Prescription for Exercise is a new partnership project involving Student Services, The SU, Sports Development and Recreation and the Department for Health which aims to improve student mental health and wellbeing through meaningful engagement with an exercise programme.

Students taking part in the project have been referred by Student Services and will be assigned an Exercise Peer Mentor to support them on their eight week journey to help motivate, encourage and build their confidence to continue to take part in regular physical exercise. Throughout the project, participating students will have the opportunity to log their mood and activity and will also benefit from the support of trained Sports Training Village staff including an initial consultation to check their exercise readiness as well as setting their goals and expectations.

The SU have been pivotal in the project to recruit and train the Exercise Peer Mentors who will provide support to the students and explore opportunities to encourage individual activity throughout. The mentors will attend sessions on mental health awareness from Student Services, hints and tips on motivational techniques from in-house academic experts as well as Peer Mentoring training from the SU.

Andy Galloway The SU Sport Officer says: "I’m so excited to launch the Prescription for Exercise pilot scheme. It is the result of almost a year of work between SU Sport, SU Peer Support, Sports Development and Recreation, Department for Health and Student Services, and it is great that it is finally coming together. I believe we have combined professional exercise instruction, mental health support and peer-to-peer mentoring in an extremely unique way. I’m looking forward to seeing the positive effects that exercise and peer support can have on our students, whether it be physically, socially or academically.”

Amelie Green is a Sports Performance student who is volunteering as one of the Exercise Peer Mentors and believes the scheme will be a rewarding experience for both the student and the mentor: “I feel it is important for people to realise how rewarding physical activity can be as well as how good it can make you feel! I am looking forward to being a part of the scheme and think it will be a highly rewarding experience.”

The type of exercise carried out will be up to the student but they will be recommended to take part in up to three sessions per week either using our sport facilities or outside. They will benefit from free access to the world class sports training facilities during this time and in exchange they will be asked to keep a weekly log of activity to include a mood diary, engage with check-ins and meet with STV staff at the end of the eight weeks to discuss the physical outcomes.

Dr Peter Rouse, a Lecturer in the Department for Health, has a special interest in motivational processes that underpin the initiation and maintenance of physical activity and has been contributing his expertise to the project and particularly its evaluation:

“As members of the Centre of Motivation and Health Behaviour Change in the Department for Health, we are delighted to be part of this scheme. It is a great opportunity for us to put our research into practice by contributing to a project that supports the health and wellbeing of our own students. Our contribution has been to use motivational theory to design an evidence based programme that aims to help students harness the many benefits that can be obtained from participating in regular physical activity. This includes providing training to STV physical trainers and Exercise Peer Mentors in how to support the motivation of the students they work with.”

It is hoped that the outcomes of the project will show not only an improvement in mood and mental health but also physical wellbeing that will lead to an ongoing Prescription for Exercise offer in the future at the University

This pilot is part of the University’s institution-wide commitment to staff and student mental health and wellbeing and is one of a number of projects the University will be delivering through the Health and Wellbeing Steering group chaired by Prof Bernie Morley. It is also a timely project that falls within the week of Time to Change a pledge the university signed in 2014. The Time to Change pledge committed all of us to promote attitudes and behaviour that foster mental wellbeing and to work to eliminate the stigma and discrimination often felt by those experiencing mental health difficulties.