Mind in Motion: Exercise as mental health care


A partnership between UBC BodyWorks, UBC Counselling Services, and Kinesiology Professor Guy Faulkner is offering meaningful opportunities for UBC students.

Mind in Motion is an exercise intervention for students seeking mental health care on campus and has been integrated as part of UBC’s stepped care model. Students are referred by UBC Counselling Services to take part in counselling sessions, with exercise offered as a low-intensity psychosocial intervention.
Faulkner’s Population Physical Activity Lab led the creation of the partnership, with Faulkner offering direction and supervision to the BodyWorks senior trainers who lead the exercise sessions. 

“I joined this program because it provided a unique opportunity to gain research experience while developing my personal training skills. I’ve enjoyed helping other students realize the potential mental health benefits of regular exercise by providing instruction to improve their knowledge and skills, and ultimately help them feel more comfortable and confident exercising on their own,” says Mahabhir Kandola.

Students work with the trainers to develop an individualized program tailored to each student’s abilities and goals, taking part in a combination of group and individual training sessions. Participants are encouraged to attend two supervised sessions with a senior trainer and complete two further sessions independently, either at the BodyWorks gym or another exercise facility.

According to trainer Dannen Johnstone, there are several reasons why BodyWorks is an ideal location for the program. 
“Not only does BodyWorks offer a great space to train, but the convenient location and friendly environment allowed us to foster great relationships with the participants of Mind in Motion. BodyWorks has individuals of a variety of levels of health and fitness and feels genuinely like a judgement-free space (which is often hard to find in the fitness world). Plus, the staff and trainers are incredibly knowledgeable and friendly, creating a positive space that feels conducive to healthful change for whoever comes in,” says Johnstone.

All participants reported that they were satisfied with the program and that they would recommend it to a friend. Participants also reported that the trainers were friendly, easygoing, and helpful; the gym environment was quiet and non-intimidating; and the flexibility of the program and the option to attend individual or group sessions was well-liked. 

Aaron Ma, another BodyWorks trainer involved with the program, points to the benefits that such research offers to Kinesiology students. “The most important thing I have learned from my role here is the skillset to work with a wide variety of people and the experience to bridge clinical and performance goals. BodyWorks is involved in multiple studies each year, providing insight and opportunity to explore physical activity interventions.”

As part of the BodyWorks team, he sees lasting value in this collaboration between BodyWorks, UBC Counselling Services and the Population Physical Activity lab. “These opportunities have prepared me to excel in the work that I do, through education, application, and practice, as well as a mindset for continuous learning,” says Ma. “However, the most invaluable part of my work here is the people I’ve met and the relationships I’ve built with clients and staff.”

For more information about Dr. Faulkner’s work on physical exercise and mental health, visit the Population Physical Activity Lab.