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.
Abstract 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.