As a carer providing support for an individual experiencing mental health difficulty, you are probably well aware of the many challenge to support them to make healthy lifestyle choices. This website is designed to provide accessible information and recommendations in regards to exercise, tips on healthy eating, mental health and medication, and lifestyle advice (e.g. smoking cessation and substance use) specific to the physical health needs of individuals with mental illness.

This website also provides information if you are considering whether the SHAPE programme would be suitable for a family member or friend with mental health difficulties.

How does the SHAPE Programme work?

SHAPE stands for Supporting Health and Promoting Exercise. The SHAPE programme is a physical health intervention offered to individuals receiving mental health treatment. The 12 week exercise and lifestyle therapy programme provides education and discussion on healthy lifestyle behaviors and exercise.

Weekly sessions are delivered in two parts:

  • A 45 minute group education session on healthy lifestyle behaviors, including: managing anxiety and depression, mindfulness and relaxation training, substance misuse, smoking cessation, healthy eating and nutritional advice, and healthy relationships.
  • Followed by a 45 minute exercise session (including activities such as circuit and resistance training, yoga, team sport) led by qualified exercise instructors. The exercise sessions are designed to introduce participants to a wide range of activities that have proven to be effective in improving physical health and mental wellbeing in individuals with mental health difficulties.

Who runs the SHAPE programme?

SHAPE is provided by clinical staff and peer support workers from designated health service teams across the UK. A member of the clinical team oversees the delivery of the educational programme and provides support to exercise facilitators.

Lifestyle sessions may be delivered by health professionals, an outside agency, or a guest speaker who is an expert in the field (nutritionists, drug worker, psychologist). Exercise sessions are delivered by a qualified fitness instructor or coach who is trained to work with this population group.

How does someone join the SHAPE programme?

To access the SHAPE porgramme, an individual will need to have a diagnosis of a serious mental illness and currently receiving treatment from a mental health service.

The case manager, CPN or support worker can refer individuals directly onto the SHAPE programme. Some individuals may require a basic physical health assessment prior to taking part.

How do I access this?

Before you are able to take part in SHAPE, you will need a physical health assessment completed by your current nurse or support worker.

Common questions asked about the SHAPE programme.

What are the risks in relation to an individual’s physical health?

Those with a diagnosis of SMI have an increased risk of future cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes.

By being informed of future risks and taking preventative measures such as making healthy lifestyle choices, will enable individuals to make informed decisions about their lifestyle which may prevent medical conditions later in life.

Testimonial from a Parent

SHAPE has probably changed sons life. I had long been worried about sons physical health as he used to be an athlete and incredibly strong in his student days. His interests included mountain climbing and hiking. The medication he is on now heavily sedates him so he sleeps most of the day and he had put on a lot of weight (nearly 20 stone at one stage). He was also very weak so reluctant to even walk anywhere.

When his Psychologist first suggested SHAPE, sons was very against the idea but he did start exercising at home and began losing weight… and eventually sons agreed to give SHAPE a try. He hasn’t looked back. It has just transformed him. Not only is he back in shape – almost to his old self – but he is so much more positive and confident. He has enjoyed all the different activities and is interested in the nutrition advice. He is taking much more interest in his own wellbeing which is what SHAPE is about – not just the exercise. He is looking good so we have been clothes shopping and he taking an interest in how he dresses. This has been wonderful to see.

He was very nervous of meeting new people and being in unfamiliar surroundings but immediately felt so supported that his fears vanished. Everyone is so friendly and kind. Someone even met him along the way to the centre. He is naturally a sociable character with a great sense of humour which he was losing with spending so much time on his own so that has been of great value as well – he is back to his old self. When we went to the evening meeting at the end of the course. I was impressed with how relaxed and chatty he was. The 12 weeks are up but he remains just as motivated which couldn’t be better illustrated by the fact that he, and another fellow on the course, are keeping up the same routine and are still going to the centre.

From my point of view, SHAPE has given me my sons back. Long may it continue.

My son is very overweight; will he be able to take part?

Moderate physical activity such as brisk walking is safe for most people. However, before your son takes part in the exercise programme his baseline physiological measures will be taken, this includes body mass index, waist circumference, resting heart rate and blood pressure, to ensure it is safe to exercise.

The exercise programme has been specifically designed to meet the needs of patients with a mental illness and the activities are monitored by a qualified fitness instructor who will ensure that he does not exceed the appropriate level of activity.

What are the side effects of my son’s medication and what can be done to reduce this?

All prescription medications may produce side effects. What’s important is that we are aware of these risks to ensure the best outcome for symptom control. You may be able to better manage or minimise negative side effects by understanding the possible side effects, what you can do to prevent or manage them, when and who you should call for help.

Certain antipsychotic medication can increase levels of appetite and this in turn can lead to a more sedentary lifestyle. Additional side effects, such as hormonal changes, can also occur as a result of taking medication. Some of these side effects can be managed by reducing dosage or by taking alternate medications or treatment options. Maintaining an active lifestyle and healthy diet has also shown to improve these side effects.

For more information on antipsychotic medications, treatments and side effects please visit these websites:

Rethink Mental Illness – Medication and Side Effects

Royal College of Psychiatrists – Treatments and Wellbeing

For information about what carers, families and friends need to know about the benefits of good physical health for people diagnosed with mental illness please read the RETHINK Carers Physical Health Leaflet:


Useful websites:

Worcestershire Health and Care Trust – support and advice for local health services in the Worcestershire region

Rethink – A mental health charity providing support, information for patients and carers, challenges stigma and campaigns for greater awareness of mental illness

Mind – for information, self help, and recommended organisations to seek support from (for both carers and individuals)

Youth Space – Specifically aimed at younger people

Nice – Service user experience in adult mental health, improving the experience of care for people using NHS mental health services