Prescription exercise at Queen's: A prospective program evaluation of physical activity effects among university students with depression and anxiety


Participation in physical activity (PA) may lead to positive improvements in mental health status. Prescription Exercise at Queen's (PE-Q) is an eight-week PA program that offers students with mild to moderate depression and/or anxiety with the option to supplement their treatment with exercise. The program includes personal training sessions, self-selected PA, and a peer-delivered 'Brief Action Planning' self-management component. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the impact of the PE-Q program on participants' mental health symptoms and PA behaviour and social cognitions (based on the Health Action Process Approach). Twenty-one participants completed pre-, mid- and post-program online questionnaires. Separate repeated measures ANOVAs and post-hoc t-tests evaluated changes in participants' mental health symptoms, PA behaviour and social cognitions. Significant decreases in participants' depression symptoms and anxiety symptoms were reported from pre- to mid-program (ds ? 0.98; ps < 0.05), which were maintained from mid- to post-program. Significant increases in participants' PA planning and action control were reported from pre-to mid-program (ds ? 1.04; ps < 0.05), which were also maintained from mid- to post-program. In general, students provided high ratings for program instructiveness, usefulness, credibility, and personal importance (all Ms ? 5.57 out of 7). While these findings contribute to existing literature on holistic treatment programs for students with mental illnesses, further testing with a control group and an adequately-powered sample is warranted.

Acknowledgments: Funding for the PE-Q program 2017-2018 was provided by a Special Projects Grant from Michael Condra in the Department of Psychology at Queen's University. Initial startup funding for the PE-Q program was provided by the First Year Experience Fund (Queen's University) and Ms. Flood is supported by a SSHRC Canadian Graduate Scholarship - Master's.