Staying active for better wellbeing

Staying active for better wellbeing
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The wellbeing benefits of physical activity can be felt across all secondary school pupil peer groups - and could be a crucial lifeline to students in exam season.
That's the findings from a new survey carried out by Manchester Metropolitan University for the Youth Sport Trust and HMC (The Heads' Conference).
It examined links between wellbeing in school and sports participation. It concentrated on the Year 9 and Year 10 age groups who were approaching their exams.

What are the mental health benefits of physical activity in schools?

The benefits of physical activity on mental health have been well documented.
This latest research looked into the relationship between wellbeing and participation in exercise in schools.
The known benefits of taking part in sport and fitness sessions include a boost to physical, cognitive, behavioural, social and educational performance.
The new study, however, also investigated other factors such as identity and a sense of belonging in schools.
The mental health benefits of taking part in physical activity are further enhanced by enjoying fitness sessions in the outdoors. 
As well as reducing the risk of major illnesses, taking part in regular exercise can also boost self-esteem, improve sleep quality and raise energy levels.
The symptoms of stress and anxiety are also reduced through exercise while long term research shows staying active can lessen the risk of developing conditions such as dementia.
By taking PE outside, these benefits are strengthened thanks to a dose of vitamin D. Exposure to daylight is one of the most effective ways to increase levels of vitamin D which boosts the immune system, helps fight depression and promotes bone growth.
Being outdoors is also said to deliver a better workout, energising participants and encouraging them to push themselves a little further thanks to a more challenging terrain and interesting environment.

Facilities such as outdoor gyms encourage more people to take advantage of these benefits, as described in our blog on how exercise improves mental health. (Click here to read blog)

How do the mental health benefits of exercise support students?

The new study for HMC and the Youth Sports Trust showed that sports participation in the focus group was lower in Year 10 than in Year 9.
However wellbeing was also lower in Year 10, with girls in this age group reporting lower wellbeing than boys.
The findings suggested that sports participation is predictive of greater wellbeing and that exercise is related to the development of a confident mindset and mental toughness.
Taking part in physical activity delivers benefits for all students, regardless of which sector they are educated in.

How can schools make use of the research into exercise and student wellbeing?

The report concluded: "This project offers strong evidence concerning the potential benefit of sports participation in secondary school at a critical stage of students' education and it would be significant for schools to continue to promote sports participation among later year groups (Year 10 and Year 11)."
The Youth Sport Trust said that with happy and healthy children being known to learn better, it was essential that young people remain engaged with sports throughout their education.
Exam season in particular is said to be a time when sport and physical activity should remain an important part of the timetable.

Delivering PE and fitness sessions for older students

For students going into Year 9 and beyond, PE can sometimes take a back seat. Whether through extra-curricular events, pastoral care or as part of the school day, educators can help to make sport and exercise more freely available to students.
At Sunshine Gym, our advisers work with secondary schools, colleges and universities across the UK to design outdoor gyms that remove barriers to fitness and inject enjoyment and social interaction into a workout.
Our team can support school leaders in selecting a wide range of inclusive outdoor gym equipment which will appeal to a wide range of students.
The Sunshine Gym range includes multi gyms and multi rigs, combining cardiovascular and strength building equipment.
We also offer equipment which supports and builds flexibility and mindfulness such as the Tai Chi Discs as well as more traditional outdoor gym equipment such as the Double Health Walker, similar to a treadmill, Sky Stepper, which is based on the cross trainer, and the Bicycle.
Our outdoor gym equipment is designed for use all year round, and can serve the needs of all age groups and students of all abilities and experience.
You can read our blog, on how to raise participation in PE for more inspiration.
To start designing an outdoor gym to boost wellness in school, get in touch with the Sunshine Gym team or fill in a contact form for a call back.