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Physical activity holds key to improving student mental health – new study

University students who take part in regular physical activity say they perform better, are more employable and enjoy better mental wellbeing, according to the biggest study of its kind. 

Recent figures from the Office of National Statistics suggest 95 students took their own lives in England and Wales in the 12 months to July last year, leading the Government to introduce an awards system to recognise universities achieving excellence in mental health care.

Now, a joint report from ukactive, British Universities & Colleges Sport (BUCS), Precor and Scottish Student Sport (SSS) has found that promoting physical activity, including sports participation and gym membership, improves student’s personal wellbeing, mental wellbeing, social inclusion, and perceived academic attainment and employability.

The survey is the biggest of its kind to date, with 6,891 students from 104 Higher Education Institutes across the United Kingdom responding. Those who were classified as active scored better than those classified as fairly active or inactive across four aspects of personal wellbeing: life satisfaction, feelings of worthwhile, happiness and anxiety. The survey also showed that students who participate in both sport and gym activities reap the greatest benefits.