Can Regular Exercise Reduce Medication Spending Among Patients with Mental Illness?

Researchers push for insurance to cover exercise programs for patients with mental illness.

A statement was recently released to state and federal policy makers lending support for action in dealing with exercise programs for sufferers of mental illness.

Researchers from the American College of Sports Medicine and the Society of Behavioral Medicine (SBM) encourage legislation and policies for Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurers to reimburse those with mental illnesses for exercise programming to cut down on costs.

"Ensuring access to exercise programs for this vulnerable population is critically important," said SBM President Marian Fitzgibbon, PhD. "Exercise is a first-line and often underutilized strategy for improving health outcomes. It's also a key strategy for preventing health issues in the first place. This saves lives and dollars."

The statement had some key recommendations for tackling exercise programming and mental illnesses. Investigators noted it could be beneficial to expand health care services for people with mental illness and to make it a reimbursable service through the Affordable Care Act.

Also, researchers seek to create an evidence-based definition for exercise programming for those with serious mental illness, while also looking to deliver programs with different licensed and certified professionals eligible for reimbursement.

The mental health community has found that regular exercise in individuals with mental illness helps significantly reduce health risks, such as psychiatric symptoms, and can support brain health to give patients a healthy lifestyle alternative.

Since patients with serious mental illness are among the most costly health service users in the United States, exercise can be key in reducing the public health burden from medical conditions.

"Exercise improves both mental and physical health while reducing health care costs. However, these benefits often do not reach consumers who need them the most," said CEO of the American College of Sports Medicine Jim Whitehead. "Exercise can reduce the public health burden of the medical conditions of individuals who are treated primarily in community mental health programs."