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Sport, Exercise, Health and Wellbeing

​​​​​​​​​​​​​Sport, Exercise, Health and Wellbeing (SEHW) is centred on six key areas that encapsulate a wide range of applied research which the University of Gloucestershire engages in regionally, nationally and internationally.

Physical activity and health promotion

This involves the development of an evidence base of applied practice within the context of health enhancing interventions. 

For over 15 years the University of Gloucestershire has been involved in undertaking a range of research including large-scale evaluations of health interventions in primary and secondary health care, and in the community including a range of education settings, which have included the use of exercise in planned programmes related to medical recovery and rehabilitation. 

We have also helped with the cessation of negative health behaviours, such as alcohol or inactivity. This work has included a host of regional, national and European contracts and projects which have helped establish the university as a leading centre for the development of evidence based practice.

Sport and marginalised young people

This area emphasises community sport development and criminal justice. Within this field the university has been successful in attracting research grants from some of the key organizations and stakeholders such as vInspired and the Laureus Foundation. As an institution we are also engaging and influencing the criminal justice system at a policy level.

Athlete wellbeing and sports performance

This focuses on the role of neuromuscular functioning in the reduction of injury risk and prevention in young athletes, sports nutrition, physiological determinants of performance, assessment and screening of athletes, training interventions, and psychology of performance and injury. 

There is increasing academic and practitioner interest in these specific research areas and dissemination activities have included presentations at national and international conferences, national and international football clubs and national governing bodies of sport. Clients and collaborators include the European, English and Welsh Football Associations, Barcelona FC, Gloucestershire County Cricket, Bristol Rugby​ and GB Ice Hockey.

Policy development and practice

This area includes improving welfare in sport, play, health promotion and behaviour change within professional sport. The university’s work in this area has impacted on a number of areas including practice in youth football, health and wellbeing promotion in a range of population groups, public health and psychology. 

This area of research has led to work in a number of projects in football related areas including referees, parental behaviour and child protection. As a consequence of this, the Football Association has introduced new formats for youth football (e.g. small sided games for younger players, greater emphasis on forms of the sport that promote intrinsic motivations), new competitive structures (more fun, fewer leagues and tournaments) and a greater awareness of inequities created by the relative age effect. 

Other work includes policy and practice in the area of play policy, and playwork. This has included strategic literature reviews and research output on children’s play which has informed policy in England, Wales and internationally as well as research on the Welsh Government’s Play Sufficiency Duty​, which places a statutory duty on local authorities to assess and secure sufficiency of play opportunities for children. In building on these strengths, the area is extending the focus on youth sport participation and development to build links with community development activities, coaching practice and sporting and play cultures and practice communities.

Wellbeing and performance in occupational and ‘real world’ environments

This focuses on health and well-being in occupational and real-world environments. 

This research includes work on occupational health (e.g. of temporary workers, health care workers), risk in occupational decision-making (e.g. fire ground, medical, educational, military contexts), forensic psychology (e.g. victims of sexual crimes), sport and performance psychology (e.g. visual attention, resilience and performance under pressure in various achievement contexts including sport, business, military, and surgery), functional physiology (e.g. using exercise to reduce syncope in diseased populations), the effects of regular singing on health and wellbeing, with a particular focus on respiration, the efficacy of drama interventions for the development of social and emotional intelligence in educational and social environments for vulnerable children (to include specific research with children with trauma to facilitate social skills and resilience), research on the neuroscience of well-being in such contexts using EEG technology to examine brain processing in adults and children, health and wellbeing of university students including academic achievement, nutrition, smoking, alcohol consumption, illicit drug use, stress and health complaints, organisational-specific mindfulness training as a component in professional and corporate well-being programmes.

Clinical health and wellbeing

This area includes clinical, counselling and physiological projects on physical and mental health. From a psychological perspective, research includes topics such as mindfulness, fear, anxiety, empathy, autism, health education, adolescent psychology issues (e.g. in diabetes regimens) and using poetry in dementia treatment. 

This encompasses research and scholarship on the theoretical aspects of psychology with regard to wellbeing such as the nature-nurture debate, neuroscience, the impact of mindfulness, in additional to understanding the concept of well-being in clinical areas, such as in schizophrenia and learning difficulties. 

The physiological aspect of this area encompasses cardiovascular and respiratory research including physiological and psychological assessment with healthy and diseased populations including those with respiratory disease, obesity and other health restricting conditions. This area also includes some interdisciplinary research regarding health and wellbeing in maternal and perinatal health, metabolic syndrome and hearing loss, as well as sexual functioning in people living with epilepsy.​


Reducing Injury in Sport with Kids (RISK)

by Prof. Mark De Ste Croix

The proposed project will investigate the impact of coach education training for members of the youth coaching community. It will help to understand the health knowledge of trainee coaches in terms of injury risk and prevention for youth, and their attitudes and behaviours towards health issues in youth sport. The project will provide essential information about an intervention to support the health literacy of coaches among members of the youth coaching community. The high injury incidence rates of youth performers during sporting activities means that this coach education, if shown to be effective, could be widely implemented in the EU. This proposal draws upon the substantive expertise of the research team (in the areas of youth, injury prevention, coaching, health, evaluation and research) and their previous experience undertaking applied projects within the community.

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By Prof. Graham Edgar

The aim of this project (funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union) is to develop an innovative online training tool – the FireMind - that will support and enhance the decision making of firefighters and fire incident commanders. The Project and the tool embody an innovative approach to understanding Fire and Emergency decision-making and the potential errors and risks in such decision-making. The value of the FireMind exercises is that they can show individuals how they can react and so increase awareness of possible personal tendencies. Bias can produce errors of judgment, with too conservative a bias leading to “miss” errors and too liberal to “false alarm” errors. Self-awareness and monitoring of situation ​awareness and bias may improve the safety of decision-making in fire and rescue operations.

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Development of an educational teaching resource on ensuring good governance of sport (athlete - governing body relationships) for HE providers.

by Dr. Emily Ryall​

The aim of this project is to develop a teaching resource on good governance in sport that can be utilised in higher education institutions as part of course programmes. It will be a resource focused upon ensuring and developing fair, equitable and transparent relationships between athletes and governing bodies. The rationale for this project stems from the increasing prevalence of appeals and complaints from athletes against sports' governing bodies, as demonstrated by our partner organisation, Sports Resolutions, who are world leaders in providing support and arbitration services for athletes and governing bodies. Working with Sports Resolutions will enable a resource to be developed that can significantly enhance wider European practice where this type of service is not currently provided. Ultimately, the aim is to improve the good governance of sport by providing explicit training for those that will enter this sphere of the workforce.

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The ‘Boing’ play-based curriculum

by Will Roberts

The ‘Boing’ project is a research-led programme designed to support coaches and teachers make physical activity more playful and inclusive. In collaboration with Sport England and Oxford Brookes University, the project team have developed a series of play-based games for coaches and teachers to utilise. The innovative online resource offers over 130 games with additional resources to support professional development of practitioners working with young people in sport, education and physical activity settings. 

With support from Sport England and Lottery Funding, this project is currently providing coach and teacher education workshops nationally as part of a 2-year programme to develop knowledge, confidence and expertise in coaches and teachers. A key aim of the project is to increase the quality and inclusiveness of physical activity interventions in a variety of settings. The research project seeks to ascertain: 1. The impact of coach/teacher education on the knowledge and confidence of practitioners; 2. Young people’s experience of the Boing curriculum; 3. Impact on the national workforce to deliver fully inclusive physical activity interventions.

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Training Sports Students as Mentors to Improve the Educational Attainment of Boys and Young Men

by Paul Hopkins and Colin Baker​

This project’s aim is to assist in reducing male ESL (early school leaving). Our objective is to develop a Higher Education Institute (HEI) course to enhance the knowledge and skills of undergraduate sports' students to enable them to provide mentoring support in future vocational settings for young males who are underachieving at school and so motivate them to stay at school and improve their educational attainment/outcomes. The course will also instruct students on support for young men's mental and emotional health as an issue affecting educational performance. Co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union.

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Volunteers in Playwork - Employment Routes (VIPER)

by Karen Benjamin​, Leonie Burton

VIPER aims to address this through the transfer of a training course to improve the quality of VET for adults entering the children’s workforce. The course ‘Volunteers in Play - route to employment’ is currently accredited by SkillsActive (Sector Skills Council). In collaboration, the project will develop the programme to incorporate local best practice from across Europe, and transfer it to become an EU training resource. This project will result in a multilingual training resource with course materials for VET deliverers and for learners. There is potential to develop a well trained European volunteer play workforce. The project will enable learners to become better skilled in an era of economic crisis, to support growth and jobs as well as equity and social inclusion.

Enhancing Quality in Primary Physical Education (EQUIPPE)

by Dr. Colin Baker

The project activities include the development and implementation of an innovative online CPD package for primary P.E. teachers. This will increase competencies, skills and confidence to teach high quality P.E. The CPD resources will be developed via collaboration between partners and wider relevant networks and stakeholders (e.g. primary schools, HEIs) to ensure best practice and appropriateness to a wide range of settings and needs. These networks will develop over the life of the project to ensure that the resource reflects contextual factors and best practice. The CPD resource will improve the quality of P.E. delivered in primary schools by: (1) educating P.E. teachers (irrespective of level of experience or whether generalists or specialists) in the importance of physical literacy; (2) increasing confidence to develop, deliver and manage P.E. sessions; (3) improve professional practice via the sharing of knowledge, skills and understanding of high quality P.E.

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Children's Access to Play in Schools

by Leonie Burton

Play researchers believe that play is the basic form of learning for life and as play work theory states all “social, physical, intellectual, creative and emotional” (SPICE) aspects are developed through play, especially through freely chosen, intrinsically motivated and self-controlled play. However, today play is at risk. Children of today – especially in urban areas- have much less access to play, have less play time and less freedom as control is exerted by risk averse parents/ adults. The leverage point of the system of factors influencing play in society, is clearly the schools. That is why, based on UK experience, we would like to develop a Play-friendly Quality Criteria / Label for Central Europe. To have the criteria as fitting and adaptable as possible, we are going to run research in each country and set up National Adaptation Plans. Also to prepare schools to apply the criteria, we are developing a staff training course and materials, which will be adapted and translated to local languages. As a result of our dissemination / communication activities, we would also like to set up a European network of play workers – professionals, whose role is “to support all children and young people in the creation of a space in which they can play”​.

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Children's Access to Play in Schools

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Centre for Research in Applied Cognition, Knowledge, Learning & Emotion (CRACKLE)

CRACKLE staff and graduate research students conduct research in “applied” or real-world aspects of cognition, learning and emotion with implications for psychological wellbeing. This involves research in natural and community situations alongside associated laboratory research, including EEG (electroencephalography) studies of relevant brain activity.

As part of the research priority area of Sport, Exercise, Health and Wellbeing, CRACKLE provides a forum for the facilitation of collaborative research among CRACKLE members, and also provides a ‘shop-window’ for research activity, including: wellbeing and performance in occupational and ‘real-world’ environments; clinical health and wellbeing; and athletic wellbeing and sports' performance.

To find out more visit the CRACKLE blog​ or contact Dr. Graham Edgar.​​