This Norwich university is letting students take dogs for walks in new mental health initiative
- Credit: University of East Anglia
Few would deny the power of dogs to cheer and calm people in even the foulest of moods.
And a Norwich university is set to test this theory by bringing in some four-legged friends to help boost students' wellbeing.
Dog walking is one new initiative being introduced by the University of East Anglia after it received £12,000 of funding to tackle mental health problems through physical activity.
The money from Sport England will enable UEA+sport to develop three new programmes for the university's 17,000-strong student population, including giving people the chance to walk dogs in groups around the campus.
Further walks will also be organised in places such as Cromer and Thetford Forest to allow students to explore more of Norfolk.
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Research by UEA academic Prof Andy Jones, from the Norwich Medical School, suggests that dog walking has significant benefits.
He said: 'Our studies have shown that dog walking helps people to maintain their physical activity levels. In addition it is known that there are a wide range of social and mental health benefits.'
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Oli Gray, activities and opportunities officer at UEA's student union, said: 'University can be a stressful time for students, with many feeling pressure from academic deadlines, financial worries and being away from home for the first time.
'Last year, in the largest study of its kind, the British Active Students Survey concluded that students who are more physically active have better mental wellbeing and attain higher academic grades.'
Phil Steele, director of sport and commercial services at UEA, agreed that having contact with animals could be stress-relieving for students.
He said: 'The charity Pets as Therapy often visits us during exam periods so that students can pet the dogs, with the most recent session seeing hundreds of people queueing out the door – so we know this initiative is going to be hugely popular.'
Florence Pond, a third year intercultural communications with business management student, said: 'I think the dog walking scheme is a fantastic idea. I know so many students who will enjoy taking some time for themselves to de-stress, especially during the hectic exam season.'
The university will be using a local provider for the dog-walking scheme.
A proportion of the Sport England funding, awarded through British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS), will go towards cycling safety courses and cycling sessions for students, to complement UEA's sponsorship of the HSBC UK National Road Championships, to be held in Norwich in June.