Physical Wellbeing

What is Physical Wellbeing?

We want to encourage our students to get active in ways that deliver the most for their physical wellbeing.

We know that being physically active can give a huge boost to our health. 

It can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 30-40% and can reduce the risk of a range of medical conditions, including cancer, dementia, strokes, heart disease and depression.

Sport and physical activity can help prevent ill health as well as provide therapeutic and management effects for those suffering - particularly for people affected by cancer.

It can also lead to improvements in strength, balance, movement and motor skills, and help in maintaining a healthy body weight. 

Sport and physical activity can help prevent ill health as well as provide therapeutic and management effects for those suffering - particularly for people affected by cancer.

It can also lead to improvements in strength, balance, movement and motor skills, and help in maintaining a healthy body weight. 

Other physical wellbeing outcomes backed by evidence include improved quality of sleep, increased energy levels, healthy early years development, reduced unhealthy behaviours like smoking, reduced mortality, effective pain management and improved quality of life in ageing.


Introduction It's easy to overlook, but choosing healthier drinks is a key part of getting a balanced diet. Many soft drinks, including instant powdered drinks and hot chocolate, are high in sugar. Food and drinks that are high in sugar are often high in calories and having too many calories can make you more likely to gain weight. 
Some energy drinks are high in both sugar and caffeine. Checking the nutrition labels on soft drinks such as fruit juices and fizzy drinks can help you make healthier choices. 
We should drink 6 to 8 glasses of fluid a day. Water, lower fat milk and sugar-free drinks, including tea and coffee, all count. 
Drink plenty of water 
  • Water is a healthy and cheap choice for quenching your thirst at any time. It has no calories and contains no sugars that can damage teeth. 
  •  Plain tea, fruit tea and coffee (without added sugar) can also be healthy. 
  • If you do not like the taste of plain water, try sparkling water or add a slice of lemon or lime. 

Drink semi-skimmed, 1% fat or skimmed milk 
  • Milk is a good source of calcium, a mineral that helps build and maintain healthy bones. 
  • It also contains protein, vitamins and other minerals, and does not cause tooth decay. 
  • For a healthier choice, choose semi-skimmed, 1% fat or skimmed milk. 

Juices, smoothies and 5 A Day 
  • Fruit and vegetable juices and smoothies contain a variety of vitamins and minerals. 
  • A 150ml glass of unsweetened fruit juice, vegetable juice or smoothie can count as a maximum of 1 portion of your recommended 5 daily portions of fruit and vegetables. In other words, limit the amount of fruit juice, vegetable juice or smoothie you have to no more than a combined total of 150ml a day (1 small glass). 
  • Once released, these sugars can damage your teeth, especially if you drink juice or smoothies often. 
  • It's best to drink juice or smoothies with a meal because this helps reduce harm to your teeth. 

Fizzy drinks, flavoured waters, and squashes with added sugar 
  • Fizzy drinks, squashes and juice drinks can contain lots of added sugar and very few nutrients, so keep them to a minimum. 
  • Flavoured water drinks can also contain a surprisingly large amount of sugar, so check the label before you buy. 
  • Also beware of ‘juice drinks’ as they may not have enough fruit in them to count towards your 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day. 

Caffeinated drinks 
  • Caffeine is a stimulant. Drinks containing caffeine can temporarily make us feel more alert or less drowsy. 
  •  Caffeine affects some people more than others, and the effect can depend on how much caffeine you normally consume. 

Tea and coffee 
  • It's fine to drink tea and coffee as part of a balanced diet. Bear in mind, though, that caffeinated drinks can make the body produce urine more quickly. 
  • Some people are more susceptible to this than others, but it also depends on how much caffeine you have and how often you have it. 

Energy drinks and caffeine 
  • Energy drinks often contain high levels of caffeine and are often high in sugar (calories). 
  • They may also contain other stimulants, and sometimes vitamins and minerals or herbal substances. The caffeine levels in these drinks vary, but there's often around 80mg of caffeine in a small 250ml can. 

Sports Drinks 
  • Sports drinks can be useful when you're doing high-level endurance sports and need an energy boost. 
  • Unless you're taking part in high-level endurance sports, water is the healthier choice and the best way to replace fluids lost through exercise. 

Further information: 

The benefits

Physical activity is defined as any bodily movement that requires you to expend energy. 

Being physically active can help you lead a healthier and happier life.  Moreover, people who exercise regularly have a lower risk of developing many long-term (chronic) conditions, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and some cancers.   In fact it can reduce your risk of major illnesses, such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and cancer by up to 50% and lower your risk of early death by up to 30%.

Research also shows that physical activity can also boost self-esteem, mood, sleep quality and energy, as well as reducing your risk of stress, depression, dementia and Alzheimer's disease. 

NHS guidelines for physical activity for adults aged 19 to 64 suggests that adults should do some type of physical activity every day. Any type of activity is good for you. The more you do the better.

Adults in this age group should:

  • aim to be physically active every day. Any activity is better than none, and more is better still!
  • do strengthening activities that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms) on at least 2 days a week. 
  • Strengthening activities include yoga, carrying heavy shopping bags, lifting weights, doing exercises that use your own body weight, such as push-ups or sit-ups, 
  • do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity a week. 
  • Moderate intensity activity will raise your heart rate, and make you breathe faster and feel warmer. One way to tell if you're working at a moderate intensity level is if you can still talk, but not sing! Examples include brisk walking, cycling or dancing.
  • Vigorous intensity activity makes you breathe hard and fast. If you're working at this level, you will not be able to say more than a few words without pausing for breath.  Most moderate activities can become vigorous if you increase your effort but other examples include jogging, running, swimming fast, walking up the stairs, sports like football and netball, skipping and aerobics.

Why nutrition is important to wellbeing


What we eat and drink has an impact on our physical health, mental wellbeing and performance at work. 

It is important that we eat healthily both at home and in the workplace.

What is a healthy diet?

A healthy diet is a balanced diet which includes food from all the major food groups in the right proportions, and in quantities which maintain a healthy body weight.

Benefits of a healthy diet

Eating well has multiple benefits, including:

  • Increased energy
  • Improved sleep quality
  • Improved mood and mental wellbeing
  • Helping you maintain a healthy body weight
  • Clearer skin
  • Lowering the risk of chronic health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, and cancer
Your diet should give you the right amount of energy (measured in calories or kilojoules) you need to do all your normal everyday activities. Even processes like breathing and thinking use up energy.

You're in energy balance if you take in exactly what you use up. Taking in more energy than you need leads to weight gain, whereas taking in less than you need will cause you to lose weight.

The amount of energy you need depends on things such as your age and how active you are. But generally, women need around 2000 calories a day, and men around 2500 calories.

It's not just about counting calories though. It's also important to eat the right types of food and in the right proportions for good health.

Eating well at University 

We consume at least a third of our daily calories whilst at work, and what we eat and drink affects our work performance as well as our health. Eating healthily can help to improve concentration and boost our energy levels, as well as reducing levels of stress, and drinking plenty of water prevents headaches, fatigue and dizziness from dehydration.

If you have been generally not well, experiencing the symptoms for some time and it’s affecting your daily life or causing you distress, you should consider seeking further professional support.

Nutritional Guidance

The Eatwell Guide shows how much of what we eat overall should come from each food group to achieve a healthy, balanced diet. 

Calories Per Day: 
Female: 2000kcal
Male: 2500kcal

Fruit and vegetables 
Eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day. 
  • Eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables a day. 
  • Most of us still are not eating enough fruit and vegetables. They should make up over a third of the food we eat each day. 
  • Remember that fruit juice and smoothies should be limited to no more than a combined total of 150ml a day. 

Potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and other starchy carbohydrates Choose wholegrain or higher fibre versions with less added fat, salt and sugar 
  • Starchy food should make up just over a third of the food we eat. Choose higher fibre wholegrain varieties, such as whole-wheat pasta and brown rice, or simply leave skins on potatoes. 
  • Starchy foods are a good source of energy and the main source of a range of nutrients in our diet. 

Oils and spreads Choose unsaturated oils and use in small amounts 
  • Unsaturated fats are healthier fats and include vegetable, rapeseed, olive and sunflower oils. 
  • Remember all types of fat are high in energy and should be eaten sparingly. 

Dairy and alternatives 
Choose lower fat and lower sugar options 
  • Milk, cheese, yoghurt and fromage frais are good sources of protein and some vitamins, and they're also an important source of calcium, which helps keep our bones strong. 
  • Try to go for lower fat and lower sugar products where possible, like 1% fat milk, reduced-fat cheese or plain low-fat yoghurt. 

Beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins Eat more beans and pulses, 2 portions of sustainably sourced fish per week, one of which is oily. Eat less red and processed meat 
  • These foods are good sources of protein, vitamins and minerals. Pulses, such as beans, peas and lentils, are good alternatives to meat because they are lower in fat and higher in fibre and protein, too. 
  • Choose lean cuts of meat and mince, and eat less red and processed meat like bacon, ham and sausages. 
  • Aim for at least 2 portions of fish every week, 1 of which should be oily, such as salmon or mackerel. 

Foods high in fat, salt and sugar 
  • These foods include chocolate, cakes, biscuits, sugary soft drinks, butter, ghee and ice cream. They are not needed in our diet, so should be eaten less often and in smaller amounts. 

Drink at least 6 to 8 glasses a day 
  • Water, lower fat milks and lower sugar or sugar-free drinks, including tea and coffee, all count. 
  • Fruit juice and smoothies also count towards your fluid consumption, but they contain free sugars that can damage teeth, so limit these drinks to a combined total of 150ml a day. 

Further information: 

Why is sleep important to your wellbeing?

Sleep plays a vital role in good health and well-being throughout your life. 

Getting enough quality sleep at the right times can help protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety.

The way you feel while you're awake depends in part on what happens while you're sleeping. During sleep, your body is working to support healthy brain function and maintain your physical health. In children and teens, sleep also helps support growth and development.

The damage from sleep deficiency can occur in an instant (such as a car crash), or it can harm you over time. For example, ongoing sleep deficiency can raise your risk for some chronic health problems. It also can affect how well you think, react, work, learn, and get along with others.

Healthy Brain Function and Emotional Well-Being

Sleep helps your brain work properly. While you're sleeping, your brain is preparing for the next day. It's forming new pathways to help you learn and remember information.

Physical Health

Sleep plays an important role in your physical health. For example, sleep is involved in healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels. Ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. 

Sleep deficiency also increases the risk of obesity. For example, one study of teenagers showed that with each hour of sleep lost, the odds of becoming obese went up. Sleep deficiency increases the risk of obesity in other age groups as well.

Sleep helps maintain a healthy balance of the hormones that make you feel hungry (ghrelin) or full (leptin). When you don't get enough sleep, your level of ghrelin goes up and your level of leptin goes down. This makes you feel hungrier than when you're well-rested.

Sleep also affects how your body reacts to insulin, the hormone that controls your blood glucose (sugar) level. Sleep deficiency results in a higher than normal blood sugar level, which may increase your risk for diabetes.

Daytime Performance and Safety

Getting enough quality sleep at the right times helps you function well throughout the day. People who are sleep deficient are less productive at work and school. They take longer to finish tasks, have a slower reaction time, and make more mistakes.
After several nights of losing sleep, even a loss of just 1-2 hours per night, your ability to function suffers as if you haven't slept at all for a day or two.

Lack of sleep also may lead to microsleep. Microsleep refers to brief moments of sleep that occur when you're normally awake.

You can't control microsleep, and you might not be aware of it. For example, have you ever driven somewhere and then not remembered part of the trip? If so, you may have experienced microsleep. Even if you're not driving, microsleep can affect how you function..

Some people aren't aware of the risks of sleep deficiency. In fact, they may not even realize that they're sleep deficient. Even with limited or poor-quality sleep, they may still think that they can function well.

If you have been experiencing the symptoms for some time and it’s affecting your daily life or causing you distress, you should consider seeking further professional support.