The stride program: Feasibility and pre-to-post program change of an exercise service for university students experiencing mental distress

Ivan Jeftic, Bonnie Furzer, James Dimmock, Kemi Wright, Timothy Budden, Conor Boyd, Aaron Simpson, Michael Rosenberg, Catherine Sabiston, Melissa de Jonge, Ben Jackson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Rates of mental illness are disproportionately high for young adult and higher education (e.g., university student) populations. As such, universities and tertiary institutions often devote significant efforts to services and programs that support and treat mental illness and/or mental distress. However, within that portfolio of treatment approaches, structured exercise has been relatively underutilised and greater research attention is needed to develop this evidence base. The Stride program is a structured 12-week exercise service for students experiencing mental distress. We aimed to explore the feasibility of the program and assess pre- and post-program change, through assessments of student health, lifestyle, and wellbeing outcomes. Drawing from feasibility and effectiveness-implementation hybrid design literatures, we conducted a non-randomised feasibility trial of the Stride program. Participants were recruited from the Stride program (N = 114, Mage = 24.21 years). Feasibility results indicated the program was perceived as acceptable and that participants reported positive perceptions of program components, personnel, and sessions. Participants’ pre-to-post program change in depressive symptomatology, physical activity levels, mental health-related quality of life, and various behavioural outcomes were found to be desirable. Our results provide support for the feasibility of the Stride program, and more broadly for the delivery and potential effectiveness of structured exercise programs to support university students experiencing mental distress.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102507
JournalPsychology of Sport & Exercise
Volume69
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2023

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