Regular exercise and physical activity are highly effective strategies for healthy aging and chronic disease prevention, prolonging life span and quality.

The global challenge

There has never been a more sedentary population of humans than 21st-century western society and the detrimental impacts of 'lifestyle' factors, particularly inactivity and sedentary behaviour, may soon arrest the positive historical life-expectancy trend, with people experiencing more years of frailty and compromised life quality.

Physical inactivity is responsible for approximately 10 per cent of annual global mortality, more than five million of a total of 57 million deaths each year, and more than $50 billion per annum in healthcare costs, from non-communicable diseases such as metabolic disease, diabetes, coronary disease and stroke. This equates to the number of deaths attributable to tobacco.

We are ranked in the world's top 20:

Exercise and physical activity help

No intervention possesses comparable impacts, across such a broad range of chronic diseases, as those associated with increased physical activity. In Australia, programs that increase exercise are associated with annual economic gains of $8000 per person with diabetes and $12,000 per person with cardiovascular disease. Compelling data also exist for the cost effectiveness of exercise in the treatment of mental health, dementia and other common chronic diseases. The promotion of exercise is a bedrock strategy to maintain healthy ageing and prevent development of common and debilitating chronic diseases.

Our outstanding research heritage in exercise, physical activity and health

UWA staff have assisted with establishment of 11 Sports Science Schools in Australian universities and collectively hold 7 AM, OAM or Centenary medals for services to sport science.

Our staff helped established the peak professional body, Exercise and Sports Science in Australia (ESSA), which accredits Advanced Exercise Physiologists (AEP) as allied health professionals. UWA staff pioneered Advanced Exercise Physiology as an allied health profession in Western Australia, being responsible for the establishment of Clinical Exercise Physiology in WA hospitals and private practice.

Our research is internationally renowned for its novelty and impact, with direct translation into new and better approaches to the prevention of chronic diseases, along with the management of patients with existing disease.

Lifespan physical activity and health

This interdisciplinary research theme focuses on the modification of healthy lifestyle behaviours.

A lifespan approach to investigating positive health behaviours aligns with the Australian Government’s Strategic Research Priorities in Medicine and Health, targeting issues related to nutrition, physical inactivity, and other modifiable risks.

Paediatric exercise science is an emerging specialty in this theme, with numerous applied research and community outreach programs complementing best-practice physical activity interventions among adults of all ages.

Additional areas of research emphasis include health promotion, exercise psychology, school-based physical activity, exercise during pregnancy, and exercise among older adults.

Research strengths

  • Health promotion
  • Exercise psychology
  • Paediatric exercise science
  • School-based physical activity
  • Exercise during pregnancy
  • Exercise benefits for older adults

Key staff contacts

Prevention and management on chronic diseases

This research theme addresses a most important aspect of human health – the value of appropriate exercise in prevention and management of chronic conditions.

With the leading cause of premature death associated with such conditions as coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, dementia and various cancers, it is encouraging to understand that 80 per cent of these deaths can be prevented. Exercise can be free, simple and easily accessed, yet 50 per cent of people do not receive the minimum dose – around 5 million deaths each year can be attributed to physical inactivity.

This theme capitalises on our established relationships with national and international research partners to help members of the community participate in physical activity and lead active and healthy lives.

Research strengths

Key staff contacts

Community programs

The school's research in exercise and health informs programs it runs for the community.

These programs are open to the public.

The UWA Paediatric Exercise Programs offer a number of after school and holiday programs to assist children and adolescents to engage in physical activity and exercise.

The UWA Exercise and Performance Centre (EPC) is an integrated centre offering exercise and health services using evidence-based, progressive and client-centred approaches. Our aim is to promote the restoration of function or optimisation of performance in clients, ranging from the general public through to elite or developing athletes and industry.

Research partners

  • Healthway
  • Cancer Council of Western Australia
  • Princess Margaret Hospital for Children
  • Women and Infants' Research Foundation of Western Australia
  • Orthocell
  • Solaris Care
  • Hollywood Functional Rehabilitation Clinic
  • Princess Margaret Hospital for Children
  • King Edward Memorial Hospital
  • Hollywood Private Hospital

Associated groups

Health Promotion and Evaluation Unit (HPEU)

The UWA Health Promotion Evaluation Unit (HPEU) seeks to influence health promotion policy and practice to improve the health of Western Australians through the discovery and communication of knowledge.