GetAMoveOn Network+ Research Challenges

In May 2017 we held a symposium bringing together a range of experts to help stimulate debate about the role of current and future technologies in enhancing levels of activity and movement in our three target groups. The symposium included a workshop to help us start mapping out our research agenda. This video summarises the research challenges identified in the workshop.

How do we get people to move more? Behaviour Change Workshop

Most of us sit for too long each day, even though we know we should be more active. So what might make us actually get up off our backsides? In February 2018, we held a workshop on Behaviour Change Interventions to Address Sedentarism to explore the role of behaviour change theories in digital technology interventions to get people moving more. This video gives a taste of what went on and an overview of some of the work being done by researchers and practitioners in the field.

Wearables in Primary Care: Innovation Workshop

In their GetAMoveOn thinkpiece Dr David Ellis and Dr Lukasz Piwek considered how future wearable interventions might be designed from the ground up to maximise their success. To kick-start this process, they held an interdisciplinary meeting on July 13th 2018 funded by the GetAMoveOn Network+ to bring together health technologists and those working in NHS primary care. So what new ideas did they come up with that could one day be prescribed by GPs to get patients moving more?

What does health look like? Visualising health stats from wearables

Most fitness gadgets count things like steps, calories and heart-beats, but once the novelty of tracking these numbers has worn off, many people just stop. How we can we make people’s activity stats more engaging, and make gadgets that people want to keep using? Dr David Ellis and the artist Laura Pullig ran a hands-on workshop where people could experiment with turning their fitness data into unique and colourful designs: not just fun for participants, it also challenges researchers and designers to think in new ways about what useful and engaging feedback could look like.

Active Minds: Physical Activity, Mental Health and Digital Technology

There have been few opportunities for technology researchers and mental health researchers to come together to discuss physical activity technology. As a result, technology solutions can be inappropriate and health researchers can remain unaware of new innovations. To address this, Dr Maki Rooksby from the University of Glasgow led an interdisciplinary workshop which took place on 18th/19th July 2018, funded by the GetAMoveOn Network+ to explore the relationship between mental health, physical (in)activity, and the challenges of designing technology solutions to address these.

Active Minds: Mindfulness on the Go

Rohan Gunatillake is the creator of Buddhify, a meditation app designed to fit meditation into a modern busy lifestyle. He was named by Wired magazine in their Smart List of 50 people who will change the world. As part of the Active Minds workshop, exploring the links between physical activity and mental health, Rohan led a practical session about mindful movement - Mindfulness On-the-Go.

What does health feel like? Part 1 - Exploring our health data with smart materials

What does our health data really mean to us, and does the way we experience it change what we do to stay fit and healthy? Marion Lean from the Royal College of Art set out to explore these questions with a women’s community sports group, Haringey Rhinos. Participants tried out new ways collecting movement data through knitted pressure sensors, and new, sensory ways of experiencing it, rather than just as a set of numbers. The outputs of this workshop will help to inform thinking about how best to present health data in ways that are meaningful and motivational, and how smart textiles and design practice can be applied to produce interventions and objects that help people to adopt healthier lifestyle habits.

What does health feel like? Part 2 - Exploring sensory feedback from wearables

As part of the London Design Festival 2018, Marion Lean, a PhD design researcher at the Royal College of Art, created an interactive installation inspired by the concept of a Rube Goldberg machine, in which one action triggers the next in a domino effect: she connected an exercise pad made with textile sensors to a sculpture made from a series of giant marble runs. The set-up invites you to experience physical activity data in a playful way: when you interact with the exercise pad by moving, this triggers the marble run, eliciting a childlike feeling of wonder and satisfaction. The installation is part of research project using materials to explore the experience of systems and technologies designed to aid behaviour change, and followed on from Marion’s workshop with the Haringey Rhinos.

Stand Up! The app to get you sitting less and moving more

Melitta McNarry and Kelly Mackintosh from Swansea University are looking at how we can help people to sit less and move more. The ‘Stand Up’ app helps people monitor their sitting time and break it up with short periods of activity. The results of trials so far are positive: people using the app do move more and sit less throughout the day. The Swansea team are now leading a follow-on study, funded by the GetAMoveOn Network+ which aims to discover what the crucial ingredients are that determine whether people actually use the app and respond to the prompts to stand up and move more, to try to make it more helpful and more effective for more people.

Designing a new app to help football fans get match fit

They say that if you want to get fit, you need to find a kind of exercise or sport that you love. Well you can’t knock the dedication of football fans to the beautiful game, but how can it help them to get fit when most of them don’t actually play? A team of researchers from Northumbria University has taken on the challenge of getting them up on their feet and moving more by designing an app to motivate and help them support each other to get healthier. Their winning formula involves designing the app with the help of football fans themselves, to make sure the end product really does grab their interest, and also incorporating special interactive features that have been proven to help people change their behaviour.

Can Alexa help to get children moving more?

Many parents are frustrated by the amount of time their children spend with their eyes glued to screens, but what if tech could help to get children eating healthier and moving more? Intelligent personal systems like Alexa, Echo and Google Home can now be used to stream audio entertainment and control smart devices from light bulbs to security cameras to central heating thermostats. But can they also help children to adopt healthier behaviours at home? Angela Carlin from Ulster University is leading a project to find out.

A next-generation activity tracker for wheelchair users

We’re all familiar with the concept of wearable fitness trackers and there’s now a huge range to choose from if you’re into running, walking and cycling. But if you’re a wheelchair user, the choice is much more limited, and most are not actually very useful to help users improve fitness. So Dr Ildar Farkhatdinov and his team at Queen Mary University of London are developing a completely new type of tracker that will assess how the wheelchair and the user are performing as a single unit, to enable users to propel their chair most efficiently to maximise fitness gains and avoid injury.

Get moving to manage stress

Almost three quarters of UK adults said they felt overwhelmed at some point in the last year (2018). That’s a staggering 51m people! So it’s really important to find effective ways to help people manage stress. Exercise and physical activity can make a big difference, so activity trackers and apps that help people to move more could potentially have a major role to play, but not much is known about whether they really work as a stress-management aid, and if they do, what the crucial features are. Nora Ptakauskaite, a PhD research student at UCL, has been finding out.

Could talking fitness trackers help older adults to be more active?

Digital health interventions are often delivered in the form of mobile text alerts and notifications, but older may find it difficult to read small text and interact with small menus. So could a tracker you can talk to make health technologies more accessible to older adults? Prof. Nirmalie Wiratunga is leading a project at Robert Gordon University to develop a conversational system that can monitor the physical activity levels of older adults from sensor data and provide a personalised, conversational programme to increase their physical activity.

How to get healthier with Alexa

Many parents worry about their children lying in their bedrooms playing video games for hours and hours, and not playing outside like they used to, but technology is here to stay. So instead of thinking about all the negative things it can do for your physical health and wellbeing, Angela Carlin and her team at Ulster University are exploring how we can harness technology that many people already have to help them to be more physically active.

Active Audio in urban Bangladesh: can motivational mobile messages get you moving more?

Older adults in urban Bangladesh typically do very little physical activity so there is an urgent need to motivate them to do more. Mobile phones are an ideal medium to reach them as over 90% of households in urban areas own one. Hannah Jennings from UCL is working with her partners at the Diabetic Association of Bangladesh to develop a health promotion initiative, delivered through mobile phone voice messages, to encourage older people to be more active.

A new rehab app for home-based physio support after knee surgery

Knee replacement surgery can be life-transforming. The greatest benefits are likely to come when patients continue all their rehab exercises after leaving hospital, but it can be a real challenge for many to get to physio sessions after they've been discharged. Lyndsay Alexander, a GetAMoveOn Fellow and researcher at Robert Gordon University, is developing a new app that can be used to deliver rehab programmes remotely, so that patients can do their exercises at home, while still getting the best information and guidance from the physiotherapy team.

Improving health using gamification: points mean prizes in the exercise game

Would the promise of a reward get you up on your feet and moving more often? Kirk Plangger and his team from King’s College London have been running a trial to see whether a game-based system where people can earn points for physical activity and redeem them for real rewards can help them to develop an exercise habit. They’re looking for the most relevant, effective and cost-effective combination of persuasive nudges and rewards. What would it take to get you moving more?

There are over 300,000 health apps so why aren’t we all fit?

Choosing an app to help you get fit can feel a bit overwhelming. No wonder – there are over 300,000 to choose from! So where do you begin? Should you ask your doctor? They're probably as confused as you are, and the best-known apps aren't necessarily the best in terms of helping you to actually change your health habits. Paulina Bondaronek, a researcher from UCL and GetAMoveOn fellow, has been investigating what makes apps easy to use and more likely to help you get fit, so you can find the right app for you.

Transforming pain management with tech-enabled physio care

Physiotherapy can be very effective for managing back pain but ongoing face-to-face and hands-on care is prohibitively expensive. GetAMoveOn fellow Anjana Wijekoon is developing a system using wearable devices and smart exercise mats to monitor how people are performing their exercises at home and give them personalised feedback to optimise the benefits and help them recover faster and better.

Better Health for People with Cancer – Wherever and Whenever They Are

Exercise can really help cancer survivors to overcome the physical, emotional and mental health issues they experience as a result of their cancer and the treatment itself. But what if you can’t actually make it to your local gym or the classes aren’t suitable? Dr Cindy Forbes, a GetAMoveOn Fellow and researcher from the University of Hull is harnessing the unique possibilities of digital technologies to create a programme that will enable people to experience all the health benefits of a face-to-face group from a distance, ‘wherever and whenever they are’.

Online Physical Activity Assessment and Feedback Tool for Older Adults

Even light activity and just sitting less can have real health benefits for older people. But there are currently no suitable methods to track and motivate this activity. Neither activity trackers nor questionnaires give accurate results when it comes to measuring shorter bouts of lighter activity, so there is a real need to develop a new approach. Max Western from Bath University and his team have taken on the challenge. They are working with a group of older people to develop a new digital tool that will help researchers to better understand their activity levels and how best to encourage older people to be more active.

Is your activity tracker really helping you?

Do fitness trackers really work? If people stop using them after a couple of weeks, is that a good thing or a bad thing? What happens when people focus on feeding their tracker steps to keep it happy? Daniel Harrison is a GetAMoveOn Network+ fellow and researcher at Northumbria University. His aim is to make activity tech genuinely useful for people while avoiding some of the potentially negative consequences. He has some inspiring stories of how exercise trackers can help people make real changes to their health – and some notes of caution about the need for a bit of balance in life: more is not always better!

Music while you work: getting moving while staying productive

Music moves us physically as well as emotionally. It can also help us to concentrate. So how can we harness these aspects of music and optimise them using technology, in a way that will encourage us to get up and move more when working, yet at the same time enable us to remain productive?
GetAMoveOn Fellow and Research Assistant Joe Newbold from UCL gives the lowdown on his latest research.