A cloud containing the word Healthy, accompanied by three word endings stacked on top of each other, 'U', 'Us', 'University'. It reads 'HealthyU, HealthyUs, HealthyUniversity'. There is a UoN sports logo. The bottom text outside the cloud says 'All staff and students are invited to...' and in the bottom-right corner it reads 'BeActive'. It promotes having fun with exercise at university.

April 9, 2024, by Lauren

Staying active at university (and making it fun!)

According to the NHS, we should aim for 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. I can see why they said ‘per week’ because it definitely sounds better than ‘an average of 21.429 minutes per day’. So how can you be sure you’ve done your 21.429 moderate minutes? Moderate exercise raises your heart rate and makes you breathe harder. Normal daily activity doesn’t really raise your heart rate (submitting your Turnitin assignment at 2:59pm doesn’t count). So, moderate exercise has to be done on purpose.

But why bother counting out 1286 sweaty seconds? Admittedly, I’m a very unlikely source for fitness advice. I didn’t come to UoN for its sports university status (it was a sunny open day, I’d managed to parallel park, the English department were lovely, and I saw a bunny-). But the sheer volume of exercise facilities here has won me over. I found that exercise really helps to reduce stress and make me feel better.

Being in halls gives me free access to the David Ross Sports Village, the main part of my physical activity But there are lots of other ways to be active at university, so I’ll share my findings.

Walking on campus – this is an easy way to fit exercise time into your day

There are certainly times where I’ve walked around campus just wanting to get to my destination. You know the one: walking back to your room again because you forgot your laptop charger. Recently though, I’ve gone for long walks on purpose. I’ve really connected to the campus lately by focusing on its green spaces. I use the PictureThis plant scanning app and am now obsessed with identifying trees. Do my walks take longer? Yes, and my boyfriend has to stop once a minute while I’m pondering whether it’s a hazel tree or a small-leaved lime. But are my walks fun? Yes, and I go on so many walks now!

These are my favourite plants to spot on campus. You can click for images of the plant and some Google Streetviews of where they are located on campus.

  1. Coralberries. Cute little pink berries on green bushes all over campus.
  2. Cedar and cypress trees. Between Monica Partridge and Hallward, click for streetview of the trees.
  3. Hazel trees (by Cavendish Hall) and walnut trees (outside Nightingale Hall, click for streetview).
  4. Tasmanian Blue Gum. In Highfields Walled Garden behind Trent, or outside Rutland Hall (streetview).
  5. River Red Gum. By the steps leading from Cripps Hall and Clive Granger (streetview).
  6. Silver birches (top of The Downs) vs paper birches (lower on The Downs and by Monica Partridge).

Getting a bike

Ok, so sometimes you have to get places quickly and can’t scan every plant. This is where cycling comes in. At first, I thought a bike would be more trouble than it was worth. But I changed my mind when I realised how insanely fast it was! Of course, our campus can be a little bit hilly for cycling (petition to rename The Downs to The Ups). However, that’s when I just shamelessly hop off my bike and wheel it along. The time you save is mostly on the flat parts of campus. You know how when you’re walking, you probably walk behind the same person the whole way? With a bike, you pass that person, then the next person, then the next, and a jogger.

I think my £15 Facebook Marketplace bike has more than paid for itself just for the feeling of whizzing down from Trent towards Florence Boot Hall. It’s easy to navigate the cars on the road, as University Park campus has a cycle lane and a 20mph speed limit. The Portland Building Spar sells bike locks and all campuses have tons of cycle storage. The university also has a cycle hire scheme and often hosts ‘Dr Bike’, who fixes bikes for free. There are handy little bike pump/repair stations around campus too, with spanners and such. Finally, I’d recommend trying the Lime e-bikes for a fun boost!

HIIT workouts

This is a great option if you don’t have a gym membership or just want to exercise in your room. ‘High Intensity Interval Training’ involves a huge variety of exercises, which keeps things interesting. Workouts constantly switch between muscle groups so nothing gets too tired. I find my workouts on YouTube and enjoy following along. Often, I end up doing exercises that would normally spook me, since each one only lasts 30-40 seconds. There is no world in which I would normally do the ‘t-plank’ and I sigh every time it comes up, but I’m definitely getting better at it.

Doing HIIT workouts means that exercise fits very easily into your day. It is challenging, but mostly because it’s condensed into a quick and effective session. The challenge aspect makes HIIT very motivating for me. I’m still trying to make it through a thirty-minute video I found on YouTube, but I manage more each time. I pause the video when it gets too much and have fun browsing the comments. Everyone comments the same thing: ‘only made it through 7 mins the first time but keep going everyone!!!1!1!1!’. I wonder how all those people are doing.

Exercise at UoN’s gyms

Have you ever been on a manual treadmill? It is a hoot. David Ross Sports Village has a few. If you’ve stood on an escalator as a child and convinced yourself that moving your hand on the black rail was making the escalator go, that’s what a manual treadmill does. The treadmill speeds up when you do and slows down when you do. It’s like running on the ground, but if the ground kept moving for a second when you stopped, meaning you had to keep running or you’d fall. Can you tell I’m fascinated by it? I was trying to think of the equivalent for the rowing machine, but I realised that would be a boat…

Anyway, the university gyms are full of exciting equipment like this, as well as the standard stuff. It’s been really inspiring trying new things, like the different strength training machines. I never thought I’d use them, but the diagrams on them show you exactly what to do. The gyms also have the coldest and most exquisite drinking water you will ever try. I don’t even fill my water bottle up before leaving my room, because I’d rather fill it with the beautiful Arctic water. Polar bears would be jealous of this water.

David Ross Sports Village

David Ross is nearest to me, and I love visiting at night for the industrial disco vibes created by the new lighting. The big windows are excellent too. Since the cardio machines all face the windows, it helps me to feel less self-conscious because I’m not looking at anyone else. It also feels surreal watching the football practice from up high like some airborne spectator. I distract myself from those long cardio seconds by focusing on one specific player outside.

My favourite part of my gym session is playing sudoku on the gym machines’ screens. I totally forget that I’m sweating from my Moderate Exercise because I’m frantically trying to solve the sudoku before I finish my session. Admittedly, I play on easy mode, but you try placing a 9 when the machine’s telling you that your workout has now powered 400 lightbulbs.

HealthyU’s BeActive campaign

Hopefully, I’ve convinced you to try something new for your exercise. It’s great timing, because all your physical activity can go towards the April Active Steps Challenge on UoN’s Moves app! If you download the Moves+ app and log in with your Nottingham credentials, your phone’s activity tracker will work with the app. You can join the April challenge and more, or just collect points generally. Points are earned for different kinds of physical activity and can contribute towards rewards like UoN merch, sports massages and catering credits. The April challenge has a student prize draw for a £100 Amazon voucher or Polaroid camera. If you really like Amazon vouchers, you can also submit a photo of your favourite outdoor space to be active in to Healthy U’s ‘My Great Outdoors’ photo competition.

Posted in Lauren