Study to build fitness in the great outdoors

May 1 2015

Getting taut and trim can be a walk in the park, according to University of Newcastle researchers who have developed an innovative, multicomponent physical activity study.

The new HMRI-funded ParkFit program aims to increase fitness through the use of ‘built’ environments and public facilities such as parks, benches, stairs and outdoor fitness equipment. Based on the popular ParkRun concept, it promotes resistance and aerobic training without any costs for participants.

Trial recruitment commences on Monday, May 4, for people from Newcastle, Maitland and Lake Macquarie.

“This is the first study of its kind using the outdoor environment and a smartphone ‘App’ to help people be more active,” Professor Ronald Plotnikoff, Director of the UON’s Priority Research Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition, said.

“Regular physical activity is a key determinant of weight control and also reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, breast and colon cancer, depression, anxiety and fatigue.”

Australian health guidelines recommend that adults get 150 to 300 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity each week – this timing can be halved for vigorous exercise. It’s also recommended that adults participate in resistance training on at least two days per week, Professor Plotnikoff adds.

ParkFit incorporates outdoor fitness sessions at the University of Newcastle, motivational strategies, and the use of a special smartphone ‘App’ to initiate and monitor physical activity.

Participants will attend five sessions with a personal trainer over a 10-week period and also be encouraged to complete personal sessions, with support from the ‘App’, at their choice of designated areas in Dixon Park, Speers Point, the UON, and Islington – for durations of 20-30 minutes per session.

The study is open to anyone aged 18-75 who has a Body Mass Index of 25 or greater. Researchers are also hoping to attract people with type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes.

An introductory session will be held at University Oval 2, opposite The Forum, at 10am on Monday, May 4. Those interested in participating are welcome to attend, or they can email or phone (02) 4985 4060 to determine their eligibility.

* Professor Ronald Plotnikoff researches in conjunction with HMRI’s Cardiovascular Research Program. HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.