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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Experiences of individuals with mood disorders in group medical visits focused on physical activity Vazirian, Sara


Background: Despite numerous proven health benefits of physical activity, there is a physical inactivity pandemic. This is particularly true in individuals with mood disorders. Although research has shown the therapeutic and preventative effects of physical activity in people with mental illnesses, the levels of physical activity in this population remains lower than the general population. Considering the overwhelming evidence, the question is not whether physical activity is beneficial, but how can we better engage persons with mental illness in physical activity. In this study, I explored facilitators and barriers to being physical active in these individuals. The primary aim was to understand the experiences of individuals who took part in a 14-week long Group Medical Visit with a focus on physical activity. The secondary aim was to better understand the key features of such a program. Methods: I interviewed 24 participants clinically diagnosed with mood disorders - Major Depressive Disorder or Bipolar II Disorder. Participants were aged 32-64 years. I evaluated qualitative data from participants with a mood disorder who participated in an exercise program. The interviews were transcribed and managed using NVivo 10™. Thematic analysis was used to analyze the data. Results: The results of this study detail participants’ preferred content and method of delivery of a physical activity program and identify facilitators and barriers to being physically active. The main facilitators are social support, building a routine in daily life, and exposure to nature. The barriers include the mood disorder itself, finances, and fear from stigmatization. The preferred exercise program comprises a variety of light-to-moderate activities, offers the opportunity to connect with other participants with a mood disorder, and being in nature. Conclusion: The individuals in this study felt that key features of a physical activity program for individuals with a mood disorder must utilize a social network approach, take into account preferences of potential participants, and incorporate nature (both green and blue spaces) as a health promotion resource. Green spaces are places such as parks and forests, while blue spaces are attributed to places close to a body of water such as the sea, lake, etc.

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