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New AWRC collaboration puts physical activity at the heart of Covid-19 recovery

The role of physical activity in the UK’s response to Covid-19 is to be explored through a new research collaboration between Sheffield Hallam University’s Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre (AWRC) and ukactive.

Researchers from the AWRC and ukactive will begin an initial three-year plan by focusing on how physical activity can support Covid-19 rehabilitation to inform Government decisions as Europe comes to terms with the pandemic.

The aim of the strategic collaboration is to support the physical activity sector within the UK and across Europe with ground-breaking, relevant and up-to-date research, which will help inform policy and address inequality in terms of participation in physical activity across communities.

The research will draw on academic and industry expertise to provide insight and strategies that the sector can use to increase access from economically disadvantaged groups, prioritising the physical and mental health of the most inactive parts of the population.

While the initial year sees a focus on Covid-19, the collaboration will address longer-term research questions and opportunities to improve physical activity at a population level.

Professor Robert Copeland, Director of the Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre, said: “The alignment of industry advocacy and world-leading research provided by this collaboration, will ensure that research and innovation in physical activity are at the centre of the UK’s recovery from Covid-19.

“The AWRC uniquely brings together expertise from a wide range of academic disciplines to create innovations that help people move. By collaborating, co-producing and identifying what matters most to health and fitness providers, the communities they serve and those living in the most inactive areas of the UK, we can.

“The AWRC and ukactive have a shared ambition to create the conditions that makes it easier for everyone to be physically active and this collaboration signals our intent to create meaningful change through world-leading applied research and fulfil our shared vision of a healthier, active and more equal society."

The AWRC is dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of the population through innovations that help people move. Its mission is to prevent and treat chronic disease through co-designed research into physical activity.

Dr Matthew Wade, head of research at ukactive, said: “We are delighted to be working with the Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre at Sheffield Hallam University. Their academic expertise, coupled with ukactive’s fitness industry knowledge, will continue to progress the value of physical activity across society, and especially its role in Covid-19 rehabilitation.

“This year has highlighted the importance of physical activity and the benefits it brings to our health and wellbeing, but this isn’t being translated into impactful public policy.

“Our aim is to find solutions with our joint research programme that can bring a fundamental shift in policy making to highlight the importance of physical activity so that it is easier for people to lead more active and healthier lives.”

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