Mental Health and Sport

Chris Reading

Louisa Wicks looks at how being part of a sports club or society can have a positive impact on your mental health.

One way to help improve your mental health is to get involved with a sports club or society. By getting involved with new things, such as a sport that you’ve never tried before, you will be able to meet new people and make unforgettable memories. Also, if deadlines, homesickness or just university life in general is taking a toll on your mental health, then doing exercise or doing society activities is a good way to put those worries at the back of your mind. Whether you’re at a training session or just at the gym on your own, sport can improve your self-esteem, reduce your stress levels and lower your risk of depression and anxiety – especially if you’re doing a sport that you enjoy.

Royal Holloway’s sports clubs have done several events and campaigns in the past surrounding mental health. The #ItsOkayToTalk campaign has been the most widespread on campus, with sports clubs encouraging their members to speak up about their mental health. Another successful campaign was #HealthyU week, run by the Students Union. This involved several sports clubs and societies talking about how being part of a student group can really help improve mental health. From women’s football to the Orbital Magazine itself, many student groups stepped forward to talk about how their members overcome stress and what sort of things they do as a club or society. I spoke to VP Sports and Development Steff Milne to find out more about how sport has helped her, and how the university is getting involved with mental health awareness.

“For me sport and exercise has always allowed me time to forget about everything else I’ve got going on and focus on something different. Sport is where I have made some of my best friends and is a social outlet as well as being a way to keep fit and healthy. Going to the gym and playing tennis always make me feel good about myself and being active and joining a club helped me overcome the stresses of university life! Our Clubs have been telling us why being engaged in extracurricular activity helps their mental health. Check out the profiles on the Students’ Union Social media as part of the #HealthyU campaign.”

This level of awareness is so important, as it encourages more people to talk about their mental health and starts to remove the stigma surrounding it. If more people share their own experiences, then hopefully society will begin to better understand mental health and the difficulties surrounding it.

The mental health charity Mind has a section of their website dedicated to sport and physical activity. To find out more about how sport can positively impact your mental health, go to www.mind.org.uk/sport.