The places where we live, study and work shape our behaviours and health. To give members of the public a new perspective on their surroundings, MRC Epidemiology Unit researchers shared their science for the MRC Festival of Medical Research. Oliver Francis and Paul Browne tell us how they organised their event ‘Are you in a healthy place? Travel, food and our neighbourhoods’ and what made it a success.
Bikes, takeaways and conversations
When you say ‘medical research’, the first things that spring to mind probably aren’t cycling and takeaway food. But we do all know that doing a bit more of one and eating a little bit less of the other could be good for our health.
What we don’t always realise is that these health-related decisions aren’t always individual or personal and that the world around us has a huge influence on many of our choices. We also have to remember that much of the world around us is shaped by decisions made in Westminster and our local councils. Read more
How many hours a day do you spend sitting down? If you’re on your feet for the majority of your working day then perhaps you enjoy some (sitting) down time. However is our increased use of computers and digital technology in medical research and the work place encouraging an increasingly sedentary working life? Isabel Baker investigates.
Standing while you work turns out to be an, erm, long-standing tradition. Famous historical figures including Winston Churchill, Ernest Hemingway and Charles Dickens all worked at standing desks, and of course researchers at the lab bench or in the clinic are used to spending hours on their feet.
Sedentary behaviour has been recognised as a public health issue only in the past 10 years, and recent research has suggested that standing is a healthier alternative to long periods of sitting1,2. Read more
Researchers at the MRC Epidemiology Unit often ask people to wear devices that allow them to measure their physical activity. Sometimes they get unexpected results, as Physical Activity Specialist Kate Westgate and Communications Manager Charlotte Ridgway recall in this story of festive frenzy.
The heart-rate trace in question (Copyright: MRC Epidemiology Unit)
Here at the MRC Epidemiology Unit, we frequently ask volunteers to wear a movement or heart rate monitor for up to a week so that we can measure their levels of physical activity during their everyday life. But taking these measurements out of the controlled environment of the clinic can lead to unexpected results.
Sometimes when reviewing the data we get back from the monitors, we become perplexed by patterns that don’t look biologically plausible. For example, leaving a movement monitor called an accelerometer in a pocket and putting it through a washing machine cycle can lead to some pretty crazy “non-physiological” read-outs, as did a child attaching their monitor to their pet dog as an ‘experiment’. Read more