British Active Students Survey

For Gym Operators

British Active Students Survey

Universities who invest in opportunities and provide students with support to be physically active can lead to higher mental wellbeing, perceptions of social inclusion, academic attainment and employability. Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) have an important role to play in the physical and mental wellbeing of their students, whilst ensuring that they have the skills needed to excel in later life.

The ‘British Active Student Survey’, conducted at the end of 2017, followed on from the inaugural active student survey (‘Scottish Active Students Survey’) conducted in 2016. The ‘Scottish Active Students Survey’ indicated that active students had higher mental wellbeing, perception of social inclusion, employability and attainment compared to inactive students.

Attending a HEI can be a life changing experience for many individuals as they move away from home and are exposed to new experiences and opportunities for the first time[1]. There are 2,317,880[2] students enrolled in HEIs and 1,587,410[3] (68.5%) under 25 years of age. Across the UK, a quarter of 16-24 year olds do not meet the recommended levels of physical activity highlighting the crucial role HEIs have in supporting this population to be physically active.

The ‘British Active Student Survey’ has built upon the evidence previously reported expanding the survey by collecting responses from students across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. A total of 104 HEIs were represented, with 6,891 students responding to the survey which was open between November and December 2017.

Of the students who responded, just over half were meeting the CMO guidelines on physical activity (more than 150 minutes moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity each week), with 7.1% classified as inactive (less than 30 minutes moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity each week). Over half of respondents (53%) were both members of a gym and a sports club, with around 1 in 5 members of either a sports team or gym.

The promotion of regular physical activity as well as participation in both sport and being a member of a gym was found to improve student’s personal wellbeing, mental wellbeing, perceived social inclusion, academic attainment and employability. Students who were classified as fairly active scored better across these outcomes compared to inactive students. Similarly, students who were members of a gym or participated in sport in isolation scored higher than those who took part in neither. These results highlight the importance of doing some activity, yet by meeting the recommended levels of physical activity, or participation in sport and gym, are required for the greatest benefits. 

In order to engage more students in regular activity, it is important to understand the barriers to leading an active life. Therefore, HEI can provide specific support to students. This research found that being too busy with studies was the biggest barrier. However active students stated they spent more time studying than inactive students. The next highest barriers were too busy socialising (23%) or that activity options were too expensive (23%). Only 4% of respondents indicated a lack of support from their university as a barrier. Body confidence and Student sports culture feeling unwelcoming were more frequently reported barriers for females. This suggests universities are providing support yet barriers still exist. Refreshing this support may be required to help reduce these specific barriers with wider collaboration across institutions.

There is a clear association between activity levels in students and personal wellbeing, mental wellbeing, perceptions of social inclusion, attainment and employability. These results highlight the great importance of leading an active lifestyle for students, not only for the well evidenced benefits to physical wellbeing, but the wider benefits to student’s current and future wellbeing.

The ‘British Active Student Survey’ provides evidence to not only the sports departments within HEIs, but also to the wider academic and support staff. These results might aid in enabling them to support the 40% of students doing some activity to do a bit more in order to meet the CMO guidelines, and to help those currently inactive to at least move towards the goal of becoming active, and therefore gain the wider benefits associated with leading an active lifestyle. Collaborative working within HEIs can provide students with activity habits for later life, a positive experience, and further support them achieve academic success and be employable. Universities also benefit due to the higher wellbeing, grades, and employability of students.

Offering options is the key to successfully driving engagement and encouraging all students to become active and that’s why Precor believes in the importance of ensuring the availability of fitness for all. This is supported by providing them with technologically-advanced equipment and tools, such as Preva networked fitness that enables them to set goals, log and track their fitness activities. With a versatile, high-quality product range across all areas; cardiovascular, strength, functional and group training, Precor can provide every facility with choices to help them find the right solution for their needs and their students’ needs. However students are inspired to take up fitness and sport, we can see from the research findings it not only helps boost their overall self-esteem across a number of areas, but also gives them confidence to achieve strong grades and succeed. At Precor we are dedicated to partnering with educational facilities to ensure students have access to the latest equipment that delivers an exercise experience to support and complement their academic learning.


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[1] HESA (2016). Students and graduates.