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Sit less, get active

The title of this new online course launched by the University in June 2016 is a call to action, literally.

Filming for the MOOC
Filming of the MOOC took place in local communities

Whilst most of us know that moving more is good for us, questions of why, what, how much, where and how often can be a little overwhelming.  Add to that the dilemma of how to squeeze physical activity into an already busy day and many of us might well feel defeated before we have even started.

A trailblazer

The good news is that the Sit Less, Get Active project is the first of its kind to deliver physical activity guidance and evaluation via a free online course, or MOOC. The course has been developed by a team at the University of Edinburgh and anyone with internet access can take part.

Develop a healthy habit

The main goal of the project is to empower and enable people to sit less and move more. Unlike many of its more theoretical predecessors, this is a practical course that provides real life examples. Participants will learn how to sit less and get active in a variety of settings, including work and home. Those who complete the course will learn how to set achievable physical activity goals, monitor them and make physical activity a healthy habit.

Mrs Motivator

Originally a GP from Serbia, Danijela Gasevic is now a lecturer at the University's Usher Institute of Population Health Sciences and Informatics and associate member of the Physical Activity for Health Research Centre.

Danijela's PhD research focussed on how the neighbourhoods that we live in can impact our levels of physical activity and contribute to the development of obesity and diabetes. By completing a substantial amount of work in different communities she has helped many people overcome the challenges they face to maintain a healthy lifestyle. It was through this community research that the idea for the MOOC first came about.

 That learning experience was more precious than any knowledge I gained from a book, and I am grateful to people I spoke with for their trust.

Dr Danijela GasevicLecturer, Usher Institute of Population Health Sciences and Informatics

The gym is not the only answer

Filming for the MOOC took place in schools and local communities
The MOOC encourages cycling as a means of active transport

Danijela found that many people automatically associate physical activity with going to the gym and doing strenuous activity – which many don’t enjoy or can’t participate in for a number of reasons. She also discovered that people who are currently receiving little or no guidance would prefer to watch videos than read leaflets.

We asked Danijela why is it so important for us to sit less and get active.

The majority of us, sit or stand very long hours at work; and most of us have experienced at one point or another effects of this be it neck or back pain or discomfort in our arms of legs.

After a hard day’s work, many of us will go home and after completing any domestic chores we might sit or lie down to rest or crack on with other activities that also involve sitting.  So for many of us, sitting takes up the majority of our waking hours, something that prominent scientists have highlighted as detrimental to our health.

They say that the more we sit the greater is our risk of many diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Even more frightening is the finding that we will live less if we spend too much time sitting in the day.

But the good news is that it does not have to be that way! We should not be waiting for a rude awakening such as a disease to make changes in our lifestyle. Even small changes that we can make during work hours can help us break long hours of sitting and have a positive impact on our health.

The Sit Less, Get Active MOOC team
The Sit Less, Get Active MOOC team

Some tips to make the change

  1. Take a coffee or tea break while standing or walking, read the paper while standing or take a phone call while walking around.
  2. Encourage colleagues or friends to join you for standing or walking meetings and catch-ups.
  3. Set a timer to stand up and stretch for a few minutes every hour.

For more examples on how to sit less and be more active, sign up for the Sit Less, Get Active online  course. Danijela and the team look forward to interacting with you and answering any questions you might have.

A team effort

The full Sit Less, Get Active team comprises Dr Danijela Gasevic, Helen Ryall, Dr Andrew Murray, Professor Dragan Gasevic, Dr Graham Baker, Professor Chris Oliver and Professor Nanette Mutrie.  Additionally a large number of organisations have advised, endorsed and worked with the team. These include the Sport and Physical Activity Division of the Scottish Government, NHS Health Scotland, NHS Lothian, Sustrans Scotland, Edinburgh Leisure, and SPORTA.