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On the Move: Increasing physical activity

South Western Sydney Local Health District
Project Added:
29 February 2016
Last updated:
8 April 2016

On the Move: Increasing physical activity


SWSLHD purchased exercise equipment and incorporated physical activity into the group program at Gna Ka Lun Adolescent Mental Health Unit.


To ensure 90% of all young people at Gna Ka Lun Adolescent Mental Health Unit undertake at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day, within three months.


  • Improves self-esteem and confidence in patients.
  • Reduces antisocial behaviour in patients.
  • Reduces the risk of disease and unhealthy weight gain.
  • Reduces aggression, seclusion and need for restraint in patients.
  • Reduces adverse incidents reported in the Incident Information Management System (IIMS).
  • Engages staff in physical activity, such as group activities and walks.
  • Increases awareness of the facility, which encourages donations and other community support.


As part of the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) ‘Reflecting on Practice’ program, Gna Ka Lun was encouraged to undertake a quality improvement project that addressed key performance indicators for Australian public mental health services.

The team had noticed that many young people in the facility did not engage in physical exercise. Prior to the project, the program at Gna Ka Lun had one hour of scheduled physical activity per week. Surveys indicated that 82% of staff believed the current program was not meeting the physical activity needs of young people. Given the benefits of regular exercise on physical and mental wellbeing, it was felt that increasing the amount of exercise that young people at Gna Ka Lun received was an important part of providing holistic care.

However, the following key issues were identified:

  • there was a lack of high-quality exercise equipment
  • there was a lack of structured time for physical activity within the program
  • there were issues with availability of qualified staff who could implement an exercise program.


  • Surveys were collected from staff, young people, families and carers, to gather qualitative and quantitative data about physical exercise at Gna Ka Lun. It showed that 84% of staff believed the current program did not meet the physical activity needs of patients and 100% reported that they would support efforts to improve it.
  • Equipment needed to conduct the program was ordered and installed in a dedicated physical activity room, with protocols developed for using the room.
  • Staff training was conducted to demonstrate use of activity monitoring sheets and equipment, including pedometers.
  • One hour of daily physical activity, including walking, using exercise equipment and playing soccer, was scheduled each day. The group was held from 9-10 am and facilitated by a nurse and allied health staff member. Patients were offered a choice of exercise and could choose to use the gym equipment at various times of the day, under staff supervision.
  • The team developed an excel spreadsheet to record and analyse data. Staff collected data on the frequency that young people participated in daily physical activity, the length of time they engaged in physical activity and daily pedometer readings.
  • Future plans for the project include obtaining more equipment and improving the quality of group activities.

Project status

  • Implementation - the initiative is ready for implementation or is currently being implemented, piloted or tested.

Key dates

  • Project start: February 2015
  • Project implementation: October 2015
  • Project evaluation: March 2016

Implementation site

  • Gna Ka Lun Adolescent Mental Health Unit, Campbelltown Hospital


  • Mental Health Children and Young People Sub-Committee, Mental Health Drug and Alcohol Office
  • InforMH, Mental Health Drug and Alcohol Office
  • Clinical Excellence Commission


  • To date, there has been less aggression, seclusion and restraints reported by staff, following implementation of the project. The frequency of IIMS incidents reduced from 24 in August/September 2015 to nine in October/November 2015. While there are many factors that contribute to these behaviours, this correlation is encouraging.
  • Staff and participant surveys were conducted in February 2016 and focussed on their attitude towards the initiative.
  • A full project evaluation took place in February 2016 and measured:
    • participation
    • pedometer readings
    • duration of physical activity.
  • Ongoing evaluation will take place through project team meetings.

Lessons learnt

We found that team building is not easy – motivating staff and implementing culture change was one of our biggest challenges. Moving forward, it will be beneficial to gain involvement from outside experts such as exercise physicians and dieticians.

Further reading

  • Australian Government. Australia’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines for Young People (13-17 years). Canberra: Department of Health; 2014.
  • Dullur P, Eapen V, Trapolini T. Metabolic syndrome in an adolescent psychiatric unit. Australasian Psychiatry 2012; 20: 444-445.
  • Eapen V, Faure-Brac G, Ward PB et al. Evaluation of weight gain and metabolic parameters among adolescent psychiatric inpatients: role of health promotion and lifestyle intervention programs. Journal of Metabolic Syndrome 2012; 1:109.


Gavin Moffitt
Clinical Psychologist, Gna Ka Lun Adolescent Mental Health Unit
Campbelltown Hospital
South Western Sydney Local Health District
Phone: 02 4634 4444

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