£10m sports drive to get students out of the pub

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The Independent Online

A £10m drive to coax university students out of the bar and on to the sports field will be launched today after a survey showed that half of undergraduates had gained weight since starting their course and a third had put on more than a stone.

The move, designed to promote a healthier student lifestyle, comes as new research showed graduates spend twice as much time in pubs as they do on pitches.

Sport England has now launched a drive to get students participating at least three times a week.

A study commissioned by the funding provider suggested fewer than three in 10 play sport regularly.

And according to the survey, nearly one fifth - 18% - of the 1,005 students polled admitted dedicating less than one hour to sport each week, while more than a quarter - 26% - said they spent up to 10 hours in the pub.

Meanwhile, nearly half of graduates - 47% - said they put on weight after starting university, with more than a third gaining up to a stone.

Sport England aims to reverse these trends by creating opportunities for 72% of graduates who said they would like to spend more time on the pitches.

Experts believe boosting participation in sport among students and reducing the number of people who drop out in their late teens and early 20s will help achieve the goal of getting a million people playing more sport by 2012-13.

Jennie Price, chief executive of Sport England, said: "We know that young adults who are playing sport regularly by the time they leave university are likely to stick with it for the rest of their lives.

"There's already a strong tradition of competitive sport within universities, but this is a big opportunity to increase participation through more informal and social formats."

Sport England is now calling for innovative applications from universities to tackle the barriers to student participation.

Ben Bradshaw, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, said the "fantastic investment" should inspire thousands to keep playing and "help thousands more discover a new found passion for sport".

"We want to encourage young people to play sport for life, not give up on it the minute they leave school," he said.

Researchers Pollab spoke to 1,005 students for the study last week, and the findings also suggested nearly a third of graduates - 31% - feel they are too busy studying to play sport regularly.

When it came to a regional breakdown, it found those studying in the East of England spend most time in the bar while graduates at north-eastern universities spend the least amount of time on the pitch.