Food Health and Exercise

The pandemic quickly changed the way we live. For some people this meant more time to exercise or an increased focus on their wellbeing, but for others it has meant their usual exercise routine, including participation in team sports or trips to the gym, has been disrupted. Some people stopped exercising completely for a complex number of reasons. We have done extensive research to examine these changes and to help people understand why their motivation or routine has been impacted.

Our work in this area is expansive. From understanding the broader benefits of exercise for mental health, to improving the performance of elite athletes through highly credible work in the field of biomechanics which aims to reduce injuries, we study all aspects of sport, exercise and health.

We work collaboratively, sharing insights with our food researchers to understand the complex relationship between eating, nutrition, mental health and exercise both for athletes and the general public, and what impact societal and environmental changes have on what we eat and how active we are.

How we're Powering Progress

Hiking workouts aren’t just good for your body – they’re good for your mind too

Hiking workouts aren’t just good for your body – they’re good for your mind too

The popularity of hiking has spiked during the pandemic, seeing many more people taking to trails.

Hiking workouts aren’t just good for your body – they’re good for your mind too

Before COVID-19, the popularity of hiking was on a downward slope in both adults and children. But its popularity has spiked during the pandemic, seeing many more people taking to trails than usual. Hiking is not only a great way to get outside in nature, it also has plenty of physical and mental health benefits for those who take part.

Hiking differs in many ways from taking a regular stroll around your neighbourhood. Not only is the terrain on many hiking routes uneven or rocky, there’s also typically some change in elevation, such as going up or down hills. People also tend to wear different footwear – such as hiking boots – which can be heavier than what they’re used to wearing.

These differences in terrain and footwear mean hiking has a higher energy expenditure (more calories burned) than walking on flat ground does. This is due to the fact that we need to use more muscles to stabilise ourselves when walking on uneven terrain.

Read Dr Lindsay Bottoms’ full article on The Conversation.

Exercise and eating in the pandemic

Exercise and eating in the pandemic

Dr Lindsay Bottoms and Lecturer Lindsy Kass discuss how the lockdowns have impacted people’s physical activity habits and how these insights can help get people more active again.

Exercise and eating in the pandemic

Find out more about Sport, Health and Exercise Research at Herts.

Sitting it out

Sitting it out

How lockdown life affected people’s exercise and eating habits.

Sitting it out

  • The number of people who never exercised at the gym or undertook an exercise class, either online or live, increased by 51%.
  • 54% went from exercising frequently to never exercising, suggesting a lack of engagement with online and home workouts.
  • Outdoor running and cycling more than twice a week increased by 38%. Walking for a min. 30-minutes on more than two occasions a week increased by 70%, while 10-minute minimum walks 7 days a week increased by 23%.
  • But sitting for more than 8 hours a day increased by 43.6% on weekdays and 121.0% at weekends.
  • 32.2% of participants reported their body mass increased, with 39% reporting an increase in food intake.

Online study conducted with 818 UK participants during the first national lockdown, led by Lindsy Kass, Sport, Health and Exercise Research Group, University of Hertfordshire.

Maintaining motivation

Maintaining motivation

Professor Richard Wiseman shares his advice for successfully adopting healthier habits post-lockdown.

Maintaining motivation

Based on a study of 5,000 people, Professor Richard Wiseman, the UK’s only Professor in the Public Understanding of Psychology, shares his advice for successfully adopting healthier habits post-lockdown

Persistence: It's more than likely old habits will creep back in, so see these as temporary setbacks rather than a reason to give up altogether. Failure is the main thing that sets people back, but persistence is key. If on the first day of a new fitness and healthy eating regime you raid the biscuit tin, make sure you start again the next day.

Ensure you have cheerleaders: Let friends and family know you’ve set yourself health and fitness goals so they can encourage you to stick to your resolutions.

Plot your progress: You can share your progress publicly on social media for accountability, or privately in a journal or diary. Allow yourself small rewards for meeting milestones to help keep motivation up.

Set achievable goals: Chose something specific that can be realistically achieved. For example, start by saying you’ll go to the gym once a week, and then move up to two sessions a week.

Know your triggers: Identify what encourages you to do the behaviours you want to avoid. It might be making sure there’s not any biscuits in the house if that’s your snacking weakness. Its also possible to create new triggers to prompt your new healthier behaviours; the start of the evening news could be your cue to go to the gym.

Key facts: food, health and exercise

Key facts: food, health and exercise

A year of change, how the pandemic affected our exercise habits.

Key facts: food, health and exercise

Hertfordshire Sports Village opens clinic to support Long COVID sufferers

Hertfordshire Sports Village opens clinic to support Long COVID sufferers

One in five people who have tested positive will continue to experience symptoms after five weeks.

Hertfordshire Sports Village opens clinic to support Long COVID sufferers

While most people recover from COVID-19 after a few days or weeks, figures from the Office of National Statistics show one in five people who have tested positive will continue to experience symptoms after five weeks. This is often referred to as ‘long COVID’ and it can be debilitating for those suffering with it.

The symptoms of long COVID can vary greatly and can last for five months or more. Common symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain or tightness, problems with memory and concentration and difficulty sleeping.

Many sufferers can’t walk short distances or do any light exercise, and it can affect their mental health and wellbeing as well as their health and fitness.

The Long Covid rehabilitation clinic at the University’s Hertfordshire Sports Village provides one-to-one support, both in person and online, to help clients achieve their health and fitness goals. The specially trained clinic team assess each client’s health and fitness at an initial appointment to understand how fit they were before they had COVID-19 and to understand what their fitness and health goals are. The team then create a plan of action to help sufferers progress and achieve their goals, whether its to walk short distances again or to be able to participate in strenuous exercise activities.

Find out more about the clinic at Hertfordshire Sports Clinic.

Pandemic increases use of image and performance enhancing drugs

Pandemic increases use of image and performance enhancing drugs

How lockdown life affected people’s exercise and eating habits.

Pandemic increases use of image and performance enhancing drugs

During lockdown, University of Hertfordshire researchers asked over 3,000 people from seven different countries, including the UK, about their exercise habits, use of image and performance enhancing drugs (IPEDs) and the feelings they have towards their appearance.

  • (down icon) The number of people who never exercised at the gym or undertook an exercise class, either online or live, increased by 51%.
  • (down icon) 54% went from exercising frequently to never exercising, suggesting a lack of engagement with online and home workouts.
  • (up icon) Outdoor running and cycling more than twice a week increased by 38%. Walking for a min. 30-minutes on more than two occasions a week increased by 70%, while 10-minute minimum walks 7 days a week increased by 23%.
  • (up icon) But sitting for more than 8 hours a day increased by 43.6% on weekdays and 121.0% at weekends.
  • (up icon) 32.2% of participants reported their body mass increased, with 39% reporting an increase in food intake.

Online study conducted with 818 UK participants during the first national lockdown, led by Lindsy Kass, Sport, Health and Exercise Research Group, University of Hertfordshire.

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