Sport medicine & lifestyle researchers #teamUP against diabetes, heart disease and depression

More than half of South Africans do not play sports or exercise regularly. A new UP institute will address the problem by supporting healthy, active lifestyles through research.

More than half of South Africans do not play sports or exercise regularly. A new UP institute will address the problem by supporting healthy, active lifestyles through research.

Sport medicine & lifestyle researchers #teamUP against diabetes, heart disease & depression #UPResearchMatters

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), or diseases of lifestyle, are taking a greater toll than ever on human health

Globalisation and industrialised food systems have put citizens of developing countries at risk of obesity, heart disease and other metabolic disorders. In South Africa, NCDs are rapidly becoming themost common cause of death, with the heaviest burden falling on low- and middle-income populations.

Tobacco use, an unhealthy diet, insufficient physical activity and the harmful use of alcohol are the behavioural risk factors that contribute most to NCD prevalence; all four are associated with economic transition, rapid urbanisation and 21st-century living conditions for poor and middle-income communities. In particular, a lack of physical activity is pervasive among South Africans and is the major contributor to NCD prevalence.

At the University of Pretoria (UP), there are multiple departments, researchers and health practitioners working in the broad area ofsport and exercise medicine, but there has been no single institute coordinating research and other activities in this area. With better direction and coordination, UP could make a major impact in the areas of sports, exercise and lifestyle research.

To address these issues, UP created the Institute for Sport, Exercise Medicine and Lifestyle Research (ISEMLR) with the aim of bringing various aspects of sport and lifestyle together under a single roof

Headed by ProfessorMartin Schwellnus and launched in June 2015, the institute aims to address one of UP’s four strategic research themes: Sport, Exercise Medicine and Lifestyle Interventions for Chronic Disease.

The vision for the institute is to be an “international leader in scientific, translational research that promotes health and well-being in the population through lifestyle interventions, reduces exercise-related injuries and medical complications, and promotes sporting excellence on a platform characterised by world class education, service delivery and the use of modern technology.” The group aims to collaborate widely within UP research groups as well as nationally and internationally, and is aiming to be a self-sustaining research institute by generating its own income to cover research costs.


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People involved

Prof Martin Schwellnus
Director of the ISEMLR
Professor of Exercise and Sports Medicine (faculty of Health Sciences)

Prof Schwellnus is the Director of the newly established Institute for Sport, Exercise Medicine and Lifestyle Research at the University of Pretoria, Director of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Research Center in South Africa, and a longstanding member of the IOC Medical Commission. He is also a specialist sports and exercise medicine physician who regularly consults with athletes of all levels.

Dr Jill Borresen
COO at the ISEMLR
PhD in Exercise Science

As Chief Operations Officer of the Institute, Dr Borresen oversees the design and construction of the Institute Headquarters, implements the Institute’s research strategy, establishes research collaborations with various stakeholders, promotes the Institute via various PR and media channels, and guides the Institute towards a sustainable funding model. She holds a PhD in Exercise Science and a degree in Architecture, and has represented South Africa in Archery, including participating at the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games.