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Active Travel to School and Physical Activity Levels of Irish Primary Schoolchildren

Elaine M. Murtagh and Marie H. Murphy

The purpose of this study was to (1) determine the physical activity levels of 9–11 year old children, and (2) compare the activity levels of children who commute to school by active and passive modes. 140 children aged 9–11 years (85 boys) were recruited from four urban Irish schools. Mode of commuting was assessed by questionnaire. Step counts were measured for 4 consecutive days. Mean daily step counts for the sample were 14386 ± 5634. Boys were significantly more active than girls (15857 ± 5482 vs. 12113 ± 5127 steps). Eighty-seven children (62.1%) traveled by car, 51 children (36.4%) walked to school, one child traveled by bus and one child cycled. Children who walked or cycled to school had higher daily step counts than those who traveled by passive modes (16118 ± 5757 vs. 13363 ± 5332 steps). Active commuting to school may therefore represent a worthwhile strategy for improving children’s physical activity levels.

Open access

Active Students Are Healthier and Happier Than Their Inactive Peers: The Results of a Large Representative Cross-Sectional Study of University Students in Ireland

Marie H. Murphy, Angela Carlin, Catherine Woods, Alan Nevill, Ciaran MacDonncha, Kyle Ferguson, and Niamh Murphy

Background: Time spent in university represents a period of transition and may be an appropriate time to promote physical activity among young adults. The aim of this study was to assess participation of university students in sport and physical activity in Ireland and to explore the association between physical activity and perceptions of overall health, mental health, and happiness. Methods: The Student Activity and Sport Study Ireland was a cross-sectional online survey among a representative sample (n = 8122) of university students in Ireland. Binary logistic regressions were performed to examine associations between self-reported physical activity and gender (predictor variables) and individual perceptions of overall health, mental health, and happiness (binary outcomes). Results: Only 64.3% of respondents met the recommended level of 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week with males significantly more active than females (72.1% vs 57.8% meeting guidelines). Those meeting physical activity guidelines were more likely to report greater overall health and higher mental health and happiness scores compared with their inactive peers. Conclusions: Active students enjoy better health (overall and mental) and are happier than their inactive peers. This provides a clear rationale for providing students with opportunities to be active at university. The data provide a baseline to monitor changes in physical activity patterns.

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What Psychosocial Factors Determine the Physical Activity Patterns of University Students?

Joseph J. Murphy, Ciaran MacDonncha, Marie H. Murphy, Niamh Murphy, Alan M. Nevill, and Catherine B. Woods

Background: Although levels of physical activity (PA) have been researched, no information on how university students organize their PA across different life domains is available. The purpose of this study is to explore if and how students organize their PA across transport and recreational domains, and to identify the psychosocial factors related to these patterns. Methods: Students from 31 Irish universities completed a supervised online survey measuring participant characteristics, psychosocial factors, and PA. Two-step cluster analysis was used to identify specific PA patterns in students. Binary logistic regressions identified factors associated with cluster membership while controlling for age, sex, household income, and perceived travel time to a university. Results: Analysis was performed on 6951 students (50.7% male; 21.51 [5.55] y). One Low Active cluster emerged. Four clusters containing a form of PA emerged including Active Commuters, Active in University, Active Outside University, and High Active. Increases in motivation and planning improved the likelihood of students being categorized in a cluster containing PA. Conclusion: One size does not fit all when it comes to students PA engagement, with 5 patterns identified. Health professionals are advised to incorporate strategies for increasing students’ motivation, action planning, and coping planning into future PA promotion efforts.

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Validation of the Digiwalker™ Pedometer for Measuring Physical Activity in Young Children

David P. McKee, Colin A.G. Boreham, Marie H. Murphy, and Alan M. Nevill

Activity measurement using a uniaxial pedometer was validated against behavioral observation using the Children’s Activity Rating Scale (CARS) in 30 three- to four-year-old children in a nursery school setting. Correlations were calculated for individual children, whereas the relationship for the total group was investigated using multilevel linear regression. The mean counts for boys and girls for the Digiwalker™ were 66.8 (± 64.0) and 47.4 (± 61.3; p < .01) steps per 3 minutes, respectively, whereas the mean CARS scores for boys and girls were 1.8 (± 0.6) and 1.6 (± 0.6; p < .01), respectively. Within-child correlations for CARS versus Digiwalker counts ranged from 0.64 to 0.95 with a median value of 0.86, whereas the multilevel analysis provided strong evidence of a relationship between CARS and Digiwalker (all p < .001). Data from the current study show that gender differences in physical levels exist in very young children and support the utility of the Digiwalker pedometer for assessing physical activity in this age group.

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Motives and Barriers to Physical Activity Among Older Adults of Different Socioeconomic Status

Phillip M. Gray, Marie H. Murphy, Alison M. Gallagher, and Ellen E. A. Simpson

This study explored motives and barriers to physical activity (PA) among older adults of differing socioeconomic status (SES) utilizing a self-determination theory and self-efficacy theory framework. Focus groups (n = 4) were conducted with older adults (n = 28) from two SES groups, using thematic analysis to identify motives and barriers. Integrated and identified regulations and, to a lesser extent, intrinsic motives, were evident across SES groups. Verbal persuasion and affective and physiological states emerged as prominent efficacy sources regardless of SES. More barriers were reported by the low SES group, with health conditions, neighborhood safety, and PA guidelines knowledge emerging as most salient. Time emerged as a prominent barrier for the high SES group. Integrated and identified regulations should be fostered in future interventions and policy regardless of SES. Barriers to PA varied across SES groups; thus future interventions and policy should account for such differences.

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The Association of Family, Friends, and Teacher Support With Girls’ Sport and Physical Activity on the Island of Ireland

Wesley O’Brien, Tara Coppinger, Irene Hogan, Sarahjane Belton, Marie H. Murphy, Cormac Powell, and Catherine Woods

Background: The current study was the largest physical activity (PA) surveillance assessment of youth undertaken in Ireland in recent years. The purpose of this research was to assess the impact of social support, while controlling for age and screen time, on PA and sport participation, across a representative sample of Irish female youth. Methods: A total of 3503 children (mean age: 13.54 [2.05] y) across the island of Ireland participated. Participants completed a previously validated electronic questionnaire while supervised in a classroom setting, which investigated their (1) levels of PA; (2) screen time; (3) community sport participation; and (4) social support (friend, family, and teacher) to be physically active/partake in sport. Results: There were significant differences, with medium and large effect sizes, for social support from friends and family across types of sports participation. Specifically, girls who participated in the most popular team sports, when compared with the most popular individual sports, reported higher social support scores for friends and family structures. Conclusions: Findings from this study confirm the contributing influence of friends and family as sport and PA support networks for girls. Interventions should consider the importance of culturally relevant team sports for PA engagement in female youth.

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Changes in Physical Activity, Sleep, Mental Health, and Social Media Use During COVID-19 Lockdown Among Adolescent Girls: A Mixed-Methods Study

S. Maria O’Kane, Ian M. Lahart, Alison M. Gallagher, Angela Carlin, Maria Faulkner, Russell Jago, and Marie H. Murphy

Background: To suppress the transmission of coronavirus, many governments, including that of the island of Ireland, implemented a societal lockdown, which included school closures, limits on social gatherings, and time outdoors. This study aimed to evaluate changes in physical activity (PA), mental health, sleep, and social media use among adolescent girls during lockdown. Methods: 281 female pupils (12–14 y) taking part in the ongoing Walking In Schools study on the island of Ireland self-reported PA, mental health, sleep, and social media use before (September–October 2019) and during lockdown (May–June 2020), via questionnaires. These were supplemented with open-ended structured interviews conducted with 16 girls during lockdown. Results: During the period of lockdown and school closures, pupils tried new forms of PA and undertook PA with family, but there was no significant change in self-reported PA. There was a decline in health-related quality of life; however, self-efficacy for walking increased. There was no change in sleep quality or social media usage. Conclusions: Despite the many challenges that schools face as they reopen, there is a need to continue to prioritize PA and motivation for exercise to support health and well-being in adolescent girls.

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Acute Responses of Inflammatory Markers of Cardiovascular Disease Risk to a Single Walking Session

Elaine M. Murtagh, Colin Boreham, Alan Nevill, Gareth Davison, Tom Trinick, Ellie Duly, Mawloud El-Agnaf, and Marie H. Murphy

Background:

Markers of inflammation are emerging as novel indices of cardiovascular risk. These markers have been shown to alter acutely after intense exercise; however, the effects of more moderate intensity exercise in healthy individuals is not known. Walking forms a cornerstone of physical activity promotion, so the inflammatory response to this exercise merits investigation. This study evaluated the effects of a 45-min walk on C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin 6 (IL-6), in sedentary, overweight men.

Methods:

Fifteen men (49.7 ± 5.9 y) walked for 45 min at 60 to 70% of predicted maximum heart rate. Fasted blood samples were taken prior to and immediately 1 hr and 24 h post-walk.

Results:

IL-6 decreased from 1 h post-walk to 24 h post-walk (P < 0.01). No significant changes were observed in CRP.

Conclusions:

These findings suggest that 45 min walking at 60 to 70% HRmax-p causes a decrease in IL-6 24 h post-exercise, but does not evoke a significant response in CRP levels.

Open access

“Getting Ireland Active”—Application of a Systems Approach to Increase Physical Activity in Ireland Using the GAPPA Framework

Joseph J. Murphy, Fiona Mansergh, Marie H. Murphy, Niamh Murphy, Benny Cullen, Sarah O’Brien, Stephen Finn, Grainne O’Donoghue, Niamh Barry, Shirley O’Shea, Kevin M. Leyden, Peter Smyth, Jemima Cooper, Enrique G. Bengoechea, Nick Cavill, Andrew J. Milat, Adrian E. Bauman, and Catherine B. Woods

Physical activity (PA) promotion is a complex challenge, with the Global Action Plan on Physical Activity (GAPPA) endorsing a systems approach and recommending countries assess existing areas of progress which can be strengthened. This paper reports a process facilitating a systems approach for identifying current good practice and gaps for promoting PA in Ireland. Elements of participatory action research were enabled through 3 stages: (1) aligning examples of actions from Irish policy documents (n = 3) to the GAPPA, (2) workshop with stakeholders across multiple sectors, and (3) review of outputs. Data collected through the workshop were analyzed using a deductive thematic analysis guided by the GAPPA. The policy context in Ireland aligns closely to the GAPPA with the creation of Active Systems the most common strategic objective across policy documents. Forty participants (50% male) took part in the systems approach workshop, which after revision resulted in 80 examples of good practice and 121 actions for greater impact. A pragmatic and replicable process facilitating a systems approach was adopted and showed current Irish policy and practices align with the GAPPA “good practices.” The process provides existing areas of progress which can be strengthened, as well as the policy opportunities and practice gaps.

Open access

Global Matrix 4.0 Physical Activity Report Card Grades for Children and Adolescents: Results and Analyses From 57 Countries

Salomé Aubert, Joel D. Barnes, Iryna Demchenko, Myranda Hawthorne, Chalchisa Abdeta, Patrick Abi Nader, José Carmelo Adsuar Sala, Nicolas Aguilar-Farias, Susana Aznar, Peter Bakalár, Jasmin Bhawra, Javier Brazo-Sayavera, Mikel Bringas, Jonathan Y. Cagas, Angela Carlin, Chen-Kang Chang, Bozhi Chen, Lars Breum Christiansen, Candice Jo-Anne Christie, Gabriela Fernanda De Roia, Christine Delisle Nyström, Yolanda Demetriou, Visnja Djordjic, Arunas Emeljanovas, Liri Findling Endy, Aleš Gába, Karla I. Galaviz, Silvia A. González, Kylie D. Hesketh, Wendy Yajun Huang, Omphile Hubona, Justin Y. Jeon, Danijel Jurakić, Jaak Jürimäe, Tarun Reddy Katapally, Piyawat Katewongsa, Peter T. Katzmarzyk, Yeon-Soo Kim, Estelle Victoria Lambert, Eun-Young Lee, Sharon Levi, Pablo Lobo, Marie Löf, Tom Loney, José Francisco López-Gil, Juan López-Taylor, Evelin Mäestu, Agus Mahendra, Daga Makaza, Marla Frances T. Mallari, Taru Manyanga, Bojan Masanovic, Shawnda A. Morrison, Jorge Mota, Falk Müller-Riemenschneider, Laura Muñoz Bermejo, Marie H. Murphy, Rowena Naidoo, Phuong Nguyen, Susan Paudel, Željko Pedišić, Jorge Pérez-Gómez, John J. Reilly, Anne Kerstin Reimers, Amie B. Richards, Diego Augusto Santos Silva, Pairoj Saonuam, Olga L. Sarmiento, Vedrana Sember, Mohd Razif Shahril, Melody Smith, Martyn Standage, Gareth Stratton, Narayan Subedi, Tuija H. Tammelin, Chiaki Tanaka, Riki Tesler, David Thivel, Dawn Mahube Tladi, Lenka Tlučáková, Leigh M. Vanderloo, Alun Williams, Stephen Heung Sang Wong, Ching-Lin Wu, Paweł Zembura, and Mark S. Tremblay

Background: The Global Matrix 4.0 on physical activity (PA) for children and adolescents was developed to achieve a comprehensive understanding of the global variation in children’s and adolescents’ (5–17 y) PA, related measures, and key sources of influence. The objectives of this article were (1) to summarize the findings from the Global Matrix 4.0 Report Cards, (2) to compare indicators across countries, and (3) to explore trends related to the Human Development Index and geo-cultural regions. Methods: A total of 57 Report Card teams followed a harmonized process to grade the 10 common PA indicators. An online survey was conducted to collect Report Card Leaders’ top 3 priorities for each PA indicator and their opinions on how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted child and adolescent PA indicators in their country. Results: Overall Physical Activity was the indicator with the lowest global average grade (D), while School and Community and Environment were the indicators with the highest global average grade (C+). An overview of the global situation in terms of surveillance and prevalence is provided for all 10 common PA indicators, followed by priorities and examples to support the development of strategies and policies internationally. Conclusions: The Global Matrix 4.0 represents the largest compilation of children’s and adolescents’ PA indicators to date. While variation in data sources informing the grades across countries was observed, this initiative highlighted low PA levels in children and adolescents globally. Measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, local/international conflicts, climate change, and economic change threaten to worsen this situation.