Official reopening of sports centre highlights the importance of exercise in wellbeing



By Imogen Horton, News Editor and Laura Reid, University Management Correspondent

Yesterday, 10th October, marked the official reopening of the Indoor Sports Centre, which has undergone a £4.9 million makeover.

A key focus of the day was mental health, with the reopening including a 90-minute exercise class and a workshop with artist Fandangoe Kid, which explored how belonging and physical activity can support better mental health. Wellbeing advisors were also situated in the reception area of the gym with advice and information about where students can get support.

Matt Birch, Director of Sport, Exercise and Health, said: ‘I am really proud that the sports centre is at the forefront of the positive changes in Campus Heart.

‘Our message is ‘We Are Bristol’ and if you are interested in getting fitter and looking after your mental health, sign up to a new class, join a club or take out a membership and we’re sure that you’ll meet like-minded people and have fun.’

As part of the transformation of the sports centre, the University are particularly focused on expanding their Healthy Minds programme which concentrates on how exercise can improve wellbeing.

Talking at the official reopening of the sport centre, Matt Birch explained that for Healthy Minds ‘appropriate students are referred to the division [by the student counselling service], they receive free access to the facilities and to the activity programmes and a mentor to support them. It makes a real difference. It’s life changing for some of them'.

‘This building will allow that work to continue. We will grow it, we will work with the wellbeing advisor network and the residential life team and increase the referrals onto that programme as the capacity we have now, allows that to happen.’

Photo by: Epigram / Imogen Horton

Bethany Hickton, a third year PhD student, took part in Healthy Minds after she was diagnosed with clinical depression following a fall where she badly fractured her spine. Spending 16 weeks in a spinal brace caused Bethany to experience ‘a lot of anxiety' and she also suffered from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) when returning to campus, as that was where her accident had happened.

Healthy Minds was suggested to Bethany by the University counselling service, and she claims that without it she’d never have thought of trying sports. As part of the programme, Bethany started to lift weights, something she found she had an aptitude for.

‘Out of nowhere, I was good at it. It was such a joyous moment. I now judge my body on what it can do, not what it looks like. [Healthy Minds] was all about body confidence and having fun.’

Bethany is now a student support development coach, mentoring people on the Healthy Minds programme.

Key parts of the transformation include:
• New state-of-the art equipment
• A third more gym space with 180 stations
• Additional membership capacity, from 4,750 to 5,950
• An additional studio for fitness classes
• Increased number of classes from 70 to over 100 per week
• New male, female and gender-neutral changing rooms on the ground floor
• New quick-access UCard gates

The new changes aim to make the sports centre more welcoming and user-friendly. They are part of a larger ‘Campus Heart’ programme to transform the services and building on and around Tyndall Avenue, including a new library on the Hawthorns site.

At the official opening for the sports centre, Hugh Brady, Vice-Chancellor, said that Campus Heart ‘aims to create a much more welcoming, identifiable heart to the campus, that is an asset not just for our students and staff but for the citizens of the city’.

Featured Image: Epigram / Imogen Horton

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