Exercise as therapy in mental health disorders

The role of exercise in the treatment and management of mental health disorders


Broadly, this research program is exploring the role of exercise in the management of physical and mental health outcomes for those living with mental illness. Whilst exercise is now broadly acknowledged as beneficial and therapeutic for patients across multiple domains, an understanding of how best to facilitate outcomes, support patients and embed exercise within standard care pathways is yet to be established.

Furthermore, the mechanisms by which exercise results across varied disorders and settings is yet to be established.

Specific projects include projects working with substance use disorders and youth addiction rehabilitation services; severe mental illnesses in inpatients and community healthcare services; supporting the mental wellbeing of tertiary students; and understanding the role of exercise in psychological workplace injury.


Project goal:

  • Establish the role of therapeutic exercise to support the physical and mental health outcomes and quality of life of individuals living with mental illness

As part of these projects the successful PhD applicant may:

  • Investigate the role of exercise in the management of physical and mental health outcomes in individuals with common and severe mental illness (in various settings)
  • Establish evidence-based practices for the promotion and delivery of exercise programs in varied mental health settings (e.g. community health care, hospitals, universities, workplace rehabilitation)
  • Develop innovative strategies and programs to support the health and wellbeing outcomes of individuals living with mental illness

Suggested readings


Research team leader: Dr Bonnie Furzer – Accredited Exercise Physiologist

I am an Accredited Exercise Physiologist and academic in the School of Human Sciences, alongside clinical roles at Fremantle Hospital Mental Health Service and Founding Director of not-for-profit, Thriving – Building Strong and Healthy Young People Through Exercise.
My work focus on therapeutic exercise to support physical and mental health, and improved quality of life for those with unique needs (e.g. young people, mental illness, and chronic disease.


Funding and Collaborations

  External Collaborators:




How to Apply 

Check criteria
  • To be accepted into the Doctor of Philosophy, an applicant must demonstrate they have sufficient background experience in independent supervised research to successfully complete, and provide evidence of English language proficiency
  • Requirements specific to this project:
    • Highly desired: Allied health training with relevance to working in the area of mental health (e.g. exercise physiologist, physiotherapist, occupational therapist, clinical psychologist)
Submit enquiry to research team leader 
  • Contact the research team leader by submitting an Expression of Interest form via the button below
  • After you have discussed your project with the research team leader, contact to proceed with your application


Domestic students

All domestic students may apply for Research Training Program and University Postgraduate Awards (UPA) scholarships.

The Australian Government's Endeavour Awards and Scholarships are available to Australian applicants for study in participating countries and regions.

International students

A range of scholarships are available from international organisations and governments. The full list, organised by country, is available on the Future Students website.

In addition, all international students may apply for International Research Training Program scholarships.

The Australian Government's Endeavour Awards and Scholarships are available to international applicants from participating countries and regions.

Indigenous students
Indigenous students are encouraged to apply for Indigenous Postgraduate Research Supplementary Scholarships.
Forrest Foundation scholarships
All international and Australian students who wish to study towards the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) at The University of Western Australia may apply for Forrest Scholarships.