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The work of the Centre

Our group benefits from, and contributes to, the heightening profile of physical activity within and beyond healthcare. Recent revisions to policy perspectives have not only addressed how engagement in recreational sport can contribute to health but also underline this as an important new priority.

Our research spans the life-course although we have a long track record of researching issues among young people. For example, the pioneering Carnegie International Weight Loss Camp also provides a unique forum for developing new insights into the delivery of physical activity and diet change. Here the focus is upon overweight and obese young people; physical activity is central to the daily experience of campers. 

The Camp provides unrivalled longitudinal data and actively involves outside experts from many different backgrounds. Camp activities are increasingly recognised by primary care teams who support innovative combinations of research and delivery. This programme also supports cutting-edge contributions to more accurate and effective measurement of body composition. Recently, Getting Sorted has reaffirmed our innovative status in researching 'youth voice' within community delivery to support young people with Type 1 diabetes. Our unique, Leeds-based RADS project illustrates how a longitudinal, but sports-oriented, programme of research can be used to identify key issues in an area of major public health concern – childhood obesity. Another new policy priority area, workplace health, is also being addressed, specifically to investigate the unique role that exercise may play in revitalising both the employee and the workplace.

Community evaluation is another of our specialisms and a number of national, regional and local evaluations have recently been completed (e.g., Local Exercise Action Pilots; 10 projects around the country, the Derby 'b-Active' and Cycling and Health Innovative Pilot Projects [CHIPPs] in Nottingham and Northamptonshire), or are underway (e.g., Men’s health initiatives in Premiership soccer clubs and the Hearty Lives evaluation for the British Heart Foundation; 14 programmes delivered across the UK).

Randomised control trials have examined interventions designed to improve health in workplaces, for example, through walking initiatives. Similarly, high-quality research designs have also been adopted to examine the interaction of exercise and nutrition on endocrine function, bone metabolism and skeletal integrity. The findings have been used to provide practical recommendations for preventing and managing skeletal problems in active underweight people of either sex. These studies underpinned newer research addressing phenotype-genotype interactions on endocrine function, bone metabolism and bone mineral density. Developments of this research include an exploration of the efficacy of specific physical activity interventions involving impact and weight bearing activities to enhance bone development in children and the optimisation of peak bone mass.

The Centre also investigates mental health issues, including the role of exercise within positive psychology, the management of schizophrenia and on the impact of exercise in the lives of older people. These areas of work have a growing reputation and address many issues prioritised within government policy.

Research bidding and outputs in the last five years

In the last five years, beyond a wide array of outputs in professional journals and books and publications related to other research centres in the faculty, our staff have published over 60 AL-related high-impact peer-reviewed papers (impact factors typically range 1-5).

To-date our largest funding bid has been for over £1m (Wellcome); this confirms the maturity within the group and our willingness to take on the most expansive and imaginative projects. Bids have been submitted to a variety of funders, including British Heart Foundation (2009), Leverhulme (2010), Wellcome (2011), Sport England (2010-11) and NIHR (2009-11). Our largest successful bids have been the evaluation of the Hearty Lives project (funded by the British Heart Foundation, £495K), the NPRI SWITCH project (Promoting informed decision-making for diet and physical activity in disadvantaged women, £190K) and the NPRI Older People's Active Living (OPAL) project (£180K) and more recently Premier League Health (funded by the Football Foundation, £98K). In a typical year, the group will submit no less than 10 competitive bids to external funders.

Our bidding for research funding reflects collaborations developed in-house and beyond. In-house, we have strong links with the Centre for Men’s Health and with colleagues prominent in the new Institute for Health and Well-being, including Professors Alan White, Jane South, Stephen Robertson, Mark Johnson and Pinki Sahota. Externally we collaborate with major research centres in the University’s of Bristol, Bath, Birmingham, Hull, Leeds and York and with dedicated research consultancies (e.g., Consulting InPlace). Prof. Joe Baker (York University, Canada) and Prof. John Truscott (Leeds University) are Visiting Fellows.

Centre for Active Lifestyles           Contact

0113 81 27483 J.McKenna@leedsbeckett.ac.uk
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