The physical activity experiences of men with serious mental illness: three short stories

David Carless*, Andrew C. Sparkes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

86 Citations (Scopus)


Although a considerable amount of research has explored the effects of physical activity on mental health, the voices of people with mental illness have been largely excluded from published reports. Through this study we aim to foreground service users’ voices in order to shed light on the personal and subjective nature of the relationship between physical activity and serious mental illness (SMI).

An interpretive case study approach was used to explore in depth the physical activity experiences of three men with SMI. Creative analytic practice was used to write three creative non-fictions which, as first-person narratives, foreground the participants’ voices.

We present three short stories in an effort to communicate participants’ personal and subjective experiences of physical activity in an accessible, engaging, and evocative manner. We hope to: (i) provide potentially motivating physical activity success stories for others who live with SMI; (ii) increase awareness among mental health professionals of the possibilities of physical activity; and (iii) provide an empathetic understanding of possibilities and problems of living with SMI which may help challenge the stigma surrounding mental illness.

For us, the stories communicate the diversity and difference inherent in the ways men with SMI experience physical activity. We reflect on how the short story form allows these differences to be preserved and respected. We resist making further interpretations of the stories preferring instead to encourage the reader to form her or his own conclusions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)191-210
Number of pages20
JournalPsychology of Sport and Exercise
Issue number2
Early online date31 Mar 2007
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • sport
  • mental health
  • schizophrenia
  • exercise
  • creative non-fiction
  • stories


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