On the right track

Celebrating Mental Health Week and National Physiotherapy Month

Working in close collaboration with occupational therapists, therapeutic recreationists and nurses, physiotherapists help patients restore and regain physical and mental independence as well as quality of life.

Keegan and Daniel

Pictured: Daniel and Keegan

When he first started out, Keegan could only sustain a few minutes of jogging before he had to slow down to a walk. Now, less than a year later, he is able to run more than two kilometers without having to stop. His progress is thanks to a running/walking group for patients of St. Joseph’s Southwest Centre for Forensic Mental Health Care (Southwest Centre), led by physiotherapist Daniel Sobczak.

Daniel identified a trend when he first began working with inpatients at Parkwood Institute and Southwest Centre; many had noticed their weight began to creep up while in-hospital and were looking for a way to increase activity and shed a few pounds. Being the only physiotherapist within the mental health care program, Daniel needed a way to help patients reach their goals in a group setting. For patients at Southwest Centre, a running/walking group was the perfect fit.

“I’ve always been passionate about running, and I know first-hand the benefits it can provide for overall health,” says Daniel. “I was looking for an activity that could help patients manage weight, while at the same time boost both physical and mental wellness.”

The running group provides patients with exposure to a low-cost hobby that doesn’t require a gym membership or any equipment. “When individuals are receiving treatment for mental health care it is important to also maintain a focus on physical activity,” adds Daniel. “If I can introduce patients to activities that are healthy for them, are physically and even socially satisfying, that they can easily continue to do after leaving the hospital, I think is a really positive thing.”

Keegan and Daniel running through Western gates

For Keegan, a regular in the running group who never misses a session, participating in the program has helped him close in on his weight loss goal and improved his mental wellness. “As soon as I began to come every week, I lost 15 pounds in a short amount of time. When I started seeing the results and noticing a difference, that increased my motivation,” explains Keegan. “Now I’m able to run longer distances, my speed has increased and afterwards I’m always pumped up for the day.”

Because it also acts as a coping strategy during times of stress, he can see himself becoming a runner for life and is considering training for a half, or even a full marathon in the future.

“It’s been awesome to witness Keegan’s dedication and progress,” says Daniel. “He even brought his two younger brothers out for a 3km run while he was at home during the holidays. He has definitely come a long way.”

Now, others in the program are starting to take notice, and are inspired by Keegan’s commitment and growth. When asked what his advice would be to new runners who are just starting out he says “the first step is the hardest. Just keep going.”

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