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The impact of physical activity on the cardiovascular health of Indigenous Australians

Dr Rona Macniven, Institution: University of New South Wales

2020 Postdoctoral Fellowship

Years funded: 2021-2023


The value of physical activity in improving cardiovascular health and wider wellbeing is unequivocal and has been identified as a priority by Indigenous Australians in previous cardiovascular disease studies. Physical inactivity is a key risk factor for cardiovascular disease, particularly among Indigenous peoples. Beyond the benefits of physical activity in preventing cardiovascular and other chronic diseases, positive mental wellbeing independently protects against cardiovascular disease. Emerging evidence of positive wellbeing outcomes from physical activity could be of particular benefit for Indigenous people given the Indigenous standpoint that views health holistically, considering physical and mental health as one.

However, little is known about longitudinal physical activity participation levels of Indigenous Australians and their impact of these on cardiovascular health and wellbeing, nor the effectiveness of physical activity interventions for Indigenous peoples. My proposed research will address these critical evidence gaps through a series of four projects across the life-course. First, I will quantify children’s longitudinal trends in physical activity participation and predictors of children’s physical activity, to identify how cardiovascular disease could be prevented. Second, I will quantify adolescent physical activity patterns and the relationship between physical activity and cardiovascular risk factors and wellbeing. Projects three and four will identify the impact of two different physical activity interventions for adults on cardiovascular health and wider wellbeing, providing solutions for future health promotion.

My research objectives are to generate high quality evidence of how physical activity can improve the cardiovascular health and wellbeing of Indigenous Australians across the life-course. This evidence will enhance knowledge and understanding in order to inform the future design and development of optimal programs and services.

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