A Garden Gym at Mill View Hospital

‘Every single ward should have one of these gyms’  -  Service User

Research suggests that exercise can contribute to mental wellbeing by helping to reduce stress, instill a sense of calm and have a positive impact on depression, anxiety and cognitive functioning amongst patients being treated on mental health wards and in the community.

Pavilion Ward at Mill View Hospital is a psychiatric intensive care unit with 10 beds for male patients under treatment following diagnosis of acute mental illness.  It is a locked ward offering a range of therapeutic interventions to patients.  In the garden area the Friends have funded the installation of new gym equipment available for patients to use at any time. 

Following consultation with service users and rigorous planning to address safety issues a combination trainer, arm and pedal bike, double rower and push-up and dip station have been installed on grass tiles in an area of the garden fully visible from the ward area. 

We went to see the gym equipment and meet the service users and staff.  David* (not his real name) told us the equipment is ‘really good for stress’ and ‘helps take your mind off things’.  David demonstrated use of the gym and said the ward was calmer since the equipment had arrived and it ‘helped if you were feeling lonely’. 

Claire Michie, OT Clinical Specialist on the ward, explained that the release of endorphins through physical activity helped stress management and exercise was also good for weight management amongst patients; a side effect of medication can be weight gain. Exercise can help build a purposeful, healthy routine that service users will be encouraged to continue with when they return to the community. 

Claire said a new volunteer starting soon is a personal trainer and will be helping service users to make effective use of the gym equipment; enhancing the therapeutic interventions available at Mill View. 

Previously the Friends have funded football goals and a table tennis table for Pavilion Ward garden, both of which remain popular.

About the author

Suzy Horne is the Administrator for the Friends charity.


Friends of Brighton & Hove Hospitals

Working with the NHS across Brighton & Hove by raising money for equipment and services to support patient well-being.