own physical activity, please see below for some useful links with information from the experts: