Research demonstrates that unfortunately during the final period of schooling, 40-50% of Year 11-12 students experience clinical levels of psychological distress, and that this level increases as the HSC exam gets closer.
Adolescent mental health experts also point to this period as being the highest risk time for the onset of many psychological problems and disorders such as depression, anxiety, psychosis, drug and alcohol dependence.
The HSC exam itself forms a kind of climax with students experiencing increased workload, deadlines, expectations from parents, teachers/schools and themselves, beliefs about the future and perceptions of the ‘life-long’ significance of the HSC. Studies suggest that HSC students commonly experience poorer concentration, school achievement, negatively affected friendships, self-esteem and feelings of sickness. They often describe as though they are 'missing out' on age-appropriate activities and become overly sedentary.
A group of 8 HSC students in Sydney, Australia, average age 18 years participated in a 10 week pilot program of community-based exercise classes. The exercise classes conducted once a week involved a warm-up, low-impact aerobic exercises, muscle conditioning, cool down and relaxation components, all held to a music background.
The focus group data revealed that for the students, the main reasons for attending included to gain mental and physical fitness benefits. Students mentioned feeling more focused and able to study following the class. The findings suggest that taking part in exercise classes may offer a simple and effective strategy in assisting HSC students to cope more effectively with exam stress.
|Keywords:||Exercise, Physical Education, Women, HSC/Leaving Certificate, Stress, Coping, Perceptions, Attitudes, Experiences, Aerobic Exercise, Mental Health|
Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Technology, Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia