The UK Chief Medical Officers (CMO) published new guidelines on physical activity in September 2019. Based on a comprehensive review of the latest research, they recommend how much physical activity we should do and what types most benefit our health.
In the past, physical activity guidelines have been tricky to understand and difficult to follow. This project, led by the ARC West team alongside collaborators Knowle West Media Centre (KWMC), aims to make them more meaningful and useful for members of the public.
The How Do You Move? project had three parts:
The Brigstow Institute, University of Bristol has funded the first two stages of this project.
We worked with KWMC and Mufti Games to develop fun, interactive workshops that explored different groups’ attitudes to physical activity and how messages about physical activity should be communicated. Four workshops were run for the following groups of people living in under-served communities in Bristol:
Researchers then analysed the data produced from the workshops.
To develop the case studies and videos, we found six people with interesting physical activity stories to tell. Some of them were participants in the workshops, others were individuals already known to the project team. The participants were interviewed in an informal setting: some were even interviewed on a walk to bring physical activity into the process. The interviews were developed into case studies written in the first person, through several iterations. Four case studies went on to be developed into short films.
We have published our findings from the four community workshops. The workshops were very useful in identifying the preferences of local community groups about physical activity messaging. We found many similarities between the four groups, but we noted some differences too.
One consistent finding was the need to highlight the wider benefits of physical activity. Rather than just emphasising the benefits to our physical health, such as reducing risk of disease, we should also promote the mental health benefits and the social benefits. Having fun and spending time with friends were often primary reasons for being physically active.
The second key finding was the need not to confuse “exercise” and “sport” with physical activity. The terms “exercise” and “sport” tended to have lots of negative associations for many participants. When communicating about physical activity, it is important to make it clear that physical activity is about movement, and there are many ways in which we can move. For some, gardening, dancing, and walking were all important forms of physical activity, and it is important for people to know that these count towards their recommended daily physical activity.
To help professionals talk about physical activity in the future with the public, we boiled our findings down to 10 core recommendations. These recommendations are purposefully broad, but there is more detail in the published paper about the preferences of young people, of adults, of older adults, and of Somali women.
In the case studies part of the project, we worked closely with six members of the public, four individuals and one couple, to develop five physical activity stories. In collaboration with the team at KWMC, four of the stories were made into short films.
Abiir lives in Easton in Bristol and has four young daughters. She spent her childhood in Germany, and is now a keen advocate for increasing cycling in the Somali community.
Ben is a community activist in Bedminster, Bristol. He’s retired and spends a lot of his time working with local people to improve the neighbourhood, particularly to make it more pleasant and accessible for walking.
Lesley works full-time managing a large university department, as well as juggling family life with her partner, two teenage daughters and two dogs. She came to running later in life and is now an active part of the running community in Staple Hill, Bristol.
Vince lives in Bedminster in Bristol and has strong links to Knowle West and Hengrove where he grew up. Despite health issues, he’s used the support available in South Bristol to help maintain both his mental and physical wellbeing.
Stephen and Nikki are husband and wife and both work in the NHS. They have experienced physical and mental health challenges in the last 10 years. Physical activity has helped improve their wellbeing.
The films were screened for the first time at a launch event on 22 January 2020. They have been circulated via social media and are available to view on YouTube.
Our findings have already been shared with the WHO Physical Activity guidelines group and are feeding into the work of the CMO physical activity guidelines development group.
The University of Bristol is internationally renowned and one of the very best in the UK, due to its outstanding teaching and research, its superb facilities and highly talented students and staff. Its students thrive in a rich academic environment which is informed by world-leading research. It hosts the Elizabeth Blackwell Institute for Health Research.