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Move2Improve: Supporting Youth Mental Health With Physical Activity

IWK Children’s Health Centre and Dalhousie University are creating Move2Improve, a new physical literacy program for teens in Halifax accessing mental health services.

Once complete, the Move2Improve program will be available to download for interested healthcare providers so that more youth can benefit.

Physical literacy is a basic building block for a healthy active population. It is described as having the tools needed “to value and take responsibility for engagement in physical activities for life”

Why Move2Improve?

Mental health disorders affect approximately 20% of children and adolescents worldwide and half of all mental health disorders begin before the age of 14 years. There is also a relationship between mental health, obesity, and the development of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes.


Children and teens with mental health conditions have been found to have lower physical literacy compared to those without. They may also need more support to improve their physical literacy to become active. The Move2Improve program hopes to increase physical literacy in youth who live with mental health conditions with the hope that this will  improve their overall quality of life!

Physical Activity Can Help Improve Mental Health

When children and teens move their bodies through exercise or play, improvements can be seen in:

  • Mood
  • School performance
  • Relationships
  • Confidence and self-esteem
  • Body image

Project Timeline:

Part 1: Establish Partnerships, and Assess Needs

Focus Groups with teens, parents, and care providers will help the Move2Improve team understand the needs and challenges of youth, aged 14-18,who access mental health services in Halifax. The information gathered will be used to design the program.


Partnerships with Dalhousie School of Health and Human Performance will aim to involve university students in the Move2Improve program.

Community partnerships will help provide community venues where the program can be run, as well as act as a support for teens during and after participating in the program.


Part 2: Development and Testing of Program

Based on feedback from the focus groups, the Move2Improve program will be developed as an 8-to-10 session program. The program will be designed to be inclusive to all backgrounds, levels of experience and abilities.

Session activities could include:

  • Walking or running
  • Basic personal fitness
  • Stretching
  • Strength training
  • Other movement-based activities such as yoga and Tai Chi

graphic of running shoe, weight, and yoga mat

Exposure to different activities will help identify teens’ individual interests. This can lead to better motivation to continue being active!

graphic of support circle

Participants will leave the program with their own plan for adding physical activity into their life and be linked to resources in their community for continued support.


graphic of checklist


The program will be piloted and changes will be made based on feedback before finalizing.

Part 3: Evaluation and Finalize Program

To make sure that Move2Improve is useful for teens, the program will be evaluated to assess changes in physical literacy and quality of life.

This will be done through questionnaires that participants will be asked to fill out before starting and after completing the program. They will also answer questions about program satisfaction, content, and facilitation. Post focus groups will help to obtain more in-depth feedback so that the Move2Improve program can be improved for future teens.


Part 4: Share!

We want all teens to be able to benefit from the Move2Improve program. Once the program is completed and evaluated, it will be available for health care providers across Canada to download so that more teens can benefit! The program will include a full guide for any interested facilitators to help them run the program successfully.

Current Status:

The Move2Improve project has been delayed due to COVID. With mental health teams and care providers overwhelmed during the pandemic, programs like Move2Improve are more important than ever to support our teens and help them to live healthier lives.

We hope that the development of this project will be a steppingstone for more workshops and programs to be available to all youth accessing the mental health system.