Editor's comment: linking body and mind is crucial

My 94-year-old mother-in-law had a spell in hospital recently

She was quite ill for a while and we were worried. But then she turned a corner and, as part of the discharge planning process, she was prescribed twice-weekly exercise sessions at the local leisure centre, supervised by community physiotherapists. How brilliant is that? 

She looked forward to going – it was two entries a week in what was a rather sparse diary – and she enjoyed chatting to the other people who were taking part. She also became stronger and her thinking seemed to become clearer. 

Meanwhile, her local hospital in Wales, which has taken a lot of flak for long waiting times, had one more bed available than it would have done had she still been occupying it. 

One of the most striking things for us as a family was the boost to motivation these exercise sessions seemed to spark. I was reminded of this when I went to the sports physiotherapy event, the Sporting Mind, in London last month.

One of the themes was the relationship between brain and body, and the key role the mind plays in rehabilitation. Even elite athletes get scared and lose their mojo when they are injured.

There are many transferable lessons between treating superfit athletes and less than fit older (or cardio) patients. It’s all about engaging the brain and focusing on what people can do – not what they can’t.

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