Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Kinesiology (MKin)


Kinesiology and Physical Education


Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Dr. Paula Fletcher

Advisor Role


Second Advisor

Dr. Jennifer Robertson-Wilson

Advisor Role




Among the university student population, mental illnesses are highly prevalent. Adults aged 20-30 years have the highest rates of mood and anxiety disorders than any other age group, with approximately 12.0% diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and 7.0 to 9.0% experiencing clinical depression (Nunes et al., 2014; Pedrelli, Nyer, Yeung, Zulauf, & Wilens, 2015). Reducing or preventing the effects of mental illness among this population may have lifelong implications including improvements in coping and management of mental illness throughout the lifespan(Jaworska, DeSomma, Fonseka, Heck, & MacQueen, 2016). This research examines the lived experiences of volunteers and participants in a peer-based exercise intervention for students with anxiety and depression called, “I Move My Mood” (IMMM).


This research was guided by phenomenology to depict participants’ experiences in their own voices. IMMM participants (n= 2), or students participating in the IMMM program, completed an online Qualtrics survey regarding their experiences in IMMM. Volunteers (n= 8) in the program (or students who were paired with the IMMM participants) and the primary researcher completed background questionnaires and one-on-one semi-structured interviews that were transcribed verbatim for subsequent data analysis. The credibility of the study was enhanced using field notes, member checks, and triangulation.


Three themes emerged from data analysis: (1) lack of role clarity, (2) “did I make a difference?”, and (3) eyes opened. Even though volunteers had mixed perceptions regarding IMMM’s effectiveness, all volunteers perceived their experiences positively and brought forward recommendations for program improvement.


Overall, this study provides insight into the experiences of participants and peer support volunteers in a mental health/physical activity university-based intervention. These stories shine a light on some of the challenges and benefits of implementing peer support physical activity interventions for university students experiencing mild-to-moderate symptoms of depression and/or anxiety.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season