A new study of college students from not-for-profit health body ukactive and AoC Sport has found that physical activity is vital in delivering positive benefits for mental health, feelings of loneliness and educational attainment.
The report, entitled British Active Students Survey: Further Education and delivered in partnership with Matrix Fitness and Sport England, surveyed 3,661 college students on their physical activity levels, as well as various measures of mental wellbeing.
- Active students were over 15% more likely to report an expectation of top grades (48-56 UCAS points) than inactive students.
- 52.7% of active students had confidence in finding employment, compared to just 38.2% of inactive students
- Inactive students were far more likely to report feeling lonely all the time (10.5%) than their more active counterparts (6.9%)
Over two thirds (70.8%) were not meeting the recommended levels of physical activity (150 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity a week), with 25.5% classified as inactive (taking fewer than 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity a week).
The students who were active rated their life satisfaction significantly higher than less active students, ‘while also reporting lower levels of loneliness, higher perceived social inclusion and higher grade expectations.’
The findings match quite closely with previous iterations of the report, conducted primarily with university students, demonstrating the widespread benefits of physical activity across further education institutions.
On barriers to physical activity, the Further Education research found that 27.9% 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.
The report therefore underlines a major opportunity for further education institutions to maximise student satisfaction and attainment, by better encouraging students to be active throughout the day, and highlighting the beneficial role exercise can have on physical, mental and emotional health.
Jack Shakespeare, Director of Children, Young People and Families said:
“Students today face ever more stressful lives, juggling exams, social lives and rapid change.
“This research shows that physical activity is a vital tool in supporting young peoples’ physical, mental and emotional health, and represents a huge opportunity for colleges to deliver better student experiences.”
Marcus Kingwell, AoC Sport Managing Director, said:
“This report shows just how wide-reaching the benefits of sport and physical activity are.
“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.”