Physical activity is beneficial for mental health, but people with mental health issues are less likely to be physically active than the general population. Socially prescribed programmes of activity are rarely adhered to, with high levels of drop out, and the proportion of people who continue after programmes have finished is even smaller. Lasting change therefore needs a fundamental change in behaviour, so an intervention grounded in behaviour change theory may be more likely to succeed. The aim of this original study was to understand the facilitators and barriers to participation and adherence to a supportive, personalised, physical activity programme for patients with mental health conditions. The intervention entailed a 16‐week programme of activity, tailored to individual capability, supported by a dedicated ‘behaviour change’ practitioner trained in motivational interviewing. Fourteen people who had completed the intervention were interviewed in three focus groups in 2018. Data were transcribed verbatim then analysed for barriers and facilitators using Framework Analysis and the Theoretical Domains Framework. Twenty‐five overarching themes were identified, which mapped onto 11 domains from the framework. Ten themes were barriers and 15 facilitators. Barriers included stigma, negative self‐beliefs and difficulty trusting others. The facilitators reframed these negative attributes. For example, participants described feeling confident as a function of achieving personalised goals and learning something new. The intervention changed the way participants thought and acted. This original intervention has succeeded where many have failed, as it changed the way these participants with mental health conditions thought about physical activity. By reframing it as personally achievable and physically beneficial, participants' attitudes and behaviour changed as well, making it more likely they would sustain physical activity in future. These unique findings are likely to translate internationally due to the simplicity of the intervention, and the potential to improve lives of the most vulnerable.
- mental health
- physical health