Imperial has launched its Physical Activity & Sport Strategy, outlining its plan to empower students and staff to prioritise their physical wellbeing.
Led by Move Imperial, the strategy is the result of a consultation process that saw over 2700 students and staff contribute their vision for physical wellbeing at the College.
Read the strategy on the Move Imperial website
The plan will seek to centralise physical wellbeing and sport in the College’s activities, whilst building on an already strong national performance, which has seen Imperial ranked as the 16th best institution for competitive sport in the UK.
The strategy lays out five pillars – physical wellbeing, active, active curriculum, Imperial Athletes, and infrastructure – but is predicated on a singular, overarching goal: to enable every member of the Imperial community to meet the national recommendation of 150 minutes of physical activity per week.
Will Hollyer, Head of Move Imperial, who led on the development of the strategy alongside colleagues from across the institution, said:
“The strategy is an ambitious roadmap but, more fundamentally than that, it seeks to change how we view sport at the College. Not as something that sits on the periphery of our academic work, but as something that contributes to and enables us all to function at our very best.”
“There is no longer an argument as to the benefits of physical activity on an individual, societal or global level. The challenge now is engaging a broader set of people in viewing physical activity as something that is for them, and building the facilities and services that can make that happen.”
What does the strategy aim to do?
The strategy looks to build upon the successes of its predecessor, the Be Active Strategy 2017-2021 which, during its lifetime, saw the launch of the Move Imperial brand, the Imperial Athletes structure for student sport, and, in 2021-22, a record high placing for the College in the British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) league.
The five pillars each outline an ambition and identify specific actions:
Key commitments include:
- Contribute to and support the College’s first Comprehensive Mental Health & Wellbeing Strategy
- Delivery of a series of innovative physical wellbeing programmes
- Develop a full College-wide intramural sports offering
- Create physical activity resources that are available across all campuses
- Ensure facilities are in line with community expectations – building upon action plans that focus on capacity and availability across campuses
- Launch an innovative ‘Active Curriculum’ model that seeks to break up sedentary periods of study with small bursts of physical activity
A collaborative process
The strategy marks the culmination of an extensive consultation period that stretches back to 2021. Small focus groups with students and staff – including athletes and gym members - provided an initial base for further exploration. This was followed by an all-College survey in 2022 which attracted over 2700 responses.
“The data we received from the survey was invaluable. To see that kind of engagement with the project was incredibly reaffirming.” says Will Hollyer.
"...we need to support our community more in feeling able to allocate time to be active." Will Hollyer Head of Sport
“The themes were generally consistent: that the College may be academically excellent, but this excellence means that we don’t always budget enough time or place sufficient importance on physical wellbeing.”
Students frequently noted a feeling of “guilt” about finding time to regularly exercise when balanced with their academic responsibilities.
“It's clear that we need to support our community more in feeling able to allocate time to be active, whilst making sure that decisions across the institution – from facilities and budgets to scheduling and wellbeing – factor sport and physical activity in from the very beginning. It’s going to take a cross-College effort, but the impacts can be incredibly positive”
Move Imperial have already begun that collaborative effort, with some components of the strategy emerging as a result of partnerships with academic departments.
For example, the Active Curriculum pillar is a development of a Student Shapers Project that originated in the Faculty of Medicine in 2020-21. The initial project aimed to reduce the sedentary behaviour inherent to education (seminars, classes, lectures) by incorporating short exercises at set periods of teaching. In collaboration with Move Imperial, the ambition is now to explore how these principles could be deployed more broadly across the College.
Encouraging participation from all
The overarching aim of the strategy - to enable 100% of the College community to achieve 150 minutes of moderate activity each week - will require innovative approaches to encourage participation from all areas of the institution.
Move Imperial are planning a wide-ranging programme of events and outreach activities. This begins with the Big Step Challenge - a cross-College competitive step challenge which is now live and available to register for all students and staff.
"Physical activity is for everyone. It comes in many different forms and can suit any experience level, body type, budget, or availability. Our job is to make sure that prioritising your physical wellbeing feels welcoming, understandable and enjoyable." said Leisha Wegg, Wellbeing Manager at Move Imperial.
"The best thing is to simply start; any activity is better than none at all"
Article text (excluding photos or graphics) © Imperial College London.
Photos and graphics subject to third party copyright used with permission or © Imperial College London.
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