The unique challenges facing health and wellbeing as we emerge from the pandemic into a new era have been highlighted in a new annual report launched today.
The Welsh Institute of Physical Activity, Health and Sport (WIPAHS) is a pan-Wales network which sees all eight Welsh universities working with Sport Wales and Welsh Government. It brings together academia, those facilitating physical activity and sport, policy makers and the public to help create a healthier society.
One example of the institute’s work was a nationwide survey assessing the impact of school closures and easing of restrictions on children’s physical activity levels and mental wellbeing. It revealed that children were badly affected by the lockdowns and associated restrictions; some children spent 14 hours a day sitting!
Professor Kelly Mackintosh of Swansea University’s Department of Sport and Exercise Sciences and the Institute’s Co-Chair said: “There are many factors that led to such high amounts of sitting time. Our associated review revealed these ranged from individual factors, such as age and sex, to societal factors, such as family environment.
“This highlights the complexity of resolving this issue and the urgent need for everyone - from families to schools and policy makers – to work together to promote physical activity and improve the mental wellbeing of the next generation.”
The Institute is now eager to continue to help practitioners and policy makers by sharing its expertise and research capabilities.
WIPAHS Research Director Professor Melitta McNarry, also from Swansea University, said: “We pride ourselves on being an approachable and friendly group which is able to provide support across a wide range of topics in physical activity, health and sport.
“We want to provide the answers partners need to help them with their next steps, as well as sharing knowledge across a range of audiences. If anyone wants to find out more about how we could help, please contact us.”
Another example of the work conducted in the last year was in collaboration with Welsh Triathlon, the national governing body for triathlon in Wales, who wanted to know if the increased use of online exercise training platforms during the pandemic led to a greater number of people overtraining and experiencing overuse injuries.
Following a consultation, WIPAHS prepared and distributed a bespoke survey, finding that 9 percent of participants were overtraining, which was similar to normal season in high level athletes.
Welsh Triathlon was able to use the findings to provide greater evidence-based insights and support to athletes.
Owen Hathway, Assistant Director at Sport Wales and the Institute’s Co-Chair, said: “Our ability at Sport Wales, and within the sport sector, to prioritise resource and investment and to make informed policy decisions has been greatly enhanced by the work of WIPAHS.
“It has played a critical role in responding to research needs and understanding the role of physical activity and sport for the wider Welsh public. The Institute continues to be an increasingly important strategic partner and the annual report showcases the quality and breadth of its work, with a pan-Wales focus.”
The annual report highlights research already completed by the Institute, but they are also looking to the future with further projects.
These include an evaluation of the Active Education Beyond the School Day initiative which is tied into the Welsh Government’s £25 million investment in community focused schools to tackle the impact of poverty.
The findings will help provide recommendations on how to create schools that can engage with families and community, especially those disadvantaged by poverty.
This exciting project exemplifies the cross-sector approach WIPAHS utilises to provide key evidence to promote health and wellbeing for everyone in Wales.