1. Lifestyle Interventions for Chronic Disease:
It is well established that the chronic diseases of lifestyle (non-communicable diseases, NCDs) present the most important current and future health threat to both developed and developing nations of the world. It is also known that the greatest effects of these diseases, and their risk factors, fall increasingly on low- and middle-income countries, and on poorer people within all countries, mirroring the underlying socio-economic determinants. In the South African context, NCDs are also a major health threat, and are likely to become the most common cause of death in the population. NCDs are caused, to a large extent, by four behavioural risk factors that are pervasive aspects of economic transition, rapid urbanization and 21st-century lifestyles. These modifiable risk factors are tobacco use, unhealthy diet, insufficient physical activity and the harmful use of alcohol. Of these, physical inactivity is a particularly important risk factor, because it is highly prevalent, and has been shown to be associated with most NCDs. NCDs however are largely preventable, through the adoption of a healthy lifestyle that includes healthy nutritional practices, avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol use, and increasing participation in physical activity and sport among all members of the population. The promotion of physical activity and sport, together with other components of a comprehensive lifestyle intervention program, is a high research priority in the fight against NCDs.
2. Medical complications & Illness during Exercise and
3. Exercise-related Injuries:
It is important to note that, while the promotion of physical activity is imperative to improve health outcomes, participation in physical activity and sport can be associated with an increased risk of developing musculoskeletal injuries and medical complications, particularly in select higher risk populations. This has also been labelled the “exercise paradox”, because the greatest health benefits of participation in regular physical activity and sport are also evident in populations that are potentially at higher risk of injury and medical complications, for eaxmple the elderly or those with existing chronic diseases. Therefore, research activities and research programs to reduce the risk of injury and medical complications during exercise and sports participation should accompany all initiatives that encourage physical activity and sports participation for the population.
There are already researchers at UP with a proven track record of research and clinical work in the fields of sport and exercise medicine, exercise and sports science, nutrition, physiotherapy, biokinetics, physiology and orthopaedics, to name a few. Utilizing the strengths of the existing infrastructure and staff creates a strong research program to a) reduce the risk of musculoskeletal and other injuries during exercise, b) diagnose and treat (including rehabilitation) musculoskeletal and other injuries in elite athletes as well as the recreational exerciser, c) reduce the risk of medical complications during exercise, and d) diagnose and treat (including rehabilitation) medical complications in participants.
4. Sports Performance:
People from diverse cultures all across the world appreciate sporting excellence as it often represents communities or nations and provides inspiration, motivation, direction, and meaning for people’s lives. South Africans especially are well known for their love of sports and our own sporting champions play an important role in bringing people together with a common sense of pride in our rainbow nation. At UP there is a proud culture of sports participation and sporting excellence. TuksSport and the High Performance Centre (hpc) have played an integral role in sporting excellence and success in South Africa, as more than half of the South African medallists at recent Olympics and Commonwealth Games were supported by staff and facilities at UP. UP is not only a leading university in South Africa that produces elite athletes, but is also well recognized for its comprehensive and successful sporting club infrastructure. The University has a unique opportunity to capitalize on the strengths of its sporting culture to become a national and global leader in researching the elements that constitute sporting success.
5. Sport and physical activity in society:
There are only a few tertiary institutions in South Africa, and very few internationally, that study the broader aspects of sport and its role in society. More specifically, there is a need to conduct research into the broader role of sport and the promotion of physical activity in society including issues related to ethics (e.g. doping in sport), legal (e.g. professional sport contracts, drugs in sport, risk of injuries and medical complications), sports management and economics (sport sponsorships) and education (promoting physical activity in schools and the broader community). At UP there are a number of researchers in the Faculties of Law, Education, Economics, and GIBS for example that are already active in some of these areas. International and external collaboration between these groups can be promoted through the SEMLI.