Objective: It is known that regular exercise improves both physical and mental health. This study sought to determine the impact of a fitness intervention on the levels of exercise and well-being of medical students.
Methods: In 2011, the authors conducted a prospective cohort study involving medical students at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Intervention students experienced a 7-week, team-based, fitness competition and recorded exercise data online. Incentives were given to teams reaching an average of 150 minutes per teammate per week, an exercise goal recommended by the US Department of Health and Human Services. Both groups completed baseline and follow-up surveys about physical activity and well-being, using validated scoring methods.
Results: A total of 100 students (71 in the intervention group and 29 in the control group) participated fully, recording their exercise behaviors and completing both the pre- and postsurveys. In the intervention group, the percentage of individuals successfully reaching the exercise target of 150 minutes per week varied by week from 30% to 61%. Intervention students showed a significant improvement in their International Physical Activity Questionnaire scores (1669.4 ± 154.9 vs 2013.6 ± 174.6; P = 0.02) and levels of irritability on the subsection of the Positive Affect and Negative Affect Scale score (2.2 ± 0.1 vs 2.0 ± 0.1,P = 0.03). By contrast, the control group did not show any improvements in any of these measures across the same time period (all P > 0.05).
Conclusions: A well-orchestrated student-designed fitness intervention can effectively augment medical students’ exercise practices and positively affect well-being.
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