The purpose of this study was to explore the impact of a lifestyle medicine elective on medical students' self-care behaviors. From fall, 2015, through spring, 2017, a lifestyle medicine elective was offered to first and second year medical students. Acquisition of data was approved by the IRB. Students attended four group sessions, two at the beginning and two at the end of the elective. At the first session, information about the effects of lifestyle on mental and physical health was presented. Students completed screening instruments to assess their own physical activity, nutrition, anxiety, and depression. At the next class, students received their scores. They chose one of three focus groups: nutrition, physical activity or stress management and set a specific goal in that area. At the end of the elective, students attended two group sessions, which focused on patient cases. They again completed the screening instruments, and received their scores. They also evaluated the course. Sixty-three students signed the consent form and provided data. Comparison of baseline scores by gender revealed that women had statistically significant higher scores on the depression screener than men, and lower physical activity scores than men. Pre and post elective comparison in the whole group showed statistically significant improvements in nutrition, depression, and anxiety (all p < .05). Further analysis in the focus groups demonstrated that the stress management group's scores on anxiety were significantly improved. The nutrition group significantly lowered their fat consumption and increased their intake of fruits and vegetables (all p < .05). The physical activity group did not significantly increase their daily physical activity, although this analysis was limited by missing data and wide variability. Student evaluations of the course were positive. Medical students are able to make improvements in their own lifestyle behaviors while acquiring information that may be useful in later patient care.
Keywords: Anxiety; Depression; Lifestyle; Medical students; Nutrition.