It is universally acknowledged that a university student shouldering a full course load is probably stressed. Every student has a different way of dealing with those stresses, whether that be a warm cup of tea or a walk into town – the possibilities are limitless. A great number of students find that exercise, especially in a social setting, can be a fun and productive way to let go of the stresses of school.

The University of New Brunswick’s URec intramural sports league is a easy way to get involved in stress-free, social physical activity. On-campus and off-campus teams are allowed in the league (meaning that university students can connect with alumni, people in the community, and other students who may not live in residence), all while participating in sports such as volleyball, hockey, basketball, and soccer. The best part? All intramurals, with the exception of hockey, are free with a URec membership. For those who aren’t into hitting the gym, this means that easy-going team sports are available throughout the academic year.

Intramurals can also be a benefit to one’s mental health. According to a 2008 study conducted by Zarei and Zarei presented at the World Leisure Congress, “The benefits of intramural sports include improved self-confidence, improved social relation,” as well as increased commitment to fellow students and an improved sense of tolerance towards others.

A GV State University study on intramural sports and university students showed that “playing intramural sports is shown to decrease overall stress.”

Several UNB residence proctors, who are in charge of ensuring the safety and wellbeing of students in residence, noted that intramurals are a healthy way for residents to stay active and take a break from classes. Living in residence can be a stressor in and of itself – it is often a student’s first time living away from home, and living with strangers doesn’t exactly make it easier.

According to Reid Sutherland, a Neill House proctor and member of the UNB Reds women’s rugby team, “It’s a great way to keep up with sports that we loved in high school or keep up for leisure, without the pressure of playing for the Reds. I also think it’s a great way to build relationships in residence—it helps students meet new people and promotes house spirit and pride.”

Emily Meagher, proctor and UNB Student Union vice-president finance & operations, said that she has seen residence students develop respect, discipline, leadership and humility because they engaged in intramural soccer.

First-year student Aidan Devine, who has been playing intramural basketball, said of the practice, “It helps me relax and let my mind focus on one thing instead of 3 million.”

Intramurals are such an important part of residence culture that most houses elect multiple sports representatives who organize intramural teams and keep track of games.

Sage Vanderlaan and Bret Hazelton are both sports representatives who say that intramural sports are important to house culture and stress relief.

“Intramurals absolutely help you destress,” Hazelton said. “They give students something non-school related to focus on for an hour, while getting some exercise and being around friends at the same time.”

“It’s not that big of a commitment which is great – it’s an hour or two a night (depending on the sport) for one to two nights a week,” Vanderlaan said.

Both sports reps noted that hockey in particular was a sport to which students seemed to gravitate. Zach Brown, a defenceman from Joy Kidd who occasionally plays for the Harrison team, said, “Intramural hockey affects me in an extremely positive way… it definitely takes some stress off my shoulders because if I had a bad day I know I can get a sense of freedom by playing.”

Cameron Nicolle plays defence for the Harrison hockey team. “It’s a great way to meet and get to know the people not only in your residence and on your team, but others that go to the school,” he said.

There are a myriad of benefits to playing intramural sports and it’s never been easier to play them– while this term’s games are winding down, there will be new sports beginning in the winter term. Anyone with a URec membership is eligible to make a team, and students living in residence are encouraged to reach out to their sports reps for more information on how they can get involved.