Novel strategies for improving men’s mental health through physical activity programs

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Men’s mental health promotion presents unique challenges and opportunities that demand novel approaches to prevention, treatment, and management. Generic health promotion programs have failed to engage and retain men in healthy behaviour change. Tailored approaches are needed that consider and account for gender as an important social determinant of health. The aim of this thesis was to explore strategies to engage men in mental health promotion through physical activity and inform the development of behaviour change interventions that support men’s health and well-being. This exploration began with a systematic review and meta-analysis of intervention effects on men’s physical activity. Findings highlighted the effectiveness of gender-tailored approaches in men’s health promotion and revealed opportunities to use physical activity as a gateway to target other health behaviours, including mental health promotion. The focus then narrowed to a purposeful examination of the barriers and facilitators of men’s mental health promotion, with consideration to gender roles and relations that influence constructs of masculinities and men’s health. Findings support the dynamic nature of masculinities as well as opportunities for community-based mental health promotion. The thesis concludes with an in-depth participatory design process undertaken to develop gender-tailored intervention strategies for men’s mental health promotion in the context of physical activity programs for men. Future research directions are identified and a prospective pragmatic randomised control trial is outlined to test the effectiveness of this intervention approach for improving men’s mental health.
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