Donation to tackle sedentary lifestyles

A significant donation has helped launch a new research initiative at La Trobe University that aims to tackle alarming rates of insufficient physical activity leading to chronic disease, particularly among rural and regional Australians.

The La Trobe Holsworth Research Initiative will build on the University’s existing research strengths in exercise physiology, physical activity and rehabilitation to increase Australians’ activity levels, and improve physical function and performance.

Bendigo residents, Carol and Bill Holsworth, made the philanthropic donation through the Bendigo Tertiary Education Anniversary Foundation (BTEAF) to help establish the Initiative, and provide funding for the next five years.

Director of the La Trobe Holsworth Research Initiative, Professor Michael Kingsley, said that according to the most recent Australian Bureau of Statistics’ National Health Survey, insufficient physical activity remains a concern across all age groups.

“We know that only around 15 per cent of Australian adults are meeting the current Australian physical activity and muscle strengthening activity guidelines.

“This has an enormous impact on rates of chronic disease, like heart disease and diabetes, not to mention mental health and quality of life.

“Our research will look at everything from the way our bodies perform activities and become susceptible to injury, to how technologies like smart devices impact on activity levels,” Professor Kingsley said.

The La Trobe Holsworth Research Initiative will also explore how elite sportspeople can perform better and compete more successfully.

“At one end of the spectrum we have sedentary people, who need assistance to lose weight or overcome injury, while at the other end we have elite athletes, who can benefit hugely from a training program underpinned by targeted research.

“And then there is everyone in between; whether we exercise every day, or barely leave our homes, the vast majority of us aren’t active enough, or doing the most efficient and effective forms of exercise.

“This research will look at what people across the whole activity spectrum are currently doing and why – and how we can improve things to help them lead happier and healthier lives,” Professor Kingsley said.

The name of the new Initiative acknowledges the generous support of a local couple who has made its establishment possible.

Dr Bill Holsworth is a renowned ecologist, mammologist, wildlife biologist and philanthropist. Together with his wife Carol, they have supported important causes, including academic research, for more than 30 years.

Dr Holsworth said he and his wife hoped their contribution would encourage others to support the world-class research being undertaken at La Trobe’s Bendigo campus.

“La Trobe has many talented researchers working on a wide range of global issues like this one.

“If our contribution makes a difference to rates of chronic disease caused by insufficient exercise – or encourages people to support other areas of research at the campus – that is a wonderful outcome,” Dr Holsworth said.

Chair of BTEAF, Dr Penny Davies, thanked Dr and Mrs Holsworth for their substantial donation, and said it would help make Bendigo a world-class centre for exercise science research.

“We are very grateful for their recognition of this global health issue, and of La Trobe’s ability to find effective, long-term solutions,” Dr Davies said.

Head of Campus at La Trobe, Mr Robert Stephenson, said this was a significant investment in the future health of people around the world.

“The research undertaken by Professor Kingsley and his team to tackle health issues arising from our modern, sedentary lifestyles is not only relevant in Australia’s regional communities.

“The outcomes will have international impact, reflecting the talent of our researchers, and the important work they are undertaking,” Mr Stephenson said.

The La Trobe Holsworth Research Initiative aims to ultimately influence health policy and practice in regional locations and cities throughout Australia, and internationally.

Media contact: Kate O’Connor – k.o’connor@latrobe.edu.au – 5444 7415 / 0436 189 629

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