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Research: physically active students enjoy better mental health

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Physical activity could be a major tool in battling rising levels of loneliness among young people.

A study of college students found that physically active students were 21 per cent less likely to report feeling lonely all the time.

The research – by not-for-profit health body ukactive and AoC Sport, the lead organisation for sport and physical activity in 16+ education – also found a raft of additional mental health benefits for students who regularly exercise.

Other findings from the report, entitled British Active Students Survey: Further Education, include that active students rate their life satisfaction significantly higher than less active students, while also reporting higher levels of happiness, increased perception of social inclusion and higher grade expectations.

The research surveyed 3,661 college students aged 16 and over on their physical activity levels, as well as various measures of mental wellbeing.

More than two thirds (70.8 per cent) of college students were not meeting the chief medical officer’s recommended levels of physical activity, with 25.5 per cent classified as inactive (undertaking fewer than 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity a week).

On barriers to physical activity, the survey found that 27.9 per cent of students believed they were too busy with studies to exercise, despite previous research indicating that students with high levels of physical fitness tend to perform better academically.

“This report shows just how wide-reaching the benefits of sport and physical activity are," said Marcus Kingwell, AoC Sport managing director.

“There is still a lot of work to be done to get more students active but it highlights just how crucial a role sport and physical activity plays in developing the mental health and wellbeing of young people in colleges, as well as their education and employability.”

Jack Shakespeare, ukactive director of children, young people and families, added: “Students today face a multitude of mental and physical health pressures, juggling stressful lives, exams, job fears and socio-economic uncertainty.

“These findings show that physical activity during college years is a vital tool in supporting young peoples’ physical, mental and emotional health, and represents a huge opportunity to deliver better student wellbeing.”

To read the full report, click here for the ukactive website.

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