Research in Sport, Exercise and Nutrition Sciences

Our innovative research is helping to improve health and wellbeing across communities and the lifespan

Strength in numbers

An international research team, led by Dr Lachlan James has sought to understand the requirements of a successful postgraduate Strength and Conditioning program, with insights gathered from experts across the globe.

“With this information, we have been able to tailor our newly developed Master of Strength and Conditioning degree at La Trobe to meet the current and future demands of industry. In addition, the team has spearheaded targeted professional development offerings to strength and conditioning practitioners, including our new annual Strength in Numbers symposium” says Dr James.

The research explores the needs and wants of students, modes of delivery, industry demands and the teaching and learning tasks implemented to create a successful postgraduate program.

Dr James says, “we wanted to know about factors such as the contribution of research vs. coursework to the curriculum, professional accreditations and practicum/placement hours and their perceived importance from people working in the industry”.

The information gained allows La Trobe academics to ensure that graduates from postgraduate programs are career ready and have the skills and knowledge required to succeed in the strength and conditioning industry.

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Improving heart health

Research has found that regular consumption of extra virgin olive oil improves cardiovascular health, particularly for those at high risk of cardiovascular disease.

“Research has shown that the Mediterranean diet – which is rich in plant-based foods, whole grains, olive oil, nuts, fish and poultry – reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases,” says lead researcher, Dr Katerina Sarapis. “These foods have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.”

Sarapis and her team examined the impact of regular consumption of extra virgin olive oil on multiethnic populations. They found that markers of heart disease, such as oxidative stress and inflammation, were significantly improved.

The effect was more pronounced in participants at a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, defined by abdominal obesity and high levels of inflammation.

“Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of mortality in Australia,” says Sarapis. “Our research shows that a relatively easy dietary intervention could help people from any ethnic background to improve their cardiovascular health.”

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Understanding lawn bowls

Samantha Birse, Professor Kate Webster, Dr Kane Middleton and Associate Professor Jodie McClelland have identified that closer-range forehand shots are the least accurate and least consistent in lawn bowls.

“In lawn bowls, competitors take shots at rolling a bowl to stop closest to the target, or the jack,” explains researcher, Dr Kane Middleton. “The bowl’s uneven shape makes it roll in a curve – accuracy and consistency is critical to success.”

The research team examined forehand and backhand shots, taken at different distances from the jack – and a forehand shot closer to the jack performed worst. “In these cases, players were delivering the bowl too wide,” he explains.

Next, the team will quantify the biomechanics behind bowling to determine what physical variables are most related to bowling accuracy.

“Lawn bowls is a popular sport, with over 690,000 participants in Australia. We hope that our research informs coaching to improve the performance of social and competitive players.”

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Find out more about the Department of Sport, Exercise and Nutrition Sciences on the website and LinkedIn.