Professor Fiona Bull, co-director of the British Heart Foundation National Centre for Physical Activity (BHFNC) in the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences (SSEHS) led an international team that included Loughborough colleagues Professor Stuart Biddle, Dr Richard Ferguson, Sonia McGeorge and Dr Len Almond.
For the first time, the guidelines include specific recommendations for the under-fives and over-65s as well as advice on reducing time spent in sedentary behaviours.
Expert working groups were set up to agree on evidence-based recommendations on physical activity and sedentary behaviours for the four distinct age groups (the early years, children and young people, adults and older adults), with Loughborough’s academics contributing to each of the panels.
The BHF Centre has driven the review, coordinating the process from start to finish, working alongside the home country governments, convening the expert working groups and national consultations and collating the final reports.
Professor Bull recounts how the project first started: “As a Centre, we flagged the lack of updated guidelines to the Department of Health and said it was an area we’d be interested in looking into. Things grew from there and we realised all age groups probably needed revisiting. In further discussions it became clear there was a need for consistency across the UK.”
In the run-up to these talks, other countries including the USA and Canada had been conducting comprehensive research reviews to rewrite their own guidelines for physical activity.
“We recruited some of the overseas experts to share findings from their own reviews which meant we didn’t have to repeat the lengthy and costly review of the primary literature,” continues Professor Bull.
“This aspect had been completed by world leading experts in USA and Canada over a two year period, so we aimed to capitalise on their findings and use them to inform the UK process and recommendations. However, we did still have plenty to do as the UK has led new work on early years (the under-fives) and sedentary behaviour.
“The expert groups reviewed the data to see if there was an evidence-based case for changing the guidelines, and if so what that change would be. All recommendations have been based on hard evidence. If the evidence wasn’t there the guideline wasn’t included.”