Northumbria University students challenge lazy stereotype

University life can be a time when people eat unhealthy food and do little exercise. Health Reporter Helen Rae speaks to students challenging the stereotype

Paul Norris Peter Bakare, works out at Sport Central in Northumbria University, with fellow student Whitney Phillips
Peter Bakare, works out at Sport Central in Northumbria University, with fellow student Whitney Phillips

Thousands of students in the North East are happily settling into their first term at university after having had a long summer break off.

For many, it is an opportunity to get a free-range in the kitchen for the first time and the chance to spend their hours however they like.

To ensure students in the region are encouraged to lead a healthy and balanced lifestyle, Northumbria University has a number of schemes in place to help ensure people don’t lead a sedentary and unhealthy lifestyle.

Peter Bakare, an animation student at Northumbria University, knows first-hand the importance of healthy eating and exercise as he was a member of London 2012, Team GB volleyball. “I think everyone can gain from taking part in sports and fitness,” he said. “You don’t need to be a competitive athlete to enjoy the benefits.

“Even for people who are not yet active, taking that first step into fitness, even if it’s just a small one, will give you lots of good results.

“For students, taking regular exercise means you are less lethargic – so it actually benefits your social life as you feel more inclined to get out there and do more.

“One of the first things I learned about taking part in sports is that the tenacity that it builds within you can be transferred into other parts of your life.

“For people studying, that means it can help you stay more focussed when it comes to your work and academic life too.”

Peter Bakare, works out at Sport Central in Northumbria University
Peter Bakare, works out at Sport Central in Northumbria University

Peter started playing basketball when he was just 11-years-old so has always had an active childhood. He then developed a love of volleyball when he was 18 and has played ever since.

Yet it wasn’t until he started university that he built other fitness activities around the playing of volleyball.

“When I started university, in addition to playing team volleyball, we had to take part in strength and conditioning training for two hours, three times a week,” he said.

“We also built in regular cardio activities like spinning classes whenever we could.”

Peter plays for Team Northumbria – the competitive arm of Northumbria University sport, battling it out with teams across the country.

As a result his sports regime is intense and strict, however, sport is not just for elite athletes and can be for people of all ages and fitness levels.

“There is a more recreational programme attached to university sport as well,” said Peter.

“You don‘t have to play competitively, you can play for fun, to socialise and to keep fit.

“For example, we sometimes hire out one of the halls in Sport Central for a social game of five-a-side.”

Northumbria University offers Start, Develop and Advance courses for students who might like to try new types of exercise.

These courses range from badminton and running, through to fencing and climbing.

Intra-mural leagues also offer opportunities for students to take part in friendly competitions against each other in sports such as football, netball and indoor cricket.

Peter said: “Northumbria has some of the best sports facilities in the country. I think what makes Sport Central so great is the fact that there is so much variety in there.

“Of course there’s the fitness suite and the pool, but we also have more specialist facilities like the climbing wall and golf simulator – so you really can’t get bored.

“There are few places with such a wide variety on offer.”

The teamwork that comes hand-in-hand with sport also provided Peter with support for his studies and personal development.

He said: “One of the biggest benefits is the fact that everyone around you understands the pressures of being a student and having deadlines.

“When you join a team you become part of a family.

“Not only do you get to socialise with different people, laugh, enjoy wins and hate losses together but you also build character. Something that you need in life that isn’t taught as easily in the classroom.

“I always think of my future boss as the coach.”

But it’s not just the exercise that’s important for people to lead a healthy life. Ensuring a good, nutritious and balanced diet is also key.

Hannah Marshall recently graduated from Northumbria University with a degree in Sports Science. After arriving at her new student flat three years ago, she kick-started a fairly bland, routine diet.

“It was pasta, pasta and more pasta when I first started University,” she explained.

“I could cook a few basic meals when I moved here but had very limited variety. I never really went for the takeaway option, but I was always snacking on the go.

“Being heavily into sports, my training regime meant I was out every night through the week, so I would miss out on the flat cookery sessions.

“I ended up grabbing toast, porridge and pasta for quite some time until I had properly settled in to university life.

“However, constant pasta and bread quickly became very boring and I actually developed a wheat allergy. I had to completely transform my diet to avoid wheat and gluten and just start eating really clean, healthy food. I actually lost over a stone in weight just by cutting these things out.”

Food allergies and intolerances are often seen as high maintenance and expensive, but Hannah found that discovering her intolerance actually made life healthier.

“Not only did I feel better, but I found that by carefully planning my meals I actually saved money,” she said.

“In fact, fast food works out to be much more expensive.

“I would plan a weekly, gluten-free shop, on a budget, and save so much. I also discovered the Grainger Market in Newcastle which is a great place to load up on fresh meat and vegetables at a really cheap price. You really can eat well on a budget – so there are no excuses for lots of lazy takeaways.”

More than two years ago, The Journal joined forces with Nova International to launch our Great North Fitness Revolution.

The Great North Fitness Revolution is challenging everyone to make a pledge to get active and make the positive changes that will lead to a better quality of life.

From training for the Great North Run to something as simple as increasing the number of steps you walk each day, everyone can get involved.

The campaign has received the backing of a host of famous faces, including TV presenter Ben Shephard, Olympic boxer Tony Jeffries, athlete Steve Cram and former Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn.

Peter Bakare set up a health and fitness blog in 2012, to pass on what he was learning through his own sporting activities to other student athletes and anyone with an interest in keeping fit. Visit to find out information about nutrition, lifestyle, sport and fitness.

To find out more about Northumbria University’s courses and sports programmes, sign up for an open day on October 26 that is taking place at Sport Central - Northumbria University’s £30m flagship facility - to talk about the many activities that take place on campus to benefit the student lifestyle. Visit


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