Physical activity supporting treatment for alcohol use disorders

As part of the All Together Active physical activity strategy for Cheshire and Merseyside, MSP initiated a collaboration of local partners (including Champs, Liverpool City Council and Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust) to pilot integrating physical activity opportunities into the Liverpool Alcohol Care Team secondary care patient pathway, using investment from Champs and the Sport England Together Fund.

The PHAST (Physical activity supporting treatment for alcohol use disorders) pilot aimed to ascertain whether the use of physical activity can have longer-term beneficial outcomes for both the patients (e.g. better physical health, mental health, sense of purpose and less likely to misuse alcohol) and the wider NHS system (e.g. less likely to be readmitted, fewer primary/secondary care interventions).

After receiving their clinical treatment, patients are provided with a 12 week programme of 1:1 support sessions with a Personal Trainer, who builds a strong relationship with each patient to put in place a programme of physical activity to suit their needs and level of mobility and confidence; this can range from walking and chair-based exercises right through to more vigorous exercise programmes.  After the 12 week programme patients are then provided with a 3 month free leisure centre pass so that they can continue their progress as part of their recovery.

Patient outcomes

Each patient completes a pre-intervention and post-intervention evaluation form to monitor and demonstrate improvements in physical and mental health, with this data analysed alongside healthcare/service utilisation data from the Alcohol Care Team and leisure provider.

We are currently in the process of collecting quantitative data from the first two pilot phases, and will be able to present evaluation findings in due course.

“You have made me realise that I am capable of more than I think I am!” Matt


“Before attending I felt really daunted about going in to the weights room and I wouldn’t have known what to do – but breaking down the benefits of each exercise and equipment has now given me the confidence to go in on my own and progress with my training, knowing that I have corrected my technique.” Sarah

Project learning

  • Initially the programme offered both group and 1:1 interventions for patients, but the demand for 1:1 support significantly exceeded the group demand
  • Personal Trainers focus on the emotions, feelings and motivations of patients on a personalised basis, rather than just “smashing pads” and “running on a treadmill”.  They ascertain each patient’s goals and aim to build up each patient’s confidence level so that they would be able to feel confident enough to access the gym on their own, rather than “creating a crutch” or reliance on the Personal Trainer
  • Relationships between the Personal Trainer and patients have been key, with patients reporting being able to open up more to them and share things that they wouldn’t normally, which in turn supports their mental health
  • We offered the opportunity for Alcohol Care Team staff to come down to the leisure venues to meet the Personal Trainers; this helped to reduce any misconceptions/myths that staff may have had, and are now in a better position to be able to promote the benefits of the programme to patients
  • Alcohol Care Team staff reflected that this programme needs to be embedded within their clinical service rather than being seen as an add on

Momentum from the pilot has also led to a pilot of the programme now being started in neighbouring Knowsley.

Further information

For further information about this project please contact Danny Woodworth (Partnership Manager for Health) via

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