As part of University Mental Health Day, Thursday, March 4th.

“I think when the world feels so chaotic and uncertain, taking that time out for yourself to exercise has such a huge impact on your mental wellbeing, for boosting your spirit and your mood, and just helping you to cope.”

That is the message from 21-year-old Team Sunderland Netball President Philippa Nilsen.

With outdoor sports venues having to close under England’s lockdown rules, many clubs have turned to online sessions to help boost team morale.

Philippa said: “We’ve worked incredibly hard to try and maintain that sense of community and team spirit among the girls.

“The University of Sunderland has held weekly online fitness sessions for the club, which have proven very popular with the team, and on top of that we’ve had our own virtual netball training classes.

“Asking how they’ve found the online sessions, most of the girls said that little half an hour in their day has just boosted them so much and given them such a relief from the pressures of university, the news and all the chaos that has happened over the last year.”

Lucy Brooks studies Sport and Exercise Sciences at the University and joined Team Sunderland Netball in 2019.

“Having the ability to take part in online sessions during the pandemic has been extremely helpful,” she said.

“Not only has my physical health improved but my mental health has too. Seeing the girls each week really helped and brought us all closer as a team.”

Twenty-year-old Lucy and her teammates could be reunited on the pitch soon, though.

Last week, the Prime Minister revealed his roadmap out of lockdown, which could see outdoor sports allowed to resume in England from March 29th.

Dr Sandra Leyland is Programme Leader for Nutrition, Exercise and Health at the University.

She said: “Like many things, sport and exercise is more fun with friends. However, current restrictions mean that many of us are missing the companionship of friends and teammates.

“Remember that exercising within family bubbles or with one other person is one of the few social activities we are allowed.

“No matter what your fitness level, regular physical activity, even just a 10 minute burst of brisk walking can boost not only your physical health but also to your mood and sense of wellbeing.

“Evidence shows us that people who exercise regularly have better quality of sleep, sharper memories and tend to feel more energised and alert for longer.

“When we exercise, a number of physiological changes occur that boost mood and help to generate that feel good factor. Psychological changes occur too. Rhythmical patterns of movement, for example, can help to facilitate mindfulness and offers a welcome distraction from stress and worry.”

Also, as part of University Mental Health Day, Sunderland students Lauren Hawkes, 20, who is studying Performing Arts, and Ryan Ellison, also 20, studying Music, have written a song to help spread positivity during the pandemic.

Watch “Take a Breath” here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L-2-_FQSfxg&feature=youtu.be