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Mr Jue established In Shape 10 years ago in New Hampshire in the United States, and the programme has since been replicated in five states. Mr Jue spoke to about 120 mental health sector representatives in Dunedin this week at the Edgar Centre.
Those with serious mental health problems died up to three decades earlier than other people.
It was the only group in the United States with a declining lifespan.
Mr Jue said the deaths were deemed to be ''natural causes'', but they were related to lifestyle factors such as smoking, poor eating habits and lack of exercise.
In Shape enabled formerly withdrawn and immobile people to become active citizens, even gaining employment in some cases.
High unemployment was part of the ''dire'' lot of the mentally ill in the United States, with rates of up to 80%, he said.
The key to the its success was co-operation between health professionals, and running the activities in public sports and recreation centres to ensure people were part of the community.
Southern District Health Board mental health and addiction portfolio manager Gemma Griffin-Dzikiewicz, introducing Mr Jue, said the board wanted to improve the physical health of mentally ill people in the South.