Vision: “To develop effective person-centred interventions centred on fostering motivation for and participation in physical activity and healthy eating and associated well being in children and adults.”
There is currently a considerable amount of evidence regarding the impact of regular engagement in physical activity and healthy eating on physical and mental health. We also now know more about the mechanisms by which exercise and dietary patterns contribute to health as well as the means by which inactivity and high calorie diets lead to disease states. However, despite these marked advances in our knowledge base, there is a large and increasing percentage of the population who do not participate in physical activity at the intensity and frequency necessary to accrue the health benefits associated with regular exercise. Insufficient levels of physical activity have been implicated in the aetiology of obesity. In the case of individuals who are overweight or obese, dietary modification is also necessary. Thus, there is a striking need for viable interventions that can successfully influence the adoption and maintenance of physical activity and healthy eating in the general and clinical populations.
Results of interventions centred on individual behavioural change have been inconsistent. Much of this work is not grounded in theories of motivation or does not adequately test our current theoretical understanding of what contributes to healthy lifestyles. Whether directed toward primary or secondary prevention, we need theory-based interventions which can effectively promote individuals’ efficacy and personal autonomy regarding behavioural change. Key staff members represented in this theme have expertise regarding the environmental (social, physical) factors and motivational processes underpinning sustained health behaviour patterns and optimal functioning in children and adults. The applied and basic research we do considers physical activity engagement in the largest sense: i.e., physical activity accrued within exercise classes, physical activity referral programmes, sport, dance, physical education, hospital-based exercise programmes, the workplace and daily life physical activities (e.g., taking the stairs, gardening). The importance of motivational processes is also considered to whether physical activity is more or less likely to result in positive mental health outcomes.
An evaluation of the Birmingham Exercise on Prescription service: Standard provision and a self-determination focussed arm
Personal autonomy for health behaviour change is a central concept of Self-Determination Theory (SDT). People are autonomously motivated when they engage in an activity or cease an activity for reasons that come from within the self and are freely chosen. Funded by local PCTs and Birmingham City Council, this trial is comparing the effect (at 3 and 6 months) of an exercise consultation delivered by SDT-trained health and fitness advisors with an exercise consultation provided by currently trained HFAs in Birmingham on participants’ self-reported physical activity, associated health behaviours, physical health, and well-being/quality of life.
Contacts: Professor Joan Duda, Dr Kate Jolly
Promoting adolescent health through an intervention aimed at improving the quality of their participation in physical activity
With respect to the need for encouraging active lifestyles, The White Paper on a Strategy for Europe on Nutrition, Overweight and Obesity and the Commission White Paper on Sport point to the significance of community sports organisations in public health and primary prevention, with a special reference to young people. Funded by the EU Commission and endorsed by the English FA and Professional Football Association, this project centres on the formation, implementation, and testing of a sustainable and cost-effective coach education program aimed at improving the quality of children and adolescents’ participation in leisure-time physical activity, enhancing their psychosocial development, and empowering young people to adopt and sustain healthy lifestyles.
Contact: Professor Joan Duda
“Step by step”: A feasibility study on the promotion of lunchtime walking to increase physical activity and improve mental well-being in sedentary employees
Funded by the BUPA Medical Grant Programme, this project examines the feasibility of a theory-based 16-week lunchtime walking intervention designed to a) promote regular walking and b) improve psycho-social well-being and work performance, in sedentary employees. The workplace has been targeted as an important location for health promotion, particularly with regard to mental health and also obesity prevention. More direct benefits of physical activity to employers may accrue in terms of enhanced employee work satisfaction, performance and productivity.
Contact: Dr Cecilie Thogersen
Environmental prompts for physical activity: Targeting calorific expenditure with stair climbing.
Current approaches to physical activity promotion target the accumulation of physical activity as part of daily life. The studies are part of a series using point-of-choice prompts positioned between the stairs and the escalator/lift encouraging stair climbing for health. Our previous work has shown a greater response to a worksite campaign in overweight individuals, suggesting stair climbing is a physical activity the overweight perceive as achievable. A current study targeting calorific expenditure has reversed the lower rates of stair climbing by overweight people relative to those with normal weight. Thus a ratio of 1.9:1 of normal to overweight people on the stairs at baseline was changed to a ratio of 1.3:1 in favour of overweight pedestrians. These simple, cheap interventions function by interrupting habitual behaviour at the time of its occurrence. The techniques we use should generalise to calorific intake at point-of-purchase. These studies at public access sites and workplaces have been funded by the NHS in England, Scotland, Hong Kong and Spain.
Contact: Dr Frank Eves
Is exercise, in addition to usual care, an effective treatment for postnatal depression?
It has been estimated that depression will be the second most common cause of disability worldwide by 2020. Postnatal depression (PND) is a serious problem across cultures and affects about 10-15% of women some time in the first year after giving birth. After giving birth, many women have excess weight and decreased fitness levels. New mothers have reported weight gain to be a significant concern for them. Studies of pregnant and postpartum women have indicated high risk for inactivity and reductions in previously established levels of activity. These health concerns would apply equally to women with PND. A recent systematic review and meta-analysis of five randomised and quasi randomised controlled trials concluded that it was uncertain whether exercise reduces symptoms of PND and called for a large trial that compared exercise with standard treatment(s). Funded by the National Institute for Health (NIHR) and the NIHR School for Primary Care Research this RCT aims to investigate the effectiveness of exercise as a treatment for PND. Other outcomes such as weight, BMI and physical activity levels (objectively) will also be assessed. This trial will run for three years (2009-2012).
Contacts: Dr Amanda Daley, Dr Kate Jolly, Professor Christine MacArthur
The acceptability and feasibility of aerobic exercise as a treatment for vasomotor and other menopausal symptoms in symptomatic women
The risk-benefits profile of HRT has been questioned recently and many menopausal women are keen to use non-pharmacological alternatives. There has been a lack of robust research on the effects of exercise upon vasomotor symptoms (hot flushes and night sweats) as evidenced by the recent Cochrane review. Low rates of exercise participation have also been recorded for menopausal aged women, which may also increase their risk of diseases in later life (e.g. depression, osteoporosis, stroke, cardiovascular diseases); thus exercise might provide additional health benefits in this population of women. On the basis of very limited evidence the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists recently advised that regular aerobic exercise may help relieve menopausal symptoms. Further research is clearly required before menopausal symptomatic women could be advised that we know that exercise is an effective treatment option for these symptoms. Funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) we aim to determine the feasibility and acceptability of exercise as a treatment for vasomotor symptoms. We will also consider whether feasability varies according to BMI status. This programme of research involves a series of observational studies and a RCT that will take place over five years (2008-2013).
Contact: Dr Amanda Daley orem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit.