My research interests are currently focused in the following areas:
- Physical activity for health
- Green Exercise
- Breaking up Sedentary Time
- Cardiovascular Physiology
- Workplace wellbeing
With increasing rates of obesity and cardiovascular disease, we need new approaches to both prevention and rehabilitation following major diseases without the side-effects of drug intervention and the direct cost of pharmaceuticals. Furthermore, improving general health and well-being would reduce the financial burden that accompanies ill-health and the care of these individuals including days off sick. Therefore my overarching theme to get individuals to enage with physical activity particularly those of a working populations who have increased pressures in the workplace and increasing sedentary time.
Physical activity has been shown to improve both physiological and psychological well-being, as well as reductions in obesity and cardiovascular disease. There are, however, important cultural and other barriers to physical activity to overcome particularly the use of green environments. Therefore perceptions, accessibility and attitudes to physical activity need to be assessed. Adherence to exercise (through enjoyment) and the support of employers is vital, if physical activity, in particular if "Green Exercise", is to be implemented as an effective therapy.
I am currently the principal investigator for physiology in "Green Exercise". The research is interdisciplinary with links within the School and within the University.
In 2009 I was awarded a prestigious ESRC interdisciplinary career personal fellowship (£300,000)- Green Exercise: The combination of physical activity in a natural environment
The work conducted built on my innovative expertise in the area of autonomic control and on work that I have conducted on recovery from exercise and stress; in addition, it will build on the expertise in "Green Exercise" that currently exists in the School, which to date has focussed on psychological measures."Green Exercise" could be used as a powerful tool to help fight the growing incidence of cardiovascular disease. The synergistic combination of exercise and exposure to nature could help supplement current expensive drug-based therapies. Furthermore, adherence to exercise might improve. We aim to highlight the physiological changes that result from an interaction between the environment and exercise and also the impact "green exercise" has on our health and well-being. Thus, "Green Exercise" may be possible to use a simple and inexpensive and yet powerful tool to improve the quality of life of many individuals and to reduce costs of health care.
I was also awarded a British Heart Foundation PhD studentship in 2010 and Daniel Brown has successful completed his PhD in the area of Green Exercise.
The research is concentrated on the working population. Working life incorporates everyday stressful situations. As stress is one of the triggers of acute CVD, this project investigates whether exposure to natural environments at lunch-time with or without exercise can help reduce reaction to stress. We will examine the acute responses to stress after exposure to different environment). We will also investigate if there are alterations in response to stress where participants are undertake exercise several times a week for 8 weeks. This project examines not only physiological and psychological responses but also examines biochemical changes that are occuring in the body in response to stress. We are mainly looking at cortisol (which is found in saliva) but will also be investigating changes in alpha-amylase.
I am also interested in investigating breaking up sedentary time with physical activity in short bouts by using calisthenics. This has shown to improve vascular function and now investigating other benefits including balance and proprioception. (MSc student investigating).
Workplace health and wellbeing is also a key interest: have conducted several studies in businesses and have helped improved their health and wellbeing. Awarded Bronze Chairman’s award (2012) (BAE Systems) in the category of ‘Supporting our Total Performance Culture Category.’Also part of the University of Essex team that was awarded for the University of Essex Highly Commended for Workplace Health for the Business in the Community (East of England)
Current research students
Elliott Flowers https://www.essex.ac.uk/bs/staff/profile.aspx?ID=3757
Robert Southall-Edwards https://www.essex.ac.uk/bs/staff/profile.aspx?ID=4746