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Can a ‘snacktivity’ approach to physical activity reduce people’s future risk of disease?

  • Public health guidance states that over a week adults should achieve at least 150-minutes of at least moderate intensity physical activity, however very few people currently reach this weekly target.
  • ‘Snacktivity’ focuses on promoting small, but frequent, doses of regular moderate intensity physical activity throughout the day so that at least 150 minutes of physical activity is accumulated weekly.
  • A physical activity ‘snack’ typically lasts between two and five minutes and includes activities such as walk-talk conversations, walking coffee breaks and using the stairs instead of the lift.

Loughborough University is leading a multi-million-pound research programme to establish if a ‘snacktivity’ approach to physical activity, where people are encouraged to undertake short bursts of physical activity throughout the day, is effective in improving people’s health.

The Loughborough team will be working with colleagues at the Universities of Birmingham, Leicester, Edinburgh, and the Birmingham Community Healthcare Foundation NHS Trust on the £2.2 million project, which has been funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

Current public health guidance states that over a week, adults should achieve at least 150-minutes of at least moderate intensity physical activity, spread across five sessions of around 30 minutes. However very few people currently reach this weekly target, and to try and achieve it those who are inactive need to make significant changes to their lives.

‘Snacktivity’ focuses on promoting small, but frequent, doses of regular moderate intensity physical activity throughout the day so that at least 150 minutes of physical activity is accumulated weekly. A physical activity ‘snack’ typically lasts between two and five minutes and includes activities such as walk-talk conversations, walking coffee breaks and using the stairs instead of the lift.

The research team want to find out if the ‘snacktivity’ approach to promoting physical activity is acceptable, effective and easier to sustain over time compared to current physical activity guidance.

To do this they have created a ‘snacktivity’ intervention that will delivered as part of NHS health checks in general practices and consultations in community health services, such as podiatry, dietetics and rehabilitation services.

The researchers will use a smartphone application (snackApp) synchronised with a wrist worn physical activity tracker to enable participants in the intervention to self-monitor their ‘snacktivity’ and get feedback on their behaviour. The snackApp will prompt physical activity after one hour of no activity. The research team will test whether this approach helps to make the public more active compared to the current guidance for physical activity.

Speaking about the new study, chief investigator Professor Amanda Daley from Loughborough University’s School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, said: “The UK population has become less physically active and more sedentary, which we know is associated with poorer health and diseases.

“To encourage people to be more physically active, and therefore improve their health, we need to make physical activity targets easy to achieve and sustainable over time. This study will establish if ‘snacktivity’ is a worthwhile approach to take in encouraging the public to be more active and to sit less throughout the day.”

Notes for editors

Press release reference number: PR 19/46

About Loughborough University

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Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world for sports-related subjects in the 2019 QS World University Rankings, University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2019 and top in the country for its student experience in the 2018 THE Student Experience Survey.

Loughborough is in the top 10 of every national league table, being ranked 4th in the Guardian University League Table 2019, 5th in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2019 and 8th in The UK Complete University Guide 2020.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’ and is in the top 10 in England for research intensity. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

The Loughborough University London campus is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities. It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.

 About the National Institute for Health Research

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is the nation's largest funder of health and care research. The NIHR:

  • Funds, supports and delivers high quality research that benefits the NHS, public health and social care
  • Engages and involves patients, carers and the public in order to improve the reach, quality and impact of research
  • Attracts, trains and supports the best researchers to tackle the complex health and care challenges of the future
  • Invests in world-class infrastructure and a skilled delivery workforce to translate discoveries into improved treatments and services
  • Partners with other public funders, charities and industry to maximise the value of research to patients and the economy

The NIHR was established in 2006 to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research and is funded by the Department of Health and Social Care. In addition to its national role, the NIHR commissions applied health research to benefit the poorest people in low- and middle-income countries, using Official Development Assistance funding.

 

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