Tag Archives: Health and Exercise Science

Moving beyond BMI for assessing the health of young people in Kingston-upon-Hull

Much has been written in recent years about the childhood obesity epidemic which is affecting record numbers of children from around the UK. However, what is perhaps less well known is that levels of muscular fitness and habitual physical activity have also declined significantly in young people over the past 25 years.
This is a considerable problem given the strong association between low levels of physical activity and muscular fitness, and the increased risk of cardiovascular disease and musculoskeletal ill-health. A team in the Department of Sport, Health & Exercise Science at the University of Hull led by Professor Lee Ingle has recently investigated this issue in two secondary schools in the Kingston-upon-Hull region. The study, recently published in the European Journal of Sports Science, compared the performance of nearly 600 boys and girls from the Hull region with an age- and sex-matched group of school children from similar socio-economic backgrounds in the south-eastern region of England. Each child completed a physical activity recall questionnaire, a vertical jump test, and a hand-grip strength test. Boys from the south-eastern region had significantly stronger hand-grip scores, jumped higher, were more powerful, and reported being more physically active than their male counterparts in the Hull region. In girls, the opposite trend was evident. Girls from the Hull region were stronger (based on hand-grip strength), jumped higher, and were more powerful than their peers from the south-eastern region. All analyses were adjusted to account for differences in age, body mass index (BMI), physical activity levels, and area level deprivation, between the children in the two regions.

Declines in young people’s fitness have prompted calls for the introduction of a more systematic surveillance of fitness in the UK, possibly as an addition to the current measurement of BMI (body mass divided by the square of body stature) within the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP). There has been resistance to these calls from some quarters with concerns focused on how such a testing regime would impact on children of lower abilities. Parents of children deemed overweight or obese according to NCMP data receive a letter warning of potential ill-effects to their child’s health. Interpreting a single measure of body size for identifying an increase in health risk is clearly problematic. In our study, based on BMI alone, one interpretation of the data could be that boys from the south-eastern region and girls from the Hull region have greater health risks due to higher adiposity indicated by their higher BMIs (based on mean scores). However, when BMI values are interpreted in conjunction with measures of muscular fitness (from the hand-grip strength test), the data suggests no increased health risks as boys from the south-eastern region and girls from the Hull region are also stronger. The higher BMI values are likely to indicate greater lean body mass in    these groups, not excessive adiposity. Therefore, we advocate the implementation of a functional test such as the hand-grip strength test (which is less likely to impact on children of lower abilities) beyond a single assessment based on BMI within the NCMP. Furthermore, the identification of significant regional variations in muscular fitness that was not explained by anthropometric differences suggests that our current normative data derived from large regional samples (>10 000 children) should be expanded and updated. Therefore, a more systematic approach to fitness testing incorporating as many schools as possible in the Hull region is required prior to roll-out of any national fitness surveillance programme.

More information about the study can be found at the link below:

Lee Ingle, Ashlie Stephenson & Gavin R. Sandercock (2016): Physical activity profiles and selected muscular fitness variables in English schoolchildren: A north–south divide? European Journal of Sport Science. DOI: 10.1080/17461391.2016.1183714

Grants awarded in November 2015 (over £10k)

Miss K L Hemingway, Mr N D Cutts, Prof M Elliott, £10,000, Environment Agency, Assessment of Saltmarsh Development in the Alkborough MR Site for WFD Compliance

Prof L Ingle, £16,532, City Health Care Partnership CIC, Research Assistant in Exercise

Dr M Hird, £51,385, EPSRC, The British Liquid Crystal Society Annual Training Workshop

Dr B Hänfling, Dr L Lawson Handley, £55,829, Scottish Environment Protection Agency, The Development of an eDNA-Based Approach for Fish Sampling in Lochs for WFD – Phase 2

New brochure showcases world-leading science and engineering research

A new brochure from the University of Hull offers an insight into the pioneering research undertaken by staff and postgraduate research students across its Faculty of Science and Engineering.

Research in Focus 2016 showcases the work of a range of leading-edge researchers and its real life impact.

Following interest in the first publication of this type from 2014 – ‘Inspired in Hull’, which highlights examples of exciting research from all departments in the Faculty – the new brochure also features PhD students describing the research they are undertaking, and a selection of exciting research news from across the Faculty.

Research in Focus 2016The publication, available online or in print format, has already been shared with other Universities and their students, from as far afield as China and Malaysia.

Professor Stephen Kelly, Dean of the Faculty of Science and Engineering said: “Our 2016 research brochure highlights some of the novel and exciting research being conducted across the Faculty. I am immensely proud of our diverse and collaborative research that is addressing real world problems, from understanding how the Earth is responding to climate change to breakthroughs in ‘bench-to-bedside’ cancer treatments.”

Professor Dan Parsons, Associate Dean for Research and Enterprise, added: “We are committed to conducting excellent, world-leading research that addresses critical challenges in today’s world. Our most recent 2014 Research Excellence Framework results reflect the work of our staff, researchers and research students in pushing the boundaries of science and engineering that is making a difference in the world.”

Research in Focus also includes the latest information about the high quality research environment at the University, and the investment in facilities such as the world-class Brynmor Jones Library and the Allam Building which houses a revamped biomedical research facility with two research centres – one focusing on cardiovascular and metabolic disease and the other on cancer. These are just two of the areas in which the University has an international reputation.

To request free printed copies of the brochure please email science@hull.ac.uk

Exercising for better mobility and reduced falls in lower limb amputees

University of Hull sign

Researchers from the University of Hull have begun a project to develop personalised exercise programmes for lower limb amputees in Hull and the surrounding area.

The project, led by Dr Natalie Vanicek with PhD student Zoe Schafer from the Department of Sport, Health and Exercise Science, and in collaboration with the Hull & East Yorkshire NHS Trust, is investigating how exercise can lead to better mobility and reduce falls over a one year period.

At the end of the project, the researchers hope to develop a structured exercise programme in the Hull area so that amputees can continue to reap the physical and social benefits of group-based exercise, whilst promoting falls awareness and prevention.

By using sophisticated motion analysis and balance equipment in the Human Performance Laboratory at the University of Hull, researchers have measured participants’ baseline performance on several common activities, including level and stair walking, sit-to-stand, maintaining balance and muscle strength. The baseline profiles are being used to help design individualised exercise programmes for the participants.

Three-dimensional gait analysis of a lower limb amputee participant before the exercise intervention

Three-dimensional gait analysis of a lower limb amputee participant before the exercise intervention

To date, thirteen amputee participants, both above- and below-knee, have been tested. Seven participants have been allocated into the exercise group, while six participants are acting as controls and are not participating in the exercise programme.

The exercise group attend the laboratory twice a week for supervised exercise classes, and complete two exercise sessions at home.

The preliminary data has shown that participants in the exercise group are able to walk for longer, have improved balance and increased muscle strength in the lower limbs. They are also feeling more confident at performing daily tasks. The exercise classes encourage a sense of belonging to a group. To date, no participant has reported a fall.

Once the 12-week programme is complete, all participants will repeat the baseline tests to quantify how beneficial the exercise programme has been at improving functional performance. The researchers will also monitor the number of falls reported for at least 12 months.

The study is ongoing and the researchers continue to recruit amputee participants from the local NHS Artificial Limb Unit and with the help of NHS amputee physiotherapists.

Financial support for this study has been granted by a local charity, Help for Health, and by the British Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Amputee Rehabilitation, a professional network of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy.

Grants awarded in July 2015 (over £10k)

Dr S Hull, £241,000, Heritage Lottery Fund, ‘Capturing the Coast’ marine ecology project

Dr K Earle, Dr G Abt, £15,000, Hull City Tigers Ltd, Studentship – Hull City Tigers – James Deighton

Prof T Coulthard, £25,000, Environment Agency, Collaborative research agreement relating to long-term morphodynamics and sedimentation of the Holderness coast and Humber Estuary

Dr J Purdy, £14,943, Nottingham University Hospitals, I-BiT+ Assessment and treatment of patients with Amblyopia using interactive binocular computer games

Elite training in hot conditions for competition in cooler climates – a hot topic?

Elite training in hot conditions for competition in cooler climates – a hot topic?

By Andrew Garrett, Lecturer in Exercise and Environmental Physiology

There’s no shortage of sporting competitions and activities that require some acclimatisation to hot weather. At one extreme is the Marathon de Sables in the Sahara Desert, a gruelling multi-stage race totalling some 251km (156 miles), across inhospitable terrain, in a hot desert climate. It requires those taking part to prepare effectively to cope safely and perform in such hot conditions.

Training in hot weather isn’t without risk and sometimes it can be an occupational hazard – this was clearly demonstrated with the deaths of two soldiers on an SAS selection weekend in the Welsh Brecon Beacons when temperatures in July 2013 rose well above 30°C. But it is well established that repetition of heat stress exposure can aid adaptations to the heat. For example it can produce a lower body temperature, reduced heart rate, increased sweat rate for cooling, resulting in an increase in human performance.

The most effective way to prepare for performance in the heat is to actually travel to the hot country where the event is taking place and ideally allow 14-days exposure before competing, to allow the human body to fully adapt. However, many people preparing for performance or relocation to hot climates often have time and financial restrictions placed upon them. Therefore, the question that arises is, what can we do to prepare effectively before embarkation to hot climates in our own country, if it has only temperate weather conditions that we experience in the UK?

Thermal images of the exercise test in hot conditions

Thermal images of the exercise test in Hot conditions. Dr Andrew Garrett, Author provided

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