Physical Activity Month: Research in the Spotlight

Physical Activity Month: Research in the spotlight


Our staff have been busy this month participating in all forms of physical activity to participate in the Twitter We AHP physical activity challenge - take a look at our Twitter page @UlsterHealthSci to see what they have been up to!

To continue our focus on physical activity this month we are sharing some of the excellent research being conducted within the school.

Supporting older adults to increase their physical activity and reduce their sedentary behaviour

Researchers in the School of Health Science have recently completed a 5-year research study funded by the European Commission (€4.5 million). The SITLESS project has involved over 1300 older adults from four European countries in a first of its kind randomised controlled trail to combine an exercise referral programme with a self-directed behaviour change intervention.

Professor Mark Tully, Dr Nicole Blackburn and Dr Jason Wilson from Ulster University have recently published two important peer reviewed papers from the trial with information on how to engage older adults in sustained behaviour change.

In the first paper , they interviewed participants about their experience of taking part. The research team concluded that the key components that should be included in an older adults programme are strategies to enhance social interaction, enjoyment and continuity beyond the end of the intervention period in order to successfully promote sustained behaviour change.

In the second paper, the team explored factors that acted as mediators in long term behaviour change. In older adults who reported adhering the use self-regulation regulation strategies, like using pedometers to set goals and monitor change over the course of the 16-week intervention, were more likely to maintain their increased physical activity 18 months later. Also, an important mediator of changes in physical activity at 18 months was a person’s belief in their ability to remain active, known as self-efficacy. Based on these findings, future interventions should seek to equip older adults with the practical and psychological tools they need to remain active.

To read more about the SITLESS project, you can visit the teams' website.