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Healthy Student Report: Which are the best UK universities to attend for health and fitness?

Published on Sep 16, 2023
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According to research published in the British Medical Journal, living a healthy lifestyle can contribute to a longer and more disease-free life. And what better time to put on your activewear and get out to kickstart your fitness journey than in young adulthood, when our bodies are usually at their peak physical ability. 

University is a time for young people to challenge their minds with studies and have a lot of fun socially. Finding time for health and fitness amongst this can be tricky, but many universities have facilities and opportunities for students to keep fit and get involved with activities. At Hey Discount we’ve looked at the data for some of the country's sportiest universities to identify the best locations for students looking to keep fit and healthy alongside their studies. 

Top five best universities for health and fitness

1. University of Oxford, healthy university score of 8.98/10:

Oxford is one of the most prestigious universities in the world, with thousands of the brightest young minds attending each year. The students at Oxford have the best opportunity to be fit and healthy in the UK because they offer the most sports clubs (76) and provide one of the cheapest student gym memberships at £140 a year. There are also plenty of green spaces in the city, with some being recognised as among the very best in the world. 

2. Swansea University, healthy university score of 7.79/10:

Swansea University has the second-highest healthy university score, although it is way below Oxford's. Students in Swansea get to enjoy great parks, with the city scoring 92/100 for the quality of their outdoor spaces. Rugby Union is one of the biggest sports at Swansea, and many greats of Welsh rugby are alumni of the university; Dwayne Peel, Rob Howley and arguably the country’s greatest ever player, Alun Wyn Jones, all studied at Swansea. 

3. Bangor University, healthy university score of 7.59/10:

Another Welsh university appears in the top three healthy universities, with the North Wales university of Bangor scoring 7.59. Bangor is situated between the mountains of Snowdonia and the beaches of Anglesey, making it a great location for students who enjoy outdoor sports and activities. The university also has an excellent reputation for its sports teams, reflected in their domination of the annual varsity fixtures against rivals Aberystwyth.  

4. University of Edinburgh, healthy university score of 7.43/10:

Edinburgh was the UK's fourth-best healthy university and Scotland's best-performing institution. The University of Edinburgh scored well in each category, with many sports clubs and nice parks across the city, such as Holyrood Park, for students to enjoy. 

5. University of Cambridge, healthy university score of 7.26/10:

The University of Cambridge ranks fifth, four places worse off than their great rivals, Oxford. Cambridge has some of the country's best parks, scoring 91 out of 100. Additionally, many different sports clubs are available (71), but their gym memberships are on the expensive side, charging students £320 a year. 

Universities with the most sports clubs

1. University of Oxford, 76 different sports clubs:

Oxford is the major UK university offering the most diverse range of sports clubs. The old institution in southern England has 76 different sports clubs, 31 more than the average of 45. Oxford is also one of the only UK universities offering the unique sport of underwater hockey, also known as Octopush.

2. University of Cambridge, 71 different sports clubs:

Cambridge and Oxford have a great rivalry in sports, encapsulated by the University Boat Race on the Thames, which transcends University Sports. Between the Oxbridge universities, unique sports clubs exist; offering students the opportunity to play Croquet, Eton Fives, and Rugby Fives. 

3. University of Southampton, 69 different sports clubs:

Southampton University has 69 sports clubs available to the students studying there; they are one of only two major universities in the country with a Roundnet club. Many famous sportsmen and women attended the University of Southampton, including 400m world champion Roger Black. 

Sporting choice - Universities with the fewest students per sports club

1. Bangor University, 178 average students per sports club:

Bangor has the fewest average students per club of all the universities studied, with less than 200 students per sports club on average. Luckily for those interested in sports, all Athletic Union memberships are free for university students, meaning the students can try out a wide range of indoor and outdoor activities at no extra cost. 

2. University of Cambridge, 301 average students per sports club:

Although there is almost double the number of average students per club at Cambridge compared to Bangor, it is still the second-ranked university by this metric. There are just over 21,000 students at Cambridge, where they have over 70 sports clubs to choose from. 

3. Loughborough University, 310 average students per sports club:

Loughborough is a University famed for its sports, with many student-athletes looking to study there due to its reputation for performance sports. With this large influx of athletes amongst the student population, naturally, there are many sports clubs, 59 in total.


  • We took a list of the 40 biggest universities in terms of number of students according to HESA (the University of Hertfordshire was removed due to incomplete data) and added Universities famed for their sports. 
  • To find the different sports clubs at each university, we used their own websites or dedicated Athletic Union pages that list every club.
  • Some clubs had different names for the same (or very similar) sport at different universities, such as ‘hiking and mountain walking’, so these were combined. 
  • We compared the number of clubs available to the total number available across all the universities to find a percentage of the total sports available. 
  • Gym membership prices were found on the university's websites, and student annual prices were taken. 
  • The quality of parks was taken for the city where the university's main campus is located, and we used Numbeo to find a park score out of 100 for each university.  
  • The data is correct as of August 2023. 

Charlotte Marshall

Lead Editor

Being a full-time content writer and part-time shopaholic, globe-trotter and avid lover of all things food (and wine)...I love researching the best money-saving hacks so that I can help fuel my own passions, and yours!


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