University heads responded to the challenge – OLL President to Yle: “Routines for physical activity are already formed during the years of study”

OLL challenged the heads of universities and universities of applied sciences to think about how the physical activity of higher-education students could be increased and how students could be encouraged to adopt a physically active lifestyle during their studies. University heads across Finland took up on the challenge presented as part of the European Week of Sport.

The responses of the university heads clearly conveyed both an understanding of the importance of having a physically active lifestyle and a genuine desire to increase physical activity in their own higher education community. Many of the university heads brought up, for example, the sports services and structures supporting exercising during breaks provided by their higher education institution and sporting events organised on campus with other operators.

For instance, Jaakko Hallila, President and CEO of Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences, thanked student union SAMO for providing students with the opportunity to try new sports, Turo Kilpeläinen, President and CEO of LAB University of Applied Sciences, encouraged students to participate in Sports and Culture Appro and Mervi Vidgren, President of Savonia University of Applied Sciences, told that the school offers its students and personnel access to city bikes.

President Minna Martikainen, on the other hand, told that at the University of Vaasa, the sports fee includes the opportunity to use both the sports services offered on campus and those offered in the city at a reduced price. Moreover, Ilkka Niemelä, President of Aalto University, told that the university is participating in UniSport’s University on the Move project, providing the personnel with training on taking breaks during lectures, for example.

Physical activity must be taken into account in the development of both campuses and pedagogy

Kati Komulainen, the President and CEO of Vaasa University of Applied Sciences, discussed the challenge in a blog post.

“The challenge that the Finnish Student Sports Federation threw to us university heads couldn’t be more necessary […] Perhaps we should now have the good sense to integrate the many forms of physical activity in our operations while developing our campuses and pedagogy”, writes Komulainen.

VAMOK, the student union of the Vaasa University of Applied Sciences, is praised unreservedly by Komulainen for providing students with the opportunity to exercise.

OLL President Emilia Junnila thanks the university heads for responding to the challenge. She is particularly pleased with the fact that the responses reflected the effort put into sports services and the desire to establish a culture supporting physical activity.

“OLL has been engaging in fruitful co-operation with various higher education institutions in the creation of sports services, reduction of sedentary behaviour with breaks and the development of study environments encouraging physical activity. We hope that this collaboration will continue, as there is still much to be done to increase students’ physical activity and maintain their ability to study”, says Junnila.

Junnila to Yle: “Today’s ability to study is tomorrow’s ability to work”

The challenge also got the attention of the media, and Yle’s All Points North podcast responded to it, as well. The podcast, produced by Yle’s English-language news service, is aimed at those Finnish residents whose native language is not Finnish, Swedish, Russian or Sámi, and about half of the audience it reaches is under the age of 45. In addition to interviewing President Junnila about the campaign, APN’s Ronan Browne asked her about encouraging students to adopt a more physically active lifestyle during their studies:

“Today’s ability to study is tomorrow’s ability to work: If people have the resources to take care of their well-being during studies, it will also be easier for them to keep up these routines for physical activity when they start working for a living. To benefit the future, we must act now.”

The campaign posts were viewed on X (formerly Twitter) for over 6,000 times, and the podcast has been listened to on Yle Areena almost 800 times. However, the true impact of the campaign and all of OLL’s advocacy will, first and foremost, be determined by how higher education institutions develop the culture supporting physical activity in the long run.

You may also be interested in