A student’s pass to physical and mental health

January 12, 2017

Counsellors and personal trainers team up to tackle student stress

Lauren, a 2nd year Bachelor of Physical Education Transfer student, is also a Fit Buddy volunteer. 

For some people, stress is the ultimate motivator—there’s nothing like a big exam to kick-start an inspired study session. For others, especially students who are vulnerable when it comes to their mental health status, stress can be much more foe than friend.

“Stress can aggravate the symptoms of mental health issues and cause them to flare up,” says Craig Gnauck, counsellor with Wellness and Psychological Services. “Often taking care of the stress helps take care of the symptoms.”

Sounds simple, right? It’s not, says Craig, especially when you’re facing a barrage of midterms and exams. “When students are hunkering down, it can feel like nothing else exists—including sleep, meals and exercise."

That’s why a pilot program called Physical Activity for Student Success (PASS) was created with the goal of making it easier for students to integrate physical wellness—and ultimately mental wellness— into their lives.

Read our Portraits of MacEwan story on Facebook about Lauren’s experience as a Fit Buddy volunteer.

Depending on a student’s situation, counsellors and case managers in Wellness and Psychological Services and learning specialists in Services to Students with Disabilities can suggest students head to Sport and Wellness to take advantage of the facility access included in their student fees. Any student can stop by for an orientation, or pair up with a “Fit Buddy” to mentor them during three workouts.

But if a student needs a more formal solution, they can also get a “prescription” for the PASS program—their ticket to another level of services that includes a series of scheduled sessions with a certified personal trainer or exercise physiologist.

“This program sends a message to students that their lives and experiences aren’t compartmentalized,” says Craig. “It reinforces that taking care of their mental health well-being also involves taking care of their physical health. It needs to be holistic.”

Craig adds that the fact that PASS is a scheduled, organized experience also helps. “It’s much different than offering general advice like ‘you should start exercising.’ Students are part of a regular, formal program so it becomes part of their routine.”

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