Volunteers Needed to Talk the Walk

Posted on Saturday 22nd July 2006

Researchers at the University of Birmingham are looking for volunteers to take part in a study that will examine the motivation, goals and barriers to walking.

In a bid to come up with key strategies for future health campaigns which encourage us to walk more, health psychologists from the University’s School of Sport and Exercise Sciences first need to understand both what motivates and what prevents us from taking the recommended 30 minutes of exercise every day.

Postgraduate researcher Catherine Darker, who is leading the study, explains: “We all now lead busy lives, often juggling demanding jobs with family commitments, so finding time to fit in 30 minutes of exercise into a packed day can be difficult. However, not many people realise that this can be broken down into chunks, so walking for just 10 minutes, three times a day can be just as beneficial.

“Previous health campaigns have focussed on the cardiovascular benefits of regular exercise – walk more, it’s good for your heart – but those messages are being ignored as the pay-back is too long-term.

“There is a definite shift now away from advocating a prescripted time and method of exercise to taking a lifestyle approach, building in achievable goals to exercise as part of your daily routine.   Through this research, I am looking to test out different strategies with a view to designing the best way to encourage people to walk more, for future public health campaigns.”

Volunteers are needed to visit the University for one hour and complete a series of questionnaires in the laboratory. In order to give the psychologist, who will be present in the room, an insight into their cognition, the participant will be required to think aloud whilst answering each question. A discussion will follow, where participants can explore with the psychologist their own experiences and the benefits they gain from walking. Participants will be paid £20.

Those interested in taking part should contact Catherine Darker on 0121 414 8745 / email: cxd460@bham.ac.uk.

This initial study will then inform the next phase of the project, where the motivations to walking discovered through this stage will be tested out on a large sample group who will not only answer questionnaires but also given pedometers, to give the team an insight into exactly how much physical activity has been taken as a result of this intervention.

Catherine Darker continues: “We are all well aware that there is a gap between our intention to take exercise and our actual behaviour. The team can gain a really useful insight into those thought processes and develop strategies to overcome that gap.”

Notes to Editors:

Facts and figures about exercise and obesity:

60% of women and 70% of men are not taking the recommended 30 minutes of exercise a day

The number of people with obesity has doubled in the UK in the last 10 years