Let’s get moving and standing up for our health and PGR studies!
This post was written by Kathryn Bleakney. Kathryn is doing a MRes in Sports Science specifically researching Physical Activity, Sedentary Time and Mental Wellbeing of 1stYear UofG Postgraduate Research Students. This article details some of her key findings and how they are relevant to you as a PGR student.
As research students, it can be easy to forget how much time we spend each day sitting down; searching for literature, reading literature, analysing data, formulating reports and presentations. The list goes on, and this doesn’t include time spent catching up on favourite TV shows – we’re all guilty of that! But how many hours do Glasgow research students actually spend in sedentary time (sitting or lying down), and do we make up for this with the time we spend in physical activity? Does this have an impact on our mental wellbeing, and ultimately our studies?
These are questions I’m interested in. As part of my research degree, I’ve been examining how physically active and sedentary PGR students at the University of Glasgow are, and how this affects levels of mental wellbeing. One of my main findings was that although research students here are active (meeting and in some cases exceeding current physical activity guidelines of 150 minutes per week), we can also be highly sedentary, on average spending 8 hours per day and up to 16 hours a day sitting or lying down.
This high sedentary time needs to be reduced as it does not matter how active we are, high sedentary time nevertheless increases risk of poor physical and mental health. While research students reported moderate mental wellbeing scores, an important note is that this study reflects the healthiest of PGR students and not necessarily the general PGR population. Therefore, with regard to our mental health, it’s really important to make sure we’re engaging with physical activity and reducing the amount of time spent sitting down.
There is no doubt that making these small changes will be beneficial not only to mental and physical health but also studies and work. There’s lots of research articles out there to support this. The research carried out much closer to home, right here at the University of Glasgow on PGR students like you and me also comes to this same conclusion.
My research included focus groups which allowed students to discuss the benefits physical activity has on their lives. UofG PGR students stated that being active helped them to be more focused, more productive, improved their mental alertness and gave them a better work-life balance. Students also reported that physical activity makes them feel better both mentally and physically. They described being happier, less stressed and more energetic.
Image credit to Park Troopers on Unsplash
These benefits sound amazing, not just for health and wellbeing but also for our ability to engage fully with our studies. However, one other important finding that came out from my research was that research students also identify several barriers to being active. These include a lack of information/awareness on the opportunities to be active, gym classes being full or equipment not available, a high workload, long working hours and travelling for conferences/leisure. These barriers have now been fed back to relevant individuals and the UofG is considering how to overcome and address these.
In the meantime, I’d like to end with some tips for other easy ways to try to increase your physical activity and reduce sedentary time. Firstly, there’s no need to make drastic changes – consider what you are doing, make manageable changes and set realistic targets. For example, download a pedometer app and aim for at least 10,000 steps per day. Once you have achieved this gradually increase your target. Secondly, there are many opportunities for physical activity outside of using the gym. To get yourself started, check out this previous post for physical activities and opportunities that are here on your doorstep in Glasgow!