Department for Health

Wellbeing, the body & society

Why do we research this area?


Crowd of people

— We investigate the association between wellbeing, physical activity, and the culture that surrounds it at different stages in life, from childhood to old age.


According to the World Health Organization, health is: “A state of complete physical, mental, and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”.

Physical activity has long been associated with promoting advances in wellbeing, and can promote positive mental health states and alleviate negative mood states.

It is increasingly clear that physical activity can have many different meanings and fulfil very different functions for different people, and that this can have considerable influence on its effects on our wellbeing. As such, it needs to be understood in relation to the broader social, political, economic, and technological contexts in which it is situated.

Research that extends our knowledge of the extent to which physical activity can promote wellbeing, and the conditions in which this effect can be maximised is important for informing future research and practice.

What do we do?

Our staff and research students in Sport, Health and Exercise Science undertake research projects investigating the association between wellbeing, physical activity, and the culture that surrounds it at different stages in life, from childhood to old age.

We examine how the social, cultural and physical environment, in which physical activity occurs, influences the outcome on wellbeing for better or worse, and the mechanisms by which physical activity promotes wellbeing. We approach these research questions from a variety of disciplines, incorporating pedagogical, sociological, psychological and physical cultural perspectives.

This research has helped inform clinicians, individuals, and organisations, such as schools, local councils and the military, as to how best to protect and enhance wellbeing, while encouraging greater participation and performance.

Examples of our research

Project title Aim/findings People and Partners Funder
Body Pedagogies and New Health Imperatives To examine the impact of new discourses of health on young people.  
Enhancing the wellbeing, health and aspirations of children – The Be the Best You Can Be Programme To evaluate, refine, and develop a student-centred educational intervention for secondary schoolchildren that uses Olympic and Paralympic ideals and role models to encourage students to take ownership over their personal development (becoming successful, creative, and resourceful learners who are capable of living safe and healthy lives and contribute positively to society). Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC)
21st Century Legacy
Evaluation and refinement of an exercise referral scheme to promote health and wellbeing A Knowledge Transfer initiative undertaken in partnership with the local public health team that aims to:
  1. explore the efficacy of thee exercise referral programme for different groups of patients, namely improving the risk profiles of patients referred due to high cardio-vascular risk, and improving mood and wellbeing in patients referred for mild depression
  2. identify where and how new research findings could be incorporated into practice to improve the service.
BANES Council, BANES NHS trust, HEIF (Higher education innovation fund)
Leisure, Heritage & Tourism in the Peoples Republic of China
  1. To investigate overseas visitors experiences and perceptions of heritage destinations in Suzhou, Jiangsi Province.
  2. To inform and advise policy makers and tour operators in tourist strategising, city branding, future urban planning, the management of heritage and leisure environments, the preservation of the past, and for the visibility and promotion of Suzhou tourist economies globally.
Occupational physical activity and energy expenditure To quantify occupational physical activity energy expenditure and assess its role in the maintenance of health, function and wellbeing among personnel. Optimal Performance Ltd.
Ministry of Defence (Army)
Sport, International Development & Gender Based Violence To develop a curriculum for the charity Women Win that focusses on an eight module programme designed explicitly around gender based violence and a rights-based approach to Girl's Sport for Development Programming. Facilitators were trained in the new curriculum and have since delivered it to over 9,000 women and children in 19 countries in Latin America, Asia, and Africa. Women Win
Urban Space, Wellbeing & Governance
  1. To investigate the impact of urban regeneration/material and discursive transformations in space on local populations relational to health, wellbeing, physical activity, governance, surveillance and control.
  2. To inform and advise policy makers, developers and future host cities of major events about health, societal and regeneration legacies related to urban space/development.
International Olympic Committee (pending)
British Academy (pending)