Research and Evaluation
The ukactive Research Institute is an initiative which aims to build an evidence base for the use of exercise and physical activity programmes in the improvement of quality of life, prevention, and management of disease.
We want to work with any organisation interested in getting more people more active, from private and public gym operators, to local authorities and Clinical Commissioning Groups. The research institute can measure and evaluate existing physical activity interventions, determining what will have the greatest impact and establishing best practice.
The ukactive Research Institute is experienced in the delivery of evaluation services across a wide range of settings, and specifically those that incorporate multiple elements.
The following three examples demonstrate the skills and expertise possed by the Research Institute that will be essential in the delivery of evaluations.
The evaluation of LGM is currently being conducted in three areas of the UK (Luton & Bedfordshire, Birmingham, and Essex) and in 35 General Practitioner surgeries. This process has required the development of an online data collection / reporting system and includes multiple levels of evaluation. The main outcome measure is changes in physical activity (measured via self-report) as a result of a 12 week pathway. In some instances however low levels of retention have been reported and a recommendation was made as part of the evaluation to incorporate measures to boost retention. Furthermore, an in-depth sample approach has been adopted whereby physical activity is being measured directly (i.e. via accelerometer) in a sub-sample of participants. This is supported by physiological measurements including blood pressure, blood lipids, and body composition to ascertain the clinical or treatment effectiveness of the intervention.
Parklives is a nationwide programme of park based physical activity sessions delivered within local communities. The initiative is currently active in over 60 parks in London, Birmingham, and Newcastle. It is scheduled to expand over the next five years (investment totalling £20 million pledged until 2020). Community engagement and development is a fundamental part of the evaluation process. Its evaluation has been supported by data collection methods including; surveying of target populations (including control cohorts outside of host cities), focus groups containing community physical activity leaders, semi-structured interviews with local authority partners, and quantitative data analysis.
This was an original research project undertaken by the ukactive Research Institute that aimed to examine the relative effectiveness of three competing physical activity interventions in 26 community settings across the UK.Three competing year-long interventions were compared to a control group and data collected included cardiorespiratory fitness levels, body composition, blood pressure, and blood lipids.
Over 1,000 participants took part in the investigation. What was particularly unique about this investigation was that all data collection and intervention delivery was conducted by exercise professionals within the fitness centres and was only co-ordinated by the researchers. This process of incorporating clinically relevant data capture into service delivery forms a fundamental part of the ukactive Research Institute ethos, what we have termed ‘controlled evaluation’ (Beedie, Mann et al, 2015).
This model represents a way of capturing that actual effects of an intervention or programme without directly influencing its delivery – as would be the case if participants were required to report to Universities or researchers were directly involved in data collection. The ukactive Research Institute is experienced in the delivery of this style of research in a variety of settings – current projects using this model are set in; schools, GP surgeries, and parks, in addition to fitness centres. The ability to conduct rigorous research within real world environments that genuinely reflect service delivery will be essential in the smaller in depth studies that are to be conducted as part of the wider evaluation.
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