Department for Health

Behaviour change

Why do we research this area?


Children playing computer games

— our research enables us to better understand the barriers to health behaviour change.


Many of the most common causes of disease and disability in western nations, such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity, are associated with unhealthy lifestyles. Regular physical activity and a healthy diet throughout the lifespan can play a major role in preventing these conditions.

Despite many people understanding the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle and expressing good intentions to do so, the majority of people (in the UK at least) do not get enough physical activity or eat a sufficiently healthy diet to achieve these health benefits. Finding robust ways to help people to change their behaviour, particularly over the long term, remains a significant challenge.

What do we do?

Staff and research students in Sport, Health and Exercise Science at Bath undertake research projects from a range of theoretical perspectives, and with people of different ages.

We undertake research to better understand the barriers to health behaviour change and factors that promote it, and run studies to investigate the mechanisms by which change takes place over the short and long term. This work is conducted with a view to translating theory to practice in the real world. We need to know what determinants of behaviour change are most important to target for each behaviour, in addition to tried and tested methods that can be used to tackle these determinants in order to help people to achieve lasting behaviour change to improve their health.

Examples of our research

Project title Aim/findings People and partners Funder
The use of incentives to form healthy lifestyle habits To test the use of incentives to encourage the formation of healthy lifestyle habits in young people following the transition from school to employment. Medical Research Council (NPRI)
Waste the Waist To pilot an intervention to promote a healthy diet and physical activity for people with high cardiovascular risk, in a UK primary care setting. National Institute for Health Research (RfPB)
Evaluating health promotion interventions in the Bath & North East Somerset Area
  1.  To evaluate the efficacy of current interventions to improve diet and physical activity of school aged children, and advise on methods to enhance these services.
  2. To investigate means of promoting the uptake of physical activity interventions among families with overweight children.
Bath & North East Somerset NHS Trust
Evaluation of the Y Active Programme To evaluate the Y Active Programme, a collaborative physical activity promotion programme between YMCA and the London-based Soho Parish School. The findings of this study have informed the implementation of the Y Active programme nationwide. YMCA