Mind in motion: Assessing the feasibility of an exercise intervention for university students seeking mental health treatment on campus


Background: Despite the increasing utilization of mental health services on campus, many students are wait-listed due to high demand and/or may not receive the required care. Mind in Motion is a 6-week structured, supervised exercise program for students seeking mental health services at UBC Vancouver. Students attend two sessions a week with a personal trainer, followed by 6-weeks of optional maintenance. An evaluation was conducted from Sept 2018 – May 2019 to assess the feasibility of the pilot program. Methods: Students were referred by counselling services and screened by phone for eligibility. Eligible participants completed self-report survey assessments at weeks 1, 6, and 12 which included self-reported measures of physical activity, depression severity, and program experience. Results: Fifteen participants enrolled in the program and seven completed it. Mean depression severity decreased from baseline (M= 11.7, SD=6.1) to week 12 (M=9.9, SD=5.8). Six of nine participants felt they required fewer or no counselling services by week 6 and all but one participant would recommend it to others. Participants expressed satisfaction with the quality of instruction and gym environment. Scheduling conflicts were the most common reason for drop-out. Discussion/Conclusion: The results support the feasibility and potential of an exercise intervention to improve the mental health of students who complete the program. Mind in Motion will be re-implemented and evaluated in Fall 2019 after program modification aimed to improve participant retention.