Wellness at the wheel
By Anne Chudobiak
Can the University make it easier for medical students and residents to exercise?
Without a doubt, says Stella Miller, Postgraduate Medical Education Wellness Consultant, the WELL Office, McGill Faculty of Medicine.
With colleague Louise Lockhart, Nurse, Student Health Services, Miller has a track record of making exercise more accessible in the Faculty.
“We run Exercise for Mood together,” says Miller. This workshop, offered in the Faculty to medical residents, provides practical tips on how to implement a sustainable exercise routine. It is a condensed version of a program available to all McGill students.
“Accessibility is one of the biggest barriers to exercise for medical residents and students,” says Miller. “They are time poor.”
Miller and Lockhart have also encouraged faculty members to incorporate exercise into half days with residents. Some have since extended this practice to their undergraduate students as well.
Ultimately, both Miller and Lockhart would like to make it easier for residents to exercise on-site in training hospitals. A new on-campus initiative, Spin Bike Gardens, is a first step in that direction.
Spin Bike Gardens, which will be installed early in the new year, will consist of four permanent stationary bike stations situated across campus, including on the 3rd floor of the McIntyre Medical Building.
It stems from a pilot project Lockhart conducted on Macdonald campus. “We would do it every year at exam time,” she says.
The new permanent initiative is funded by the Sustainability Projects Fund and the Student Services Innovation Fund.
These stations have been very carefully designed, by a student designer, with an emphasis on sustainability and privacy. All bikes face a window and “plant walls” offer further privacy. The bikes are “completely silent,” says Miller, as are the fans to circulate air. There are dedicated spots for backpacks and places to charge devices. Users will wipe the bikes with a paper towel and enzyme-based cleaning product, which can then be recycled.
Lockhart explains: “We found that if you put the bikes in a hallway, people won’t use them. But if the space is enticing, they will.”
There will even be a board where students can leave encouraging post-it notes for one another.
All these details are in service of one goal: making it easier to exercise.
“Research shows that physicians who incorporate more exercise into their own lives are 12 times more likely to have it as part of their patient care plan,” says Miller.
“Exercise has been shown to increase resilience to stress,” says Lockhart. “And the mental benefits of a moderate intensity cardio session are often immediate.”
“All you need is 20 minutes three times a week,” says Miller.
“We hope people will use these stations as a break, to refresh their mind,” says Lockhart.
Miller points out that it is just one of many exciting initiatives supported by the WELL Office, whose mandate now includes the School of Physical & Occupational Therapy, the School of Communication Sciences & Disorders and the Ingram School of Nursing, as well as the Faculty’s undergraduate and postgraduate medical education programs.
“We also have ashtanga yoga for residents. There is a wellness library, which is growing all the time.” This fall saw the launch of two new support groups, one for international residents, and another on a LGBTQ+ theme.
“We are broadening our scope,” says Miller. “McGill is taking a leadership role on wellness for medical learners. It’s a culture shift.”