This fact sheet addresses physical wellness and is part of PRA Well-Being’s eight-part Tips for Providers series. The Tips for Providers series highlights how providers can enhance the wellness of individuals with mental health conditions through each of the Eight Dimensions of Wellness. Each fact sheet examines strategies to enhance that dimension of wellness, provides an overview of how each dimension of wellness relates to the other dimensions, and highlights how each dimension of wellness relates to mental health.  

This fact sheet describes physical wellness as being marked by good physical health habits that support a healthy body, such as proper nutrition and exercise. Factors that can negatively impact physical health include smoking, poor diet, a sedentary lifestyle, excess weight, chronic illnesses, and co-occurring medical conditions. Because physical wellness and mental wellness are closely related, healthy physical habits like regular exercise can reduce stress and improve psychological well-being, creating positive ripples across the other dimensions of wellness. 

While many different habits and health factors impact physical wellness, people with serious mental illness (SMI) have high rates of certain underlying conditions, such as excess weight, that should be taken into consideration when addressing their physical well-being. Roughly 80 percent of individuals with SMI are overweight or obese, which can make them more susceptible to chronic health conditions that can impair or slow recovery. Beyond helping individuals with SMI maintain a desired weight, physical activity can help people manage their symptoms, sleep better, and feel more motivated. Physical wellness is a key component of both prevention and recovery. When an individual is in a state of physical wellness, it is easier to maintain the other dimensions of wellness. Proper nutrition and exercise can reduce the rates of cardiovascular diseases and other chronic illnesses that are often prevalent in populations with SMI. Providers should inform their clients of nutritional practices as well as ways to access healthier food and make healthier choices. 

Smoking cessation should also be a topic of consideration for care providers that treat individuals with serious mental illness. According to a report from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2013, adults with a serious mental illness or a substance use disorder consume almost 40 percent of all cigarettes smoked by adults. Tobacco use increases the chances of developing a variety of chronic diseases and numerous forms of cancer, which can greatly complicate the recovery of a person with SMI. Care providers should inform patients about the benefits of smoking cessation and understand its importance in enhancing their overall wellness. 

View the other fact sheets in this series: 

This resource was first shared in 2019. 

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