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UEA set up dog walking scheme to promote pawsitive student wellbeing


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A University initiative to promote positive mental health will see stressed out students encouraged to walk dogs around campus.

The University of East Anglia (UEA) has been awarded £12,000 to support projects that use exercise to tackle mental health issues.

After research by UEA’s Professor Andy Jones found the benefits of dog walking to be significant, the university made walkies top of their list.

Picture credit: Pexels

“Our studies have shown that dog walking helps people to maintain their physical activity levels. In addition it is known that there are a wide range of social and mental health benefits,” Professor Jones said.

As well as dog walks, funding will also be used to organise a number of other walks in nearby Cromer and Thetford Forest, allowing students to see popular Norfolk attractions while being physically active. UEA say they hope this will give their 17,000 students a sense of their surroundings outside the Norwich campus and help them to develop feelings of belonging within the community.

Money for the mental health initiatives has been granted through British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) which was obtained from Sport England. It has been proven that students who are more physically active have better mental wellbeing and attain higher academic grades, and it is for these reasons UEA are focusing on activities including walking.

Florence Pond, a third year intercultural communications with business management student, said: “I think the dog walking scheme is a fantastic idea. I know so many students who will enjoy taking some time for themselves to de-stress, especially during the hectic exam season.”

Picture credit: Pexels 

University students are at high risk of developing mental health issues and tackling this has become a greater priority for academic institutions and the government. Some students and organisations have said there is a growing ‘mental health crisis’ at UK universities, pointing to rising statistics and deaths by suicide.

A BBC analysis suggests the number of students in the UK seeking mental health support while studying at university has increased by more than 50% in five years. The Office of National Statistics figures show 95 recorded university student suicides for the 12 months to July 2017 in England and Wales. While in 2015/16 over 15,000 first-year students reported they had a mental health problem, compared to approximately 3,000 in 2006, the Mental Health Foundation report.

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