Improving the quality of life
18 September 2009
The University’s Department of Exercise, Nutrition and Health Sciences (ENHS) was established in1999 in response to increasing interest in the links between physical activity and health, and since then it has expanded into the closely related field of nutrition.
A recent study (OPAL) led by Fox looked at the lifestyles, living conditions and behaviour of people aged 70 to 96. Healthy living can help prevent cardiovascular disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes and some cancers, and there is also increasing evidence that staying physically active can prevent or delay cognitive decline, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and depression. Using the information gained about the patterns of activity in older people, OPAL has led to the funding of the Avon Network for Physical Activity Promotion for Older People, which brings together NHS services, local councils and planners, and academics in Bristol and Bath to deliver ‘best bet’ solutions for physical activity interventions.
A similar project in children, led by Dr Russ Jago, focuses on understanding the physical activity patterns of 10- and 11-year-olds. This study examines the way parents encourage children to be physically active; the extent to which physical activity is undertaken as a family; and the types of non-family-based physical activities the children commonly participate in. For although much emphasis has been placed on encouraging children to take part in more formal sporting activities, in fact most children’s activity takes place with their friends outside of school hours. Accelerometers were used as an objective measure of children’s and parent’s physical activity over a five-day period. Project PEACH, led by Dr Ashley Cooper, also uses accelerometry, but here combined with GPS technology, to study neighbourhood influences on children’s physical activity. Alongside these studies, a project led by Professor Janice Thompson, the current Head of ENHS, focuses on migration, nutrition and ageing amongst older Bangladeshi women and their adult daughters.
Results from these studies will feed directly into the Government’s obesity and physical activity strategies and the ENHS team are looking forward to conducting further research that not only informs policy and practice but also improves people’s quality of life through the promotion of healthy eating and regular physical activity.