Small girl swinging on a rope in an outdoor playground as another small girl watches

The importance of physical activity for all ages has been highlighted by researchers at Swansea University.

As part of Welsh Institute of Physical Activity, Health and Sport (WIPAHS), researchers at Swansea University have been using their expertise to examine a wide range of issues and their findings are now set to shape how leaders can help people in Wales to live healthier lives.

Its fourth annual report has just been released to coincide with Children’s Mental Health Week which runs until Sunday, February 11.

WIPAHS is a pan-Wales network which sees all eight Welsh universities working with Sport Wales, Welsh Government and Public Health Wales. It brings together academia, those facilitating physical activity and sport, policy makers and the public to help create a healthier society.

WIPAHS Co-Director Professor Kelly Mackintosh, of Swansea University’s Sport and Exercise Sciences Department, said: “It is particularly appropriate that we are publishing this report now, during Children’s Mental Health Week; physical activity is vital for mental health.

“By helping to ensure not only children but people of all ages have access to physical activity of some kind, we can play a key role in promoting better mental health and tackling health inequalities.”

Among other projects, WIPAHS is currently working to assess the physical activity levels and behaviours of children and adolescents across Wales and their relationship with mental health and wellbeing. Information collected via a series of online surveys, and device-based physical activity tracking, will allow researchers to identify the impact of factors such as the pandemic, changes to the school curriculum and funding decisions on young people across Wales. This data will also be utilised to identify specific areas that require targeted intervention strategies.

Over the past year, WIPAHS has also been involved in wide-ranging projects, including:

  • Babi Actif - an initiative to support parents to be active with their babies in the first 1,000 days of their lives which offer a unique opportunity to build healthier children and to improve their life chances;
  • Bridgend Active Young People Department (AYPD) - a series of projects with Bridgend’s AYPD were started in 2023 including evaluating its Family Active Zone and Young Leadership Programme, together with focus groups as part of a consultation on physical activity and wellbeing with young people across the borough; and,
  • Sport Wales 60+ Active Living Scheme which aims at reducing health inequalities and social isolation among the over-60s population by providing people with an opportunity to engage in physical activity opportunities.

Co-Director Professor Melitta McNarry said: “The vital role of physical activity for health and wellbeing on an individual, societal and economic level continues to be increasingly well recognised and we are delighted that WIPAHS has been able to help so many organisations, policy makers and charities to further promote physical activity and make it accessible for all, irrespective of age, ethnicity or geographical location.”

Other projects in the pipeline include evaluating the IfYouGoIGo initiative run by Torfaen County Borough Council and continuing to promote the Welsh Women’s Health Research Network to address key research questions and initiatives around women’s health and physical activity. 

Co-Chair of the Institute’s Strategic Management Board Owen Hathway, from Sport Wales added: “This has been another fantastic year of progress for WIPAHS and the annual report really highlights the breadth of work being delivered. The institute has quickly become a core piece of the research jigsaw for sport and physical activity in Wales, and with each year it is growing in reputation and impact.

“The scope of the work is great to see and I am really looking forward to how it can grow further over the next 12 months, becoming an even more of an important partner for Sport Wales and the wider sport sector.”

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