Move Your Mind Program breaks down barriers to physical activity

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Program run by Athletics and Recreation helps students experience the physical, emotional, mental and cognitive benefits of exercise.

The goal of the Move Your Mind program is to help students experience all the benefits of physical activity by removing any barriers that might be in their way of participating. “You don’t want to go to the gym? No problem, what would you find enjoyable?” explains Kristen Leal, Group Fitness, Aquatics, and Instructional Coordinator. “The philosophy of Move Your Mind is that once you find one thing you love to do that gets you active, that’s your gateway to activity. It’s very person-centred and intended to build self-efficacy.” While students are primarily referred to the program from departments such as AccessAbility, Campus Wellness, and the Student Success Office, students also have the option to self-refer or refer a friend. The first step for students who are referred is to meet with the Move Your Mind coordinator, who assess their readiness to be involved and gets a sense of who they are and their interests.

“The philosophy of Move Your Mind is that once you find one thing you love to do that gets you active, that’s your gateway to activity. It’s very person-centred and intended to build self-efficacy.”

The MYM coordinator then assists the student to find an activity that is suitable to their goals, interests and needs. The student also has the option of getting matched with a peer-volunteer “workout buddy”, who is there to help them ease into the activity that they’ve chosen. The MYM coordinator then provides ongoing coaching and mentoring throughout the term, at the student’s consent and direction. One of the highlights of the Move Your Mind program is this custom plan for success every student develops in collaboration with the MYM Coordinator.

When we asked Kristen and current MYM coordinator, Shannon, how many students they currently see, they said between 30 and 40 students per term. Their hope is that “every student leaves with a positive attitude about physical activity and experiences an increase in their overall confidence and mental wellness.” By providing a positive and supportive environment, the hope is that students learn how to make physical activity more accessible to them and experience the many benefits of physical activity has to offer. 

When asked about the impact of the program Kristen notes that for some students “it is the first time they experience this level of support in their university career” and that “students are pleasantly surprised by the benefits of physical activity, for example, better sleep.” Success can be defined in so many ways, and MYM looks to create as many opportunities for success as possible while still recognizing where students are in their change management process.

Success can be defined in so many ways, and MYM looks to create as many opportunities for success as possible while still recognizing where students are in their change management process.

The overall hope is that participants leave University of Waterloo and go into the next chapter of their lives with a baseline literacy, understanding, and confidence in themselves to continue engaging in physical activity. For the volunteers of MYM, they benefit from becoming more aware of the barriers students might face becoming more physically active and learn how to be effective advocates for themselves and others.

The Move Your Mind program in Athletics and Recreation is one of many University of Waterloo initiatives that finds new and interesting ways to foster wellness on campus. To learn more about Move Your Mind, visit the Athletics website. To learn more about how you can be involved in initiatives that aim to increase wellness in our community or read other inspiring stories, visit the Wellness Collaborative website.

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