Six steps to student wellness: part one

Written by Professor David Russell in partnership with Charlotte Harbour

In this two-part series, we’ll be discussing six key areas of focus to augment positive student health and wellbeing outcomes. This month, we’ll scan three visible and recognisable drivers of student wellbeing stemming from higher education institutions – nutrition, exercise and emotional support services. Next month, we will delve deeper into alternative or less visible mediums of wellbeing management and optimisation. 

Let’s begin…

1. Nutritionally dense food and beverage offers

Here at the Russell Partnership, food is at the heart of what we do, so it will come as no surprise that our number one recommendation for optimised student wellness is the provision of nutritionally dense food and beverage offers. In practical terms, this means a predominately plant-based diet rich in raw and cooked rainbow vegetables, low-sugar fruits, nuts, seeds, pulses, RSPCA-assured animal products such as free-range eggs, dairy and chicken as well as MSC sustainably sourced seafood such as salmon, trout and mackerel. Research continues to demonstrate the significant effect diet has on physical longevity, mental health outcomes and academic performance. 

 – Are you running nutrition workshops and cooking for health sessions on campus? 

2. Physical activity spaces

Our bodies are organic machines that were built to move, grow and improve. A staple of health and wellbeing, regardless of age or student status, is the regularity and intensity of conscious exercise. Studies suggest that the most beneficial form of exercises are a combination of weight-bearing and cardio, with outdoor team sports being even better due to the community aspect – and fresh air. By offering subsidised gym memberships on or nearby campus, running classes in the sports hall and engaging students in the team sports available, we can positively influence students to spend their leisure time participating in physical activity. 

 – Are you running alternative exercise classes on campus such as aerial yoga, climbing and trampolining?  

Professor David Russell 

3. Emotional encouragement and support services

Life for our students is busier than ever. Our world is full of opportunities, distractions, pressures and obligations. Indeed, research now shows that up to a quarter of our students could be suffering from a mental health problem – with some estimates suggesting a 300% increase in anxiety-related disorders over the past 20 years. Whilst this could be due to an increase in reporting incidences and greater advocacy for mental health-related dialogue – we should also consider that societal pressures are taking a greater emotional toll on our students’ generation. Ensuring there are adequate, accessible and recognisable emotional encouragement services in the form of pastoral support, talking therapies and counselling will pave the way to greater student wellbeing. Furthermore, online self-assessment software such as the Stems by RP Resilience and Vulnerability Index (RAVI) are also valuable in engaging students before a crisis occurs and in determining emotional awareness and adaptive help seeking.

 – Have you considered implementing a self-assessment tool for students to optimise their own emotional awareness?

Join us next month for the second part of Six Steps to Student Wellness, in the August issue of UB.

For more on The Russell Partnership, visit

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