How Do You Move?



We know exercise is good for you, but how much physical activity should you do, how often and when? Four in ten adults do insufficient physical activity, (Sport England’s Active Lives survey) and in areas of greatest deprivation, inactivity is double that of the least deprived. Does the communication of ‘physical activity guidelines’ encourage people to do more, or just confuse them? How do you move?

Play:Disrupt was invited by The National Institute for Health Research Applied Research Collaboration West (NIHR ARC West) to develop fun, interactive workshops that explored different groups’ attitudes to physical activity and how messages about physical activity should be communicated. The workshops gathered data from four groups in underserved communities of Bristol: young people, adults, older adults, and Somali women.

The aims of this study were to: 

  • Help make the physical activity guidelines more meaningful for different groups of people
  • Understand how some people manage to be active in a modern world that encourages inactivity
  • Create a set of recommendations for professionals to help them communicate the physical activity guidelines
A drawing of three people formed of circles, triangles and squares. Lots of colourful post it notes are stuck to the people


The four participatory workshops were delivered in March 2019. Findings were recorded via audio recordings; photographs and coloured post-it’s attached to balloons and props while researchers in the room observed and took notes. This was all analysed using the framework method. 

Consistent findings were the need to highlight the wider benefits of physical activity- including mental health and social benefits and clarification that physical activity is about movement. Gardening, walking- dancing, are all important forms of physical activity, and all count towards recommended daily physical activity.

“Working with Malcolm and Play Disrupt has been an eye opening experience – for purely good reasons. We came to Malcolm with a question that we wanted to ask the community about Physical Activity and their understanding of it, and asked Malcolm if he would help us to design a workshop that would be engaging, fun and participatory. The workshop that we co-produced couldn’t have gone any better – we gained some really rich community insights, and more importantly, the communities enjoyed taking part. Will be doing more research of this kind in the future (and working with Mufti whenever we can).”

James Nobles, Senior Research Associate, Universtiy of Bristol



We led the workshop design in collaboration with local community arts charity Knowle West Media Centre and the academic researchers. We developed a structure, activities and a series of playful props that would connect participants, bring them on board and stimulate meaningful discussion. The research team valued non-traditional methods and our workshops were designed to be informal, interactive, enjoyable and to engage people who may not normally participate in consultation. We used bright colours, music, bells, balloons and a range of physical play, adapted to each group. 

We wanted to understand: 

  • What each group perceived physical activity to be 
  • What awareness each group had of the current guidelines and other activity campaigns
  • What each group thought of the current UK physical activity guidelines

This exploration led us into team exercises developing physical activity messaging for each group.


The findings from the research were published in ‘The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health’ in April 2020. The results were also presented through a training session at the Scottish Physical Activity Research Connections (SPARC) conference in November 2019. The group included policy makers, researchers, and physical activity practitioners. 

Following on from session delivery, the findings were condensed into 10 core recommendations, which were presented to the World Health Organisation Committee on Physical Activity.

The Chief Medical Officer’s Physical Activity Guidelines working group now offer a free service for anyone producing physical activity resources in the UK, to help provide accurate, clear, consistent evidence statements on physical activity.

Read more about the project here.

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