With Laois Sports Partnership

We have conducted five research studies with Laois Sports Partnership to date. All studies are focused on community based, multimodal physical activity and health interventions.

Research Study 1

Research title: Multimodal Physical Activity Participation Rates in Middle-Aged and Older Adults.

Research paper: Published in the Irish Medical Journal (1st October 2020). 

Overview: 353 adults aged 50-90 years in Laois completed our survey which looked at participation in multimodal (aerobic, resistance, balance and flexibility) training, barriers (social, personal, environmental) to participation, perceived benefits of participation, and physical activity opportunities participants would like to see available. The key findings include only 51.6% (n=182) of participants meet the recommendations for aerobic exercise for health and most participants did not meet the recommendations for resistance (14.4%, n=51), flexibility (6.2%, n=22) or balance training (0%, n=0). This may increase frailty and falls, reduce independent living, well-being and quality of life in later years. The most common barriers to participation in physical activity were pain in joints and muscles (44.9%, n=111), injuries (24.5%, n=78) and clinical conditions (12.9%, n=40). However, it is important to understand that participation in regular multi-modal physical activity can treat and manage many of these issues. This message needs to be communicated to individuals who are affected by these issues and programmes should incorporate support and input from the area of Clinical Exercise Physiology if possible. In terms of mental health participants said physical activity improved their mental health (91.9%, n=217), helps them feel less stressed (90%, n=212), they enjoy it (90.5%, n=217) and they want to take part in more physical activity (77.5%, n=248). Future physical activity programmes for middle aged and older adults must incorporate (i) multi-modal physical activity (aerobic, resistance, flexibility and balance training), (ii) education regarding the amount, type, and specific benefits of multi-modal physical activity for healthy ageing and the treatment and management of injuries and clinical conditions, (iii) effective online options due to COVID-19.

Research Partners: This research was conducted in partnership with Laois Sports Partnership and Dr Siobhan O’Connor in Dublin City University.

Research Study 2

Research title: A Pilot 6-Week Lifestyle Intervention in Women Aged 50+ in Ireland.

Research paper: Published in Physical Activity and Health (16th September 2022). 

Background: The deleterious effects of ageing and inactivity are compounded by the menopause which typically occurs in females aged 50+. The menopause is associated with unfavourable changes in body composition including decreased skeletal muscle mass, bone density and increased adipose tissue. This study aimed to determine the effects of a 6-week community-based intervention on nutrition knowledge and physical, metabolic, and cardiovascular health of women aged 50+ years.

Methods:  Nineteen participants (57 ± 6 years, 32.4 ± 7.2 kg/m2) completed the intervention consisting of 2 hours of aerobic training (home-based / participant led), 2 hours of concurrent training (instructor led) and one 60-minute health workshop per week. General nutrition knowledge was assessed using an adapted validated questionnaire. Body weight, body mass index (BMI), body composition and waist circumference were measured pre and post intervention. Lower body strength endurance and cardiovascular endurance were assessed using sit-to-stand and 6-minute walk tests respectively. Point-of-care testing determined fasting glucose and lipid profile.

Results: There were significant reductions in body weight (–2.2 ± 2.0 kg, p < 0.01), BMI (–0.9 ± 0.8 kg/m2, p < 0.05), percent body fat (–1.1 ± 0.5%, p < 0.05), waist circumference (–2.4 ± 0.5 cm, p < 0.05) and fasting glucose (–0.6 ± 0.8 mmol/L) post intervention. General nutrition knowledge score (5.8 ± 0.05, p < 0.05), 6-minute walk test (Mdn = 82.5, IQR = 49.5, p < 0.05) and sit-to-stand performance increased (11.5 ± 4.5 repetitions, p < 0.05) significantly.

Conclusion: This intervention successfully improved body weight, BMI, body fat percent, waist circumference, fasting glucose, general nutrition knowledge, cardiovascular fitness, and lower body strength of participants. Metabolic health improved with a trend towards improved cardiovascular health.

Funding acknowledgement: This 6-week community-based lifestyle programme was funded by Laois Sports Partnership and Sport Ireland.

Research Study 3

Research title: Prime Time for Middle Aged and Older Adults. A 12 Week Online Multimodal Physical Activity and Health Intervention for Adults Aged 50-80 Years in Laois.

Research paper: Published in Physical Activity and Health (2nd September 2021).

Background: Multimodal exercise training can ameliorate the physiological decline associated with ageing. This study aimed to investigate whether 12 weeks of a home-based online multimodal training and health education intervention could improve functional ability and perceptions of physical and mental health in middle-aged and older adults.

Methods: Sixty-one male (N = 18, 59.1 ± 7.0 years) and female (N = 43, 60.9 ± 6.8 years) participants with various clinical conditions completed two 60-minute training sessions per week for 12 weeks delivered online via Zoom. All sessions included aerobic, resistance, balance, and flexibility exercises. One weekly session incorporated 15 minutes of health and fitness education. The pre/post testing sessions were conducted in a local community centre in line with COVID-19 public health guidelines. Paired samples t-tests and the Wilcoxon signed rank tests were utilised to compare scores pre and post intervention.

Results: There were significant improvements in participants 6-minute walk (p < 0.0001), sit-to-stand (p < 0.0001), timed-up-and-go (p < 0.0001), sit-and-reach (p < 0.0001), squat jump (p < 0.0001), core endurance (p < 0.0001), grip strength (right hand p = 0.03, left hand p = 0.04) and balance (right leg p < 0.0001, left leg p = 0.004) tests post intervention. Perceptions of physical (p < 0.0001) and mental (p < 0.0001) health also improved significantly.

Conclusion: Twelve weeks of online multimodal training and health education can significantly improve cardiovascular fitness, strength, power, balance, flexibility, and perceptions of physical health, mental health, and quality of life in middle-aged and older adults. While there are some limitations to online interventions, the benefits are numerous and equal to those reported for onsite interventions and should be considered for wider rollout in this population.

Programme partners: Laois Sports Partnership, Sláintecare, Pobal, Government of Ireland.

Funding acknowledgement: This project received funding from the Government of Ireland Sláintecare Integration Fund under grant agreement number 21.

Research Study 4

Research title: Reflections, Impact and Future Recommendations Following ‘Prime Time of Life’ – an Online 12-week Multimodal Physical Activity and Health Education Programme for Middle Aged and Older Adults in Laois.

Research paper: This research was published in Physical Activity and Health (June 2022).

Background: Multimodal training (MMT) is important for healthy ageing. However, few middle-aged (MAA) and older adults (OA) engage in MMT. This study aimed to (1) explore MAA and OA reflections, impact and future recommendations following ‘Prime Time of Life’ (PTOL) – a 12-week online multimodal physical activity and health education programme; and (2) examine if participants implemented and sustained lifestyle changes during and after the programme.

Methods: A qualitative study was conducted with purposeful sampling to explore the experiences of MAA and OA who completed PTOL. Six semi-structured focus groups and five interviews were conducted using online communication technology, audio-recorded, and transcribed verbatim. Transcripts were analysed using thematic analysis.

Results: Twenty-one male (n = 7,65.9 ± 6.6 years) and female (n = 14,65 ± 7.6 years) participants completed the study. Accessibility, health benefits, suitability, social influence, and accountability were identified as key facilitators. Poor awareness, social influence, accessibility, and poor self-efficacy were perceived as potential barriers. Participants primarily (90.5%, n = 19) made lifestyle changes during the PTOL programme, and 61.9% (n = 13) maintained at least one lifestyle change seven months after completing the programme.

Conclusion: Although lack of social interaction between participants was identified as a barrier, PTOL was a well-accepted method to promote healthy ageing for MAA and OA. Given there was a poor awareness of other MMT programmes and health benefits prior to PTOL there is a need for increased awareness. It is important to MAA and OA that they have convenient access to MMT programmes that are suitable for all fitness and functional abilities and provide technical support.

Programme partners: Laois Sports Partnership, Sláintecare, Pobal, Government of Ireland.


Research Study 5

Research title: ‘MenoWell’: A pilot 6-week novel, online, multimodal exercise and health education programme for women in all stages of menopause living in Laois, Ireland

Research paper: This research was published in Physical Activity and Health (November 2023).

Background: Perimenopausal and post-menopausal women experience a myriad of physical, endocrine, and psychological changes, which may negatively impact their wellness. Menopause education and lifestyle behaviours may enhance women’s experience during this transition. Our aim was to examine the efficacy of ‘MenoWell’, a 6-week menopause-specific multimodal exercise and health education intervention, on physical performance, menopausal symptoms, wellbeing, and self-efficacy in this population in Laois, Ireland.

Methods: Twenty-three female participants (51.3±5.6 years, n=11 perimenopausal, n=12 post-menopausal) completed a 6-week online multimodal exercise (2*40-minute/week) and health education (1*40-minute/week) intervention. Pre- and post-testing of physical performance was conducted. Online questionnaires examined baseline menopause knowledge and education and changes in menopausal symptoms, wellbeing, and physical self-efficacy. Paired samples t-tests and Wilcoxon signed rank tests examined changes pre- and post-intervention.

Results: Most participants did not feel informed about menopause. Post-intervention, there were significant improvements in sit-to-stand (p<0.001, η2=0.81), sit-and-reach (p<0.001, η2=0.49), box press-up (p<0.001, η2=0.73), 6-minute walk test (p<0.001, η2=0.56), menopause symptoms (p<0.001, η2=0.76), wellbeing (p<0.001, η2=0.36), and physical self-efficacy (p<0.001, η2=0.27). No significant change was observed for physical activity participation and bilateral single leg balance (p>0.05). 

Conclusion: A substantial lack of awareness and knowledge surrounding menopause exists in Ireland. Only 6 weeks of online, evidence-based, time-efficient (2 hours per week) and menopause-specific multimodal exercise and health education significantly improved physical performance, menopausal symptoms, wellbeing, and physical self-efficacy in perimenopausal and post-menopausal women. Thus, a widespread rollout of women-specific multimodal exercise and health education programmes to inform and prepare women is recommended.

Programme partners: Sport Ireland, Laois Sports Partnership, DCU. 


Funding: This research study was funded by Sport Ireland in partnership with Laois Sports Partnership.