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University of Birmingham Sport

mental health sport

Exercise: the top tonic for better mental health

Everyone knows that sport, or keeping active, is regularly praised for being good for socialising, keeping physically fit and healthy, and for getting you away from your desk for a break in the fresh air. But even more so recently, the importance of being active in relation to mental wellbeing has become increasingly relevant. A recent study showed that physical activity is the key to improving student mental health – and earlier this year University of Birmingham Sport was awarded funding from British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) to address student mental health issues through physical activity, enabling more support through sport on campus. Our Sports Psychologist, Sarah Carvell, says that exercise is one of the most effective ways to improve your mental health and well-being:

‘Exercising on a regular basis cannot only have an extremely positive impact on mental health but also on mood, memory and sleep. No matter what your age or fitness level, research has indicated that modest amounts of exercise can truly make a difference. Even if it is just 10 minutes every day, you will reap the benefits. Exercise is a powerful tool to feel better, so get moving whenever you can find the time—your mind and body will thank you!’

With World Mental Health Day on Wednesday 10 October this year, and tying in nicely with the first full day of home BUCS fixtures on campus, we delved a little more into what the new funding will be bringing to campus in terms of supporting those who would benefit from more physical activity.  Over 1,000 students registered with the University’s Student Services department in the 2016/17 academic year as having a mental health issue – so if you think you could benefit from some support, don’t hesitate to get in touch.


Along with Student Services, UBSport runs a referral scheme that offers Group Exercise vouchers to those who would benefit from physical activity.

fit classes

With over 200 classes on offer, the participants of the scheme – who will have been referred from a Wellbeing councillor – can enjoy a range of activities from martial arts, yoga, toning and strength and dance classes, which allows you to choose a time and activity that suits you and works around your timetable and needs. The funding has allowed the current scheme to grow to offer up to two vouchers for three-times as many people, allowing even more access to sport and fitness, and ensuring that you can find something that suits you.

If you think you could benefit from Wellbeing support, contact our Student Services team.




Also building on existing programmes, the drop-in sessions, which were previously just for badminton, have increased to offer an additional five sports.


Alongside badminton, which was very successful in its inaugural year in 2017/18, boxing, climbingclimbing, racketball, swimming and table tennis have now been added to the programme. Free, drop-in sessions that require no commitment, it’s a great way to discover a variety of sports that have a range of challenges and qualities, all in the Sport & Fitness building. See below for the activities and times available:

  • Boxercise: Wednesdays, 17:30-18:15, Studio 2
  • Table Tennis: Fridays, 12:00-13:00, Slater Hall
  • Climbing: Wednesday lunchtimes, 90 minutes for a 5-week course, for 6 people
  • Racketball: Tues lunchtime, for 8 or 12 people
  • Swimming: Wednesdays, 15:00-15:45, double lane, for up to 4 people

Keep checking the website for when these become available to book.



This training will underpin the initiative, at the heart of the project.


Students from a combination of sports clubs and our volunteer programme, the Extra Mile, will undergo half-day First-Aid training courses to improve their skills, taught by a number of members of staff including a variety of coaches and instructors. A three-hour course which focuses on mental health in young people and is adapted to include university examples and case studies, it is designed to teach people how to spot signs and symptoms of ill mental health and offer first aid help. The course aims to make people more aware of issues, and feel confident if people come forward with problems.

To keep up to date and informed when spaces become available, follow the below link to book on.


If you’re interested in learning more about how to look after your mental health using exercise, check out the Mental Health Foundation’s How To guide, recommended by Sarah Carvell. Read more here.

So even if it’s a half-hour walk, a run around with your mates, or trying a new class, staying active has been shown to improve your mental health – and UBSport has plenty of opportunities to discover or develop a physical activity that works for you, however you want to get involved.

In the meantime, why not come down to campus on Wednesday 10 October and cheer on the Birmingham Lions in their BUCS home games – a great way to get those endorphins going! Plus, to introduce our variety of classes and in line with the University’s Week of Wellbeing, we have a range of additional free classes throughout the week (8-12 October), so check them out if you’re looking for a new way to get into exercise.

Check out the Week of Wellbeing activities






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