The mental health and well-being benefits of exercise during the COVID-19 pandemic: a cross-sectional study of medical students and newly qualified doctors in the UK.
Coyle C., Ghazi H., Georgiou I.
BACKGROUND: University students have been uniquely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, there is currently little data upon the measures that medical students and newly qualified doctors have taken to help their mental well-being and mood during the COVID-19 pandemic. AIM: We aimed to identify the activities respondents found beneficial for their well-being and mental health and recorded a mood score from survey respondents. METHODS: A nationwide study was completed to investigate the mental health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic upon medical students and newly qualified doctors (interim foundation year one). We received 2075 respondents from across the UK. RESULTS: Physical activity was found to be the most common activity used by the survey respondents to help with their mental well-being (80.1%) (medical students, 83.7%; interim foundation doctors, 72.3%). Participants who stated that exercise helped their well-being had a mean score (SD) of 52.3 (20.7) which was significantly higher (P = 0.048) than those who reported that they did not exercise (49.8 (21.1)). Respondents who stated they had used exercise to help with their mental well-being had (on average) a higher mood score than those who did not. This was seen in both the medical student and interim foundation doctor subgroups. DISCUSSION: Exercise can help to benefit the well-being of medical students and interim foundation doctors. It is hoped that higher education providers and employers recognise the importance of promoting physical activity for the well-being of their students and staff, respectively.