Steps to Better Physical Health for People with Mental Illness (and for all of us) — Advice and Resources

Updated in May 2017

General Strategy

  • Identify one or two specific behavioral changes that you want to make and can incorporate in your life for the long term.
  • Continue these behaviors, and identify and adopt one or two additional specific behavioral changes.
  • Adopt these behavioral changes for several weeks — > success!

Choose goals that fit your individual circumstances and personality.

For example, choose physical activity that you will enjoy (e.g. walking with a friend or moving to music) and fits in your daily routine (e.g. walk up stairs instead of taking elevator or escalator).

Caution: Do not reward physical activity with food.

Make changes in your eating habits that you can sustain long-term.

Plan what you will eat.

  • Healthy foods: vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy and meat, fish
  • Unhealthy foods: high in sugars, fats or salt
  • Smaller portion sizes — easier with foods that take time to chew and have low-calorie density, served ahead of time on small plate

To help you stick to your plan:

  • Change your environment (e.g. no junk food in your home).
  • Eat only at kitchen or dining room table, not in front of TV.
  • Use a food diary to identify triggers for overeating and plan incompatible actions.
  • If you slip up, don’t give up; just resume your original plan.

The following table lists local and Internet resources for physical activity, nutrition and weight control, smoking cessation, etc.

Additional information can be found on the NAMI website.

Philadelphia Leisure Activities and You summarizes the importance of leisure activity for people with mental illness and provides a helpful guide to free to low-cost opportunities available in Philadelphia. This booklet is intended to encourage readers to get involved with their leisure interests and start living their best life today. An active leisure lifestyle can enhance physical health and mental strength. This resource shows what is available within the community and the many low cost and free leisure activities accessible in Philadelphia. Going through this manual, the reader is given an opportunity to consider their personal leisure interests and take the first step towards having an active leisure lifestyle, ultimately leading to an overall improved quality of life.
PHYSICAL ACTIVITY
YMCA www.philaymca.org215.963.3700 The YMCA has a pool with aquatic classes, fitness center and classes, weight room, health and wellness classes, educational classes, non-competitive sports leagues and social opportunities.  Multiple locations throughout the Philadelphia area.
Bryn Mawr Hospital’s Stretch Your Limits program www.mainlinehealth.org484.337.5206 Stretch Your Limts is a program that builds strength and tones muscles using resistance tubes. The program is specially developed for middle-aged or older adults with cardiac problems.
Main Line School Night Mainlineschoolnight.org Several exercise classes including boot camp, kettle bell, core, cardio and strength, sculpt and toning as well as dance classes that will keep you fit–Zumba, belly dancing, salsa, funk & hip hop, and even tap. Classes are held at local schools. Register online.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/guidelines Shows how much, what kinds and what intensity of physical exercise adults need. Home page has links to short videos about general introduction to physical activity, what counts as aerobic activity and how to strengthen your muscles.
Mayo Clinic www.mayoclinic.com/health/fitness/my00396 Fitness basics, stretching and flexibility, aerobic exercise, strength training
U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services www.health.gov/paguidelines/factsheetadults.aspx Physical activity guidelines for Americans including examples of moderate and high intensity activities.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/weight-control/walking-step-right-direction/Pages/walking-step-right-direction.aspx#firststep Walking: A Step in the Right Directions includes benefits of walking, how to start a walking program, safety tips, how to stretch (including diagrams).
FUN PLACES TO WALK
Chester County www.co.chester.us.pa Chester County website has trail maps for each of the five County parks.
Delaware County www.co.delaware.us.pa Delaware County has several county and municipal parks as well. For more information call about park recreation activities call 610.891.4663 or 4664.
Haverford College www.haverford.edu Offers a picturesque 2 mile loop.
Montgomery County www.montco.us.pa Montgomery County has numerous parks, trails, historic sites.
Schuylkill Center for Environmental Educ.  www.schuylkillcenter.org215.482.7300 4 mile walking trail and many activities.
Wissahickon Valley Park www.fow.org 1800 acre park that runs 7 miles between Chestnut Hill and Manayunk and has 50 miles of trails. Several walking/hiking /running clubs meet here.
NUTRITION AND WEIGHT CONTROL
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/healthy_eating/index.html Lose weight by making lifestyle changes and; and prevent weight gain through planning.
Main Line Health https://www.mainlinehealth.org/specialties/nutrition-counseling-and-weight-management Offers nutrition counseling and weight management services.
Mayo Clinic http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/basics/nutrition-basics/hlv-20049477 Nutrition basics: dietary fats, sodium, the food pyramid, reading labels for nutrition facts, tips on following a healthy diet.
National Health Information Center www.healthfinder.gov/prevention/category Quick Guide to Healthy Living includes links to nutrition and fitness, important screening tests, heart health, everyday health and wellness, and diabetes.
National Institute of Diabetes and Kidney Diseases http://win.niddk.nih.gov/publications/health_risks Includes information on many problems complicated by weighing too much–type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease and stroke, metabolic syndrome, cancer, sleep apnea, osteoarthritis, gallbladder disease, fatty liver disease, etc. Also has links to other pages.
SMOKING, ALCOHOL AND OTHER DRUGS
Alcohol Anonymous www.aa.org 12 step program for alcoholics; many meetings in the area every day
Narcotics Anonymous www.na.org818.773.9999 12 step program for addicts with local meetings
Nicotine Anonymous www.nicotineanonymous.org877.879.6422 12 step program to stop smoking.   Internet, telephone, and local meetings
Smoke Free www.smokefree.gov800.QUITNOW Online guide with access to speak with a counselor and to print resources, and clinical trials
SmokeFREE https://www.mainlinehealth.org/conditions-and-treatments/treatments/smoking-cessation800.CALL MLH Main Line Health Hospitals hold periodic SMOKE Free programs a 6 week program, once a week for 2 hours each.
HEALTH ASSESSMENTS
Alcohol Screening www.alcoholscreening.org If you drink alcohol, how much is too much?
American Heart Association www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=3003499 Heart Attack – Coronary Heart Disease – Metabolic Syndrome Risk Assessment.   In order to complete you must know your cholesterol (HDL and LDL), triglycerides (high/normal), blood pressure, and fasting glucose level.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/index.html Determine whether or not your current weight is healthy.
Main Line Health www.mainlinehealth.org866.CALL MLH Main Line Health’s website has various calculators for cardiac risk assessment. .Bryn Mawr, Lankenau, and Paoli (as well as most hospitals) hold free blood pressure screenings semi-monthly. You can also register for a stroke screening by calling.
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