The mental health of university students is in decline. Australian data spanning the last decade has repeatedly documented unacceptably high levels of psychological distress, anxiety, depression and loneliness amongst students. The COVID-19 pandemic has massively exacerbated this, causing upheaval in education delivery and major long-term career and economic uncertainty.
Recent neuroscientific evidence shows that as well as improving resilience and mental health, specific physical exercise regimens (i.e. intensity, type, frequency) can enhance cognitive performance and brain health. This creates an opportunity because students are often reluctant to engage in ‘mental health’ initiatives as they do not identify as mentally ill. They do, however, care deeply about their cognitive and brain health as these are key enablers of a successful academic and university experience. The challenge is that right now students are largely inactive, with over 65% leading sedentary or very low activity lifestyles.
This project will develop and pilot 'PEAK' (i.e. PEAK-performance), a fun and empowering evidence-based behaviour change program that embeds a neuroscience-informed physical exercise regimen into the lifestyles of Australian university students to improve their mental, cognitive and brain health.
This project is a collaboration with the Australasian Node of the UCL Centre for Behaviour Change and is being conducted in partnership with the nib foundation.