The effectiveness of a pilot peer-based physical activity mentoring program to promote mental health on campus


The pervasiveness of psychological concerns among university students has been deemed a "campus mental health crisis". As such, campus mental health services necessitate sustainable and feasible promotional strategies targeted towards prevention. Campus-based physical activity interventions may be effective at promoting student mental health. As such, the purpose of the present investigation was to evaluate the effectiveness of two pilot yearlong peer-to-peer physical mentoring programs in improving indices of mental health (e.g., resilience, anxiety symptoms, depressive symptoms). First-year students participated in Study 1 (n = 79; 70.9% female; Mage = 20.00 ± .77) and Study 2 (n = 217; 67.3% female; Mage = 19.13 ± 1.19). In both studies, students demonstrated improved levels of resilience (Study 1: F(1.77, 99.24) = 2.77, p = .07, ?p2 = .05; Study 2: t(109) = -1.71, p = .09, d = .15) and lower levels of anxiety (Study 1: F(1.90, 110.36) = 3.88, p = .03, ?p2 = .06; Study 2: t(109) = 1.70, p = .09, d = .14) between baseline and post-program. However, only anxiety scores differed significantly in Study 1. Evaluations suggest that a physical activity peer-mentor program is feasible to implement on campus and is a potential strategy improve mental well-being. However, program characteristics and structure may need to be further reviewed in order to evaluate changes in mental health more broadly, and mechanisms for anxiety specifically. Further research efforts are needed to address gaps in empirical knowledge and advance this unique peer-based intervention to a campus-wide mental health promotion strategy.