According to research by YouGov conducted in 2016, more than a quarter of all students report having a mental health problem, with depression and anxiety being the most common mental health issues. With only a few hours of lectures a week, the well-known heavy drinking and poor diets of a ‘typical’ student, use of recreational drugs and increasing debts is it any wonder that numbers of students suffering from poor mental health are on the rise?
This is where sport and physical exercise comes into play. Being physically active, releasing those wonderful endorphins and belonging to a group or team of like-minded individuals working towards the same goal, all contribute to combatting the effects of mental illness. Although research into the correlation between exercise and mental health is still relatively new, experts are convinced of the link between the two. The effects of working out (whether that be swimming, dancing, yoga, weight-lifting etc.) are known to boost mental well-being. Physical activity helps mental health in many ways, including improving your mood, reducing stress, increasing self-esteem, and preventing or managing the symptoms of depression and anxiety.
What each of us chooses to do to be active is a personal choice, for some running is their time to switch off, be mindful and being at one with the rhythm of their feet, for others joining a football team or a yoga class is how they unwind. At MASS (the Muscle and Athletic Sports Society) we are all about creating a supportive, informative and competitive student fitness community.
MASS was started in 2011 by David Bissell, a student at the time, who wanted to promote health, wellbeing and fitness at the University of Leicester where he was studying. Since then the MASS society concept has been adopted by 20 universities across the UK. Each society is self-sufficient with a committee of students overseeing each club. Every year several events are organized for all societies to come together to compete, socialize and share success stories.
David explains more about MASS and how being a member can benefit student life:
“Working out can be a lonely road, although the benefits of physical exercise are clear alternatives such as boozing, although more detrimental in the long run, can be more attractive in the moment for the immediate reward and social acceptance they give. MASS makes it cool to go to the gym, adding a community aspect and sharing a wealth of knowledge to enable members to get better results, safely. Students who join and partake feel better about themselves and more confident and go on to greater successes because of it.”
MASS is non-discriminative, everyone is welcome, any age of student, any gender and any level of fitness. The goal is to become the healthiest and fittest version of yourself as part of a community. Being a member of a MASS society means that you have access to a wealth of information in regards to training (bodybuilding, strength, fitness, sports performance) and nutrition. We support each of our student members in trying new ways of working-out with nutrition advice, mentoring and support. What is learned at MASS as a student can then be applied to life after university and beyond.
The benefits of being part of a supportive community are also well known. As part of a team you can accomplish more than if you were going it alone. Sharing knowledge, comradery and motivation are all key to succeeding in life. A sense of belonging and being part of something boosts our self-esteem and plays a big role in our mental well-being. Being a MASS member, therefore, not only has physical benefits, but psychological benefits too.
Matt Woodley, 2017/18 MASS Brighton President and national President of the Year Award winner, feels passionately about the benefits of MASS:
“Having gone through a very hard time in the past 5 years, with the death of both my parents in that time, I’ve felt a massive strain on my mental health. But I found through running a MASS society and being part of a fitness community both at my university and nationwide, I’ve found a distraction and a supportive community of people. I could genuinely say I likely wouldn’t still be standing if it wasn’t for the gym, lifting weights and the community I’ve been lucky enough to be part of.”
Interested in learning more about MASS and what we do? Get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org or follow us on social media @muscleathleticsports
If you’re concerned you or a friend may be affected by mental health problems there are lots of places you can go for help. The charity Mind is a great place for information and support – call 0300 123 3393 or visit their website mind.org.uk to speak to a trained advisor.