Sport helps Lancaster & Morecambe College students to tackle mental health

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Students at Lancaster & Morecambe College have been taking part in different sporting activities in a bid to highlight mental health issues.

In September 2017, the college was awarded a grant of £93,000 to encourage young adults to become more active and a Tackling Inactivity project was set up, coordinated by project lead, Adam Cowperthwaite.

The project works by integrating physical activity sessions into students’ timetables, and sessions are tailored to the needs of learners, whether this is as a group or on an individual basis.

One group of students which has been reaping the benefits of the project are those studying on the Level 3 Creative Digital Media course, where participating in regular yoga has improved the quality of college life for the vast majority.

However, yoga wasn’t the answer for 19-year-old Louis.

Louis found that he didn’t get the same benefits or enjoyment from it that his friends did, so instead, he discovered boxing where weekly sessions have helped build his confidence and control his temper, as well as getting him physically fitter.

Louis said: “Before discovering boxing, I was pretty inactive other than occasional walks in the Lake District with my parents.

“I think my lack of confidence was the main problem, as well as the fact that I’m not a very sporty person. I was very body conscious and not very happy with the way I look, being very skinny.”

Louis was keen to be involved in the ‘Tackling Inactivity’ project and was very open about wanting to develop his anger management skills whilst improving his levels of self-confidence.

The sessions started off on an individual basis to help Louis develop some confidence, and now the sessions have been progressed into an open gym environment combining boxing with a weights programme.

Louis’ mental wellbeing has also significantly improved.

“It has helped my anger issues significantly,” he said. “Previously, I’d get very aggressive and it was a problem for me, and for others around me, so I decided to start doing boxing and working out in the gym in order to relieve a lot of the stress that builds up over the week.

“It has definitely increased my confidence, I feel much better knowing I am improving in something physically. I am also a lot less stressed out, knowing I can take my anger out on a couple of foam pads rather than things which were getting me into trouble.”

Louis’ tutors have also noticed a dramatic improvement.

Wendy Bickerstaffe, Creative Digital Media tutor, said: “There’s been such a change in Louis. Boxing has clearly helped him to develop skills to cope better in situations where he finds himself feeling stressed.

“Tackling Inactivity has been a fantastic project as it’s also been a real success for other students who have discovered yoga for the first time, and are making it part of their weekly routines.”

Louis is extremely grateful for the project, adding: “I’d tell anyone considering whether to get involved with the project to go for it!

“It’s helping out people who aren’t even into sports to take part in physical activity. It not only benefits you physically in your strength and weight, but also with your mental health.”

Tackling Inactivity Project Lead Adam said: ““Louis has really benefited from the project and has definitely grown in confidence.

“As well as being more confident to take part, boxing has proven to be a brilliant tool for his anger management and there have been many comments from other staff complimenting his much improved behaviour. He loves attending the sessions and I’m sure he will continue his new, more active lifestyle.”

Meanwhile, a group of Sport Science and Sports Coaching students visited The John O’Gaunt Rowing Club to take part in a charity 5km row.

The John O’ Gaunt Rowing Club hosted the group for the challenge after having recently secured £10,000 of Sport England funding for the purchase of £17,000 worth of stable rowing equipment, which was used on the day.

The club has a year-long project to introduce 350 people to rowing as part of the national strategy to improve the activity levels of the nation. The partnership with the local rowing club was established earlier in the year as part of a joint venture to encourage young people within the student body to have a healthy and active lifestyle.

Adam said: “The students did really well with this event, and to raise so much money is absolutely fantastic.

“Not only have they conquered a difficult challenge, they have also developed some valuable employability skills and a greater understanding of the benefits of living a healthy and active lifestyle.”

Rowing club link and LMC Sports Science Course Manager Steven Sullivan said: “The students really took to the challenge, and after a wobbly start their confidence started to grow.”They demonstrated excellent team work and leadership skills which allowed them to find an excellent rhythm. The students successfully completed the challenge raising a total of £420, making a large contribution to the £2,000 target that LMC hopes to raise this year.”

Tackling Inactivity ensures that students not only improve their fitness and mental wellbeing, but these events seek to give the students employability skills, such as team work, communication and organisation skills.

Other opportunities have included Trampolining at Jump Rush in Morecambe, a trip to France for skiing and snowboard coaching and Bulgaria & Hungary for coaching and cultural exchanges.