conference, networking, posters, presentations, research, Uncategorized

ISBNPA2017 Conference blog 2 of n…

Well we’ll see how this goes as to just how long this is, might need to be a couple of blogs because wow, there was a LOT going on during this conference! I’ve basically just used my Twitter stream as a long blog with some comments on stuff I found particularly interesting.

Thursday dawned durky and rainy, which was nice for the morning conference jog. 2 very lovely local ladies took me around a local park, I assume the views were nice but my glasses kept steaming up in the rain!

Thursday required quite a lot of logistics as my AirBnB was 2 miles away, the conference started at 8am and the jog was at 7am, with the fun run in the evening. Lots of quick changes and extra running kit required! Luckily I’d put my posters up the previous evening (will link to PDFs in another blog)

First up was a symposium on activity trackers, which was really interesting

There was some great qualitative research into people’s actual experiences of using activity trackers, with some unexpected findings:

This led to an interesting exchange over Twitter about WHY these social features were unpopular. Some people weren’t even at the conference, this is the power of Twitter for me!


There were some questions about discontinuing use which were interesting but a bit surface level to my mind. I think perhaps the emotional aspects could be more important perhaps? If you have a spell where you’re not as active as you ‘should’ be, this could be frustrating and perhaps even embarrassing. It’s fine to get a nice ego boost for getting 15000 steps in a day, but if you have a day where you’re chained to the desk and get a couple of thousand, that to me is quite negative information likely to make you stop using a tracker, especially if this happens a lot …

One fantastic thing about ISBNPA: there are a LOT of female speakers!


One annoying thing about conferences is that you miss stuff happening in parallel sessions, but that’s where Twitter comes in handy! I need to find out more about this study as it looks really relevant to my research:

Next up was the poster session, I had lots of interesting conversations about my posters (and people said they liked my titles!) though I really wish the organisers had put my posters next to each other and not back to back on one board! It was noticeable that my running poster with the photo of the BRA got the most attention…

I also chatted with Elaine Hargreaves, whose paper I based my running study on, oh the excitement! It was really cool chatting to her about the study, particularly as one of the recommendations in the paper was to do a similar study in a more ecologically valid context (which is pretty much what I did!)

I went and looked at some of the posters after my session had finished, as I love seeing other people’s work even if it’s not quite in my area, I liked the one above about harassment of cyclists. The ones below I was sorry to miss the authors of, but it was great to see some running research:

This poster was the most eyecatching of the conference to me, such great design:

The final session of the day for me was a symposium on behaviour change maintenance, which was fascinating. Mainly because nobody knows how to define it, how to measure it, what to do about it. Which is kinda unfortunate when it’s the DEFINING problem of behaviour change!

First up was some discussion of the role of theory in maintenance. Oh god, behaviour change really doesn’t need yet more theories does it?

I was really flagging by this stage, but there was a fascinating talk by Rachel (think that was her first name, the programme just says ‘R’) Burns from McGill on using incentives in maintenance of physical activity. For some reason I didn’t tweet any other slides from this symposium. She had some interesting thoughts on applying stuff from other fields, such as pro-environmental behaviour. But I’m a bit sceptical about how lessons from a fairly habitual behaviour like recycling can be translated into physical activity, which seems much less habitual (though this is debatable given the definition of physical activity when it includes some quite automatic behaviour like active travel…)

Finally, Ryan Rhodes discussed some of the issues brought up by the talks, and encouraged discussion. But frankly, everyone was either too bewildered or too knackered by this stage of the evening (starting at 8am and finishing after 6pm is a LOT of brain work!) It would be really useful to keep discussing this subject as it’s such a key idea. Personally I have my own ideas about maintenance and what it looks like, which I think is different from most ideas because the very way RCTs are set up implies a certain model of a person, and a certain model of behaviour, and people are NOT that simple! Maybe I’ll write something about my Wave Theory of Behaviour Change Maintenance in the future.

Anyway, by now it was time for the conference fun run, the rain had gone and the wind had whipped up. We ran along the waterfront and out to the ‘breakwater’ and running back with the wind behind us was as much fun as running into it was hard work!

I staggered back onto the bus to go back to my AirBnb and collapse into bed, it was quite a long day, not helped by the general election unfolding in the UK, and I was trying to keep up with events there too!

Well at least with all that thinking, my body was as active as my brain!

Right, that’s enough wittering for now, I’ll obviously have to do a blog post for each day of the conference given how much there is to talk about. I find it really useful to reflect on the things I found useful or interesting during a conference. Sometimes they are not at all what you might expect, which was the case for Friday’s sessions…

conference, networking, posters, presentations, research, Uncategorized

Crow Pose, Nudging and #BeMoreAmish

This is a blog about a conference I attended last week, ISBNPA2017 (International Society for Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity, it’s a mouthful so people call it IZ-BIN-PA) It was a wonderful conference and I learnt so much, so I’m going to quickly jot stuff down about it before it disappears in a haze of travel and jetlag. In fact, it will have to be a couple of blogs, there is so much to cover! And this one alone will consume far more screen ink than strictly necessary, just look at the photos if you’re short of time.

I arrived early in Victoria, BC. I’d never been to Canada before so I was really excited! I met up with my good friend Elizabeth Ablah, from Wichita Kansas, we talked our heads off because we hadn’t seen each other since the Edinburgh ISNBNPA 2 years earlier. Apologies to the other people on the bus for our cackling and shrieking, we were excited to be together again…We did make good friends with a couple on the bus from Adelaide, but we forgot to ask their names so we spent the week texting each other possible names for them (It’s Bill and Pat, by the way. Elaine is just wrong, and certainly NOT Philip!)

We took the bus to the famous Butchart Gardens, and Elizabeth almost had a coronary with excitement at all the flowers. None of them had name labels on them (why not?!) so I had to delve deep into my memory to recall most of the names. I do now know the difference between azaleas and rhododendrons (azaleas have 5 stamens and rhododendrons 10+). The peonies were TO DIE FOR. And the irises were pretty amazing too. The front gardens of the houses in Victoria and Vancouver were just incredible, I’m going home determined to make my front garden as pretty as some of the ones I saw in Canada!

There was a lovely Japanese garden at Butchart, and a little pond with stepping stones across. We watched as a chap did some yoga (crow pose) on the stepping stones and applauded. Then Elizabeth decided to have a go…

Well, it was a very hot and sunny day, and she was wearing technical fabric trousers, they dried remarkably quickly!

She grazed her chin though, so we had to take selfies with weird chin-hiding going on so she didn’t feel bad about it.

I kind of promised her I wouldn’t put these photos on Twitter. I never promised her not to put them on the internet full stop…

Wednesday morning dawned and I decided to go for a run, it was pretty spectacular. Look at these photos!

Back to the AirBnB and quick shower and onto the bus to town for an 8am start (jet lag is REALLY handy sometimes, I was awake at 4 or 5 every day). Today there was a choice of pre-conference workshops, and whole day vs half day ones. I really like doing pre-conference workshops, you get to know people in much smaller groups compared with the main conference, you get lots of discussion and you get hands on experience with different methods and issues. I would say that they are the most useful (and sociable) part of any conference and definitely worth attending.

The first workshop I chose was on nudging. This was fantastic, as a psychologist I am really intrigued by the concept of nudging. It was run by the magnificent Denise de Ridder (no other adjective could apply) and Emely de Vett, both from the Netherlands. There was some discussion on the ethics of nudging, which I won’t cover here, but some interesting cultural differences were raised. If you’re at all interested in nudging, there are some papers on Denise’s website which are worth reading. And the self-regulation paper with Mann and Fujita linked to on there is just brilliant!

As part of this workshop Denise and Emely presented some guidelines for developing and evaluating nudges for us to use, this was a bit confusing because there seemed to be 2 sets of guidelines given with lots of overlap, but the main issue was that this workshop really needed to be a full day affair, I think. We split into small groups and were tasked with coming up with a problem and a nudge to address the problem. A chap in our group from a cancer organisation in the US came up with an interesting problem, which was how to improve sun exposure during physical activity, because melanoma rates are high in people who spend time being physically active outdoors. Again, cultural differences were really interesting here, because a woman called Vicky was from Newcastle in Australia and had a whole list of ways sun exposure was tackled there. I grew up in Sydney and I have to say I’m astonished at how much things have changed since then! Nowadays kids have big hats as part of their uniform, sunscreen is provided in parks (with little umbrellas to stop the contents degrading!), the list goes on. So she had lots of ideas for how this issue could be addressed. Jan Seghers (who is Flemish) and me had less experience of needing sunscreen to be active outdoors…

We came up with a nudge (getting local youth sports organisations to provide pop up sun shelters and big bottles of sunscreen as part of the team kit), worked out the logistics, who was being nudged (the coach, the organisations, the kids) and added some evaluation ideas. It was an interesting exercise, and we addressed lots of different issues like social norms and how to make sure it was a ‘nudge’ instead of being compulsory. My idea for using social norms was to get the kids to wear zinc cream on their faces in the team colours, on the assumption that kids like face painting, wearing colours on your face is already associated with sports (think cricket players, football fans etc), and that if you were the one kid without green paint on your face you might stand out. I liked this idea!

There was more stuff about nudges in Denise’s keynote later in the conference, so I’ll cover that later. I think it’s such a cool area to work in though, so many possibilities…

The second half of the day was a workshop on prescribing walking for health. We had a stellar lineup for this: Marie Murphy, Paul Kelly, Elaine Murtagh and Catrine Tudor-Locke. What a fantastic bunch of people! They clearly had a lot of fun coming up with ideas for this workshop, and we all had a lot of fun doing the activities, plus we got some incidental sightseeing done down at the waterfront at the same time 🙂

First we had a quick whistlestop tour of research on walking and the health benefits (at least 5000 steps a day to not be ‘The Walking Dead’, the hashtag #BeMoreAmish needs to trend), and some stuff about cadence being important (at least 100 steps per minute for health). Then we set off in pairs to look at measurement stuff. We had a heart rate monitor, a steps app, a pedometer, a stopwatch and some music downloaded to our phones. We looked at different walking speeds and how they could be changed (music was very effective) and their effects on heart rate, the accuracy of pedometers and walking apps, and used the Feeling Scale to change walking speed. It was very interesting but there was nowhere near enough time to cover everything in the activity and ponder the results in depth. It was good though to get a flavour of some of the issues involved in this area, and the walking with music was an interesting concept. Though I wish my bluetooth headphones had talked to my phone because listening to I Gotta Feeling blaring out on my phone whilst striding along made me feel like a total numpty!

The final part of this workshop looked at different walking domains, dimensions and correlates using a paper by Paul Kelly. We were asked to consider which of these would be useful in walking interventions for different groups of people. It was really interesting to think about how different types of people have completely different requirements and preferences, and I think that this ‘Edinburgh Framework’ is an excellent jumping-off point for covering different aspects of walking. Funnily enough, the different walking domains came up as a real issue in the Resolve to Walk study I did. The poster I presented at this conference actually covered the problem of different types of walking and the meanings of this for participants, so this is something which is not just a problem for researchers, but also for participants themselves in terms of what walking is, and the reasons for doing it.

Right, that’s quite enough screen ink for one blog! If you read this far, give yourself a medal! I’m off to explore Vancouver. The walking domains covered will be a combination of active travel and leisure time walking 🙂

presentations, research, Uncategorized, writing

Something I wrote about how to love exercise more




I recently wrote a piece for The Slant, which is a collection of articles collated by Zova (a health and fitness company with a cool app). I thought I’d give a couple of evidence-based suggestions for how to enjoy exercise more (or feel better about it afterwards). The internet is awash with some great ideas for how to exercise more, but I’m not sure the suggestions here have received much attention.


Anyway, I need to get back to my never-ending pile of PhD work if I’m going to fit in a run to the bank later. You can find the article here

23things, Uncategorized, writing

Thing 13: Getting the cogs to mesh


Thing 13 is about writing a discussion section. This is the part where you try to line up your arguments from the introduction with your results, hopefully without any grinding of gears…

I’ve been struggling with this paper no end recently, I know what I want to say it but how I say it is proving tricky. One reason is that this study was fairly exploratory, but I found something which is in line with a previous study and I want to go in-depth on this particular bit. But most papers are written as ‘we set out to look at X and here are our results’. Whereas I am more along the lines of ‘I set out to look at the alphabet and I found that X was important’, yet most of the background needs to be about X. So that either requires fuzziness over what you were looking for, misleading your reader (‘I wanted to look at X’ or ‘I thought X might be important’) or otherwise doing some writing contortions around the alphabet and the role of X so that the reader isn’t left puzzled by why you are talking about X. Most qualitative papers are not that helpful here, because they are much broader and are just looking at the alphabet, so I haven’t found an example to copy.

On a positive note, I have found some excellent papers about how to write qualitative papers. This one is about how to write up a qualitative study (or proposal) for a non-qualitative audience. It’s incredibly useful! This paper is also useful for thinking about a few different structures for qualitative papers, and is worth reading. I have loads of books on qualitative research, but they tend to be more how to do the research rather than how to write it up, so these papers have been most helpful. Qualitative research is difficult to do and very difficult to write up, which I think is evidenced by how hard it is to find a well written paper which is easy to read and not full of jargon. I think the first paper in particular ought to be compulsory reading…

Anyway, I am going off topic here. Back to Thing 13:

‘Choose one of your four articles, and consider the following aspects of its Discussion section:

  1. Do you think it is cautious, confident or neutral in its tone? What is it about the language used that makes you think this?
  2. Does it explicitly state the study’s contribution to the field? If so, what phrases are used to do this?’

1. Hmmm, let me see. I think cautious to neutral. Qualitative research is Not Keen on talking about Universal Truths, so being too confident in a qualitative paper would be out of place in the field. However, I did think that the caution was more over the theories and ideas already existing in the literature, rather than the findings of the study. The authors talk about ‘proposed’ theories and the ‘literature suggesting’, but then weren’t too overly hedgy when discussing their evidence, e.g.

‘our findings suggest’

‘Our findings also revealed that’

‘Our interview findings provide evidence that’

2. Contribution to the field: this paper actually includes something along these lines throughout each sub-section of the discussion, e.g.

‘provides a novel and original contribution to our understanding of this process within the exercise context’

‘A novel finding from the present work that extends the concept of’

‘These findings lend new evidence to support the proposal that’

I like the way this paper does this, it doesn’t come across as too boastful or too defensive about the use of qualitative methods (which I think many qualitative papers suffer from), but gently points out at regular intervals that there is a contribution being made to the field in many different ways. I think I will adopt this tactic in my paper 🙂

23things, research, Uncategorized, writing

Thing 12: no, the 23 things have not been shelved (despite appearances to the contrary)


This is actually what my PhD looks like right now in my mind. Maybe not quite so tidy though…

I’ve been up to my armpits in writing and submitting abstracts recently, and combined with teaching and all the life clutter currently going on in my world, I’ve put the Things on the back burner. But I have a little window now so I can focus on this for a bit. Firing up the forklift to retrieve it from its spot in the warehouse…

Sooo, where were we? Story arcs and flow, OK. Actually, one of the many reasons why I dropped the 23 things for a bit was that I knew I had a bit of a theoretical hole in my story. I knew the background literature for this particular hole must exist, but I could not for the life of me find it! And then something popped up from nowhere and led me to a paper which led me to another paper and then lo! There were a bunch of great papers which were just what I needed to plug the gap in my story *does happy dance*.

Thing 12 looks at how to build an argument through the paragraphs. First, you need to be clear about the particular story you’re trying to tell. I think I have this bit sorted, now I’ve found my gap, and I’ve made a list of important points which I think I need to weave into the introduction. I usually use mind maps to do this sort of stuff, as sometimes a big sheet of paper and some pens are the best way for me to literally connect the dots. You can see which bits are missing and which points need some more meat on the bones when you stick things in bubbles and draw arrows between them. I think this is even more important for qualitative work, when you have a mountain of data and you could tell a thousand stories about it. It’s much easier when you’ve done a quantitative study!

There are some useful links and guidance here for linking paragraphs using key words and transitions, I think I’ll bookmark these for when I have my argument completely sorted out and want some ideas on how to do this. The writing for this Thing is to look at my example paper and make some observations about key words. Initially, I thought maybe the structure of the introduction was not that logically clear, but on looking more closely there are plenty of key words used and the transitions are ok. The main culprit getting in the way of clarity here is the use of enormously long sentences. Stick 5 or 6 references in there as well as long sentences, and even the most assiduous reader will lose the will to read! In physical activity there is something called ‘the talk test‘, where you use talking as a measure for the intensity of an activity. During moderate intensity activity, you can talk but not sing. During vigorous intensity activity, you can’t say more than a few words  without needing a pause to take a breath. Using too many long sentences is the written equivalent of making people run too fast for too long: it’s not pleasant, and you’ll want it to stop…Related to this is a fascinating piece by Peter Elbow (a very good writing educator) on why it’s important to read your work aloud. I loved the way he talks about ‘word music’, and he’s talking about all writing, not just fiction or poetry. I don’t think he finds academic writing particularly poetic, somehow.




23things, research, Uncategorized, writing

Thing 11: in which I abandon rhyming titles as the only thing which rhymes with eleven is…

Completely gratuitous minion meme


OK, Thing 11. Bring it.

Oh. Paragraphs. Yawn.

It might be difficult to get excited about paragraphs, but analysing them is a lot less scary than looking at sentences, as there is a lot less jargon. Plus you can kind of see the point of paragraphs because there is nothing more intimidating than looking at huge swathes of text. Endless vast tracts of words unbroken by paragraph breaks, and you’re just thinking ‘I really don’t want to read this stuff, it looks A Bit Much’ and then you also think that if someone hasn’t used many paragraphs then chances are they are a bit rambly and should probably get to the point already, probably delete a few sentences or twenty, and take the needs of the reader into account. So this is just a short list of reasons why you probably shouldn’t just bung lots of sentences together without considering the impact on the reader and the flow of the writing and the argument and…

But too short a paragraph makes things seem bitty.

It’s also hard on the eye to flit about too much with very short paragraphs.

And how are you supposed to build an argument with such short paragraphs?  There needs to be a happy medium, particularly in an academic context where building and supporting the argument is everything.

Yeah, I made my point, badly. It must be time for another meme. Will academic papers of the future use memes? Cos that would be cool.

OK, I got carried away with the memes. I promise to stop. Probably.


Right then, what am I supposed to be doing here, oh 23 Things Oracle?

‘Take one paragraph from one of the journal articles you’ve chosen, and have a go at analysing the purpose of each sentence in the paragraph. Do you think the paragraph is as concise as it could be, or could you improve it? Write your views on the paragraph in your blog.’

I looked at the qualitative paper I’ve used as a model so far, and eeeek! Some of the paragraphs are huuuuuuuuugely long. Although the paper is generally well structured using headings to signpost different theoretical areas and different themes in the results, this clarity does not extend to paragraph length. Yes, you need to contain your ideas in paragraphs, but it’s extremely difficult to keep your focus if the paragraph takes up more than half a column. Your brain gets twitchy and starts to wander when it sees a long paragraph (or is that just me?)

My example paragraph is structured as:

  1. Acknowledgement of an issue in dichotomizing participants
  2. Reason why this might be an issue
  3. How this limited further exploration of the concept
  4. An alternative sampling strategy
  5. What this could offer to a study
  6. I dunno, what does this sentence even mean? Losing the will to live here…
  7. Other factors involved in exercise experiences blah blah context
  8. Unrelated sentence giving a limitation which I don’t even think is a valid limitation, which could have been better defended or given a reference


The paragraph I chose is 8 sentences long, which doesn’t seem too bad until you look at the sentences and realise that most of these are also extremely long. One of them contains 60 words! Combined with some complex ideas and a certain woolliness in wording (‘this would allow one to examine’ springs out as an example), and this paragraph needs a damn good edit. Frankly, a 60 word sentence is a crime against writing. It’s particularly interesting that this paragraph is the muddiest of the paper when you consider that it’s evaluating the weaknesses of the study. The psychologist in me wonders if this is precisely why it’s the muddiest? Perhaps the authors didn’t want to be all boasty-boasty? Or perhaps this is the part when all the authors weighed in with their own ideas, or Reviewer 2 made an annoying suggestion and the authors gave up the fight. Anyway, it’s a bit painful to read whatever the cause.

Well, if ever you needed a meme to express something, this would be the time

And the final bit I need to do in this blog:

‘Looking at the results you wrote in Thing 10; are your paragraphs as concise as they could be?’

I’m thinking probably not. Let me see what stuff I wrote:

‘Affective responses to exercise predict future exercise behaviour. The better people feel during exercise, the more likely they are to continue (Rhodes and Kates, 2015). Given this, how can we help people to feel better during exercise?

 Qualitative research on affective responses to exercise is scarce, yet more is needed to understand what factors are influential, and how these can be altered to improve affective responses to exercise. Knowing quantitatively how people are feeling does not tell us anything about the context of these feelings, or pinpoint areas for improvement. Qualitative research on affect during exercise is even more scarce. Rose and Parfitt (2010) provide a rare exception: they asked high and low active women to talk aloud during a laboratory exercise bout about how they were feeling, and why they were feeling that way. Some of the themes they found have obvious practical applications, such as directing attentional focus during exercise to reduce discomfort, or interpreting physiological information positively rather than negatively.

Most research on affect during exercise is lab-based. There is evidence, however, that affective responses to exercise in laboratories differ from those in everyday environments (Dasilva et al., 2011). This makes intuitive sense — running on a treadmill is a very different experience from running alongside a river — but there is no qualitative research on affective responses to exercise in such everyday environments. This study aimed to fill this gap.’

Paragraph 1 is probably a bit too short. But I wanted to set the scene in a very quick way, and hopefully this accomplishes this aim. Plus I stole it from several abstracts I’ve done, and abstracts are highly condensed 🙂 The first two sentences propose one reason why people continue to exercise. The first sentence is perhaps not that clear, as I don’t define ‘affective responses’, so I could put ‘Affective responses (how people feel)’ to clarify this part, though it’s a bit clumsy. This is why I use sentence 2 to say exactly what the research basis is for looking at affective responses. The third sentence is a bit non-academic-y, but hey ho, it’s what the substance of my research area is. I really don’t want to stick ‘ameliorate’ in there just for the hell of it…

Paragraph 2: I’d probably rejig the first two sentences, maybe popping in something in the first sentence about how there’s plenty of quantitative research in this area but not much qualitative stuff. Also, thinking about it, my first and third sentences don’t make much sense because I haven’t previously mentioned the during part as being crucial (rather than the responses afterwards, which seem to be useless). So I should probably stick this in the first paragraph. Then say why we need qualitative research (it might be scarce because it’s just not very interesting or useful), I should beef up this section. I think the final 2 sentences are OK actually, as they give a concrete example of some qualitative research and show how it’s useful.

Paragraph 3 starts OK, though I could emphasise the lack of ecological validity of much of the lab-based research by mentioning that not only are participants on a treadmill or bike, but they are also usually wired up to heart-rate monitors, and sometimes with gas masks over their faces to collect the gases they breathe out. Yeah, not exactly your everyday exercise experience, is it? I quite like the example I give of the treadmill versus the river, but again I need to emphasise the during part, as it’s missed out here. Also, there is some qualitative research on exercise experience outdoors, but it tends to be bitty, autoethnographic stuff, or social geography, or from other disparate research areas. I probably ought to emphasise the particular perspective I’m coming from here.

I should probably rewrite those paragraphs now, but to be honest, I can’t be bothered. Now, there are bound to be stacks of memes I could use here 🙂




posters, presentations, research, Uncategorized

Resolve to Walk conference poster



I’m on that final day of a conference, when you if you don’t actually have a hangover, you feel like you do. God knows how people go to week-long conferences, after 3 days of absorbing information and meeting great people, my brain cells feel like they’re sizzling!  I would very much like to curl up in a tree like the koala above and sleep for a week. Well, maybe not in an actual tree, I’m not great with heights.

Anyway, before I forget to do this, I’m going to pop my poster on here, because I spent a gazillion years making it and I think my results are really interesting. There’s some tralala backgroundy stuff about the research background to the poster in this post here


All comments welcome 🙂