One of the most interesting, and intense, research experiences I have had since arriving two years ago at UL as a Fellow in the newly created Dean’s Fellowship Programme has been my work with the Move for Life (MFL) study. I still have fond memories, for example, of the many evenings I spent helping with the testing of participants with other MFL team members (featured above) and volunteers across locations in Limerick and Clare I had never heard of, or the training workshops for Sport Development Officers and peer mentors. In response to global and national reports of physical activity and ageing, MFL saw the light as a physical activity intervention, which included a feasibility study and pilot randomised control trial conducted by a team at UL, led by Prof Catherine Woods in collaboration with Local Sports Partnerships, Health Service and other community and academic collaborators.
Despite many countries, including Ireland, adopting national policies or action plans to increase physical activity, the 2016 Lancet series describes their implementation as weak. The series concluded that the greatest progress is likely to occur through interventions that are effective in promoting physical activity, implemented at scale, regularly assessed and fully embedded in an enabling system. Consequently, we endeavoured to develop and administer a community-based physical activity intervention with potential to achieve these parameters by addressing inactivity, being easily implemented and delivered within the existing community infrastructures and framework designed for the promotion of physical activity for adults, aged 50+, in Ireland.
For progress to occur, experts argue that greater emphasis on rigorous evaluation studies of real-world programmes is needed. We took advantage of existing programmes embedded in a system (publicly funded Local Sports Partnerships) and augmented them with research-based components, providing a plausible and unique example of intervention that draws upon the four pillars of research evidence, practice evidence, participant evidence, and contextual evidence. This also maximised the likelihood of ‘translation’ into policy and practice, as if successful the design should be easily embedded within the system. In this regard, pending evaluation of outcomes and related processes, development of the MFL intervention, I believe, represents a promising step forward in promoting physical activity in inactive older adults.
In a future blog I hope to be able to update you on some of the many learnings and interesting outcomes that are emerging from the evaluation of MFL evaluation data and plans for a larger scale trial. Keep well in the meantime.
Dr Enrique Garcia Bengoechea is the inaugural Dean’s Fellow in Physical Activity and Health in the Faculty of Education and Health Sciences at the University of Limerick. His current research interest’s include community based physical activity and health promotion and sport as context for youth development and socialization. You can contact Dr Bengoechea via email at Enrique.Garcia@ul.ie or follow his research profile on Researchgate