Her Fellowship, funded by the Higher Education Innovation Fund, will involve working with The Daily Mile Foundation and Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, Northern Ireland and their networks in an effort to improve physical activity in the population, particularly among children and young people.
In this context, the local authority partner has placed physical activity, social connection and mental wellbeing at the core of its “Better Future Together” community plan (2017-2030). The fellowship activities aim to help foster a demonstrably more active and healthy population and to amplify and shape research for enhanced scientific and applied impact.
Physical inactivity and social isolation have significant negative effects on health that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Consequently, there is growing civic and policy interest in the health and wellbeing benefits of community-based exercise and social physical activity.
In 2021, a government report identified children and young people in Northern Ireland as least likely to meet recommended levels of physical activity compared with other parts of the UK and Europe, and mental health problems were significantly more common.
Research by Emma and collaborators at the Social Body Lab, Institute of Human Sciences (https://socialbodylab.web.ox.ac.uk/) suggests that interdependent, supportive, and exertive physical activity can enhance social connection and wellbeing. Moreover, social connection in physical activity is linked to greater enjoyment, lower feelings of fatigue, effort and difficulty, enhanced performance, and positive changes in wellbeing.
Primarily based in schools, but now expanding to workplaces and a range of other settings across 86 participating countries, The Daily Mile aims to improve the health of all people through 15 minutes of daily social physical activity.
Through engagement objectives and activities, researchers will better understand mutual challenges, aims and needs, and build the foundations for ongoing partnerships and innovations in public health at regional and national levels.
Social Body Lab
The Daily Mile
Dr Emma Cohen
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