Part of Victoria University's Healthy and Inclusive Communities group, the Movement for Healthy Bodies and Minds research program examines physical activity and its effect on wellbeing at the individual and community level.

Our diverse research projects are undertaken by these three focus groups:

  • Active Living and Public Health
  • Physical Activity, Body Image and Mental Health
  • Sport and Recreation Spatial.

Active Living & Public Health

The Active Living and Public Health research group investigates factors that affect participation in physical activity, including:

  • prevalence, trends, correlates and determinants of physical activity and sedentary behaviour
  • population-level outcomes of physical activity and sedentary behaviour
  • effectiveness of interventions to increase physical activity and reduce sedentary behaviour
  • measures and methods for assessment and population surveillance of physical activity and sedentary behaviour.

Our research has broad applications for public policy, community facility development, and improving the health and overall life-quality of population. We make important contributions in the following ways:

  • increasing the understanding of public-health aspects of physical activity and sedentary behaviour
  • designing, implementing, and evaluating interventions to promote active living.

We are guided by these models for investigation:

  • Activity Balance Model – as a framework for epidemiological investigation of health outcomes of physical activity and sedentary behaviour, considered as integrative parts of the time-use composition
  • Behaviour Change Wheel – as a framework for characterising and designing physical activity and sedentary behaviour interventions
  • Social Ecological Model  – as a framework for investigating individual, social, environmental, and policy factors affecting physical activity and sedentary behaviour of communities and populations


Research students

  • Matthew Bourke
  • Vaska Dervisovski
  • Jozo Grgic
  • Jayasekara Kankanamalage Rashmin Apsara Ranatunge
  • Bojana Klepac-Pogrmilovic
  • Nucharapon Liangruenrom
  • Kathryn McDonald
  • Raja Ram Dhungana
  • Catherine Saulson
  • Nipun Shrestha
  • Gabrielle Lindsay Smith

Physical Activity, Body Image & Mental Health

The Physical Activity, Body Image and Mental Health research program examines the role of exercise and physical activity in preventing and treating mental ill-health and its relationship to body image. We engage in projects that measure, understand and promote physical activity, to optimise mental wellbeing and prevent and treat mental illness.

We aim to maximise the potential of physical activity in achieving better clinical outcomes and improved functioning and wellbeing in those at risk of, or experiencing, body dissatisfaction and mental-health problems. We have multidisciplinary expertise in the following areas:

  • behaviour change
  • clinical exercise science
  • education
  • epidemiology
  • evidence-based practice
  • health promotion
  • measurement
  • psychology
  • public health
  • translation and implementation.

Our research covers a range of topics, including:

  • Assessing and addressing the barriers and facilitators to engaging in physical activity for mental health at individual, group/family, community, service provider, service delivery and government levels.
  • Cross-talk between the immune system with the neurological system, and its implications to mental health.
  • Determining relationships between physical activity, body image and mental health.
  • Effect of physical activity on the immune system, inflammatory biomarkers and immune cell functionality.
  • Effectiveness of behaviour-change physical-activity interventions or exercise interventions in treating mental illness.
  • Effectiveness of exercise and physical activity interventions in promoting mental health and wellbeing, and preventing mental illness.
  • Effectiveness of physical activity and exercise interventions in the prevention and treatment of secondary physical health problems associated with mental illness.
  • Effectiveness of physical activity and exercise interventions in the prevention and treatment of secondary mental-health problems associated with poor physical health and/or chronic disease.
  • Effectiveness of physical activity interventions to improve body satisfaction and mental health.
  • Identifying barriers and facilitators to accessing treatment, and increasing intentions to seek treatment, for body dissatisfaction, disordered eating, and eating disorders.
  • Prevalence, trends, correlates and determinants of physical activity among people with mental health problems and in mental health settings.

Alex Parker, Professor of Physical Activity and Mental Health

Sport & Recreation Spatial

The Sport and Recreation Spatial research group provides evidence for researching, planning and developing participation programs and facilities. This is achieved through:

  • a national Geographic Information System (GIS) for presenting spatial data relevant to all levels of the sport and recreation industry
  • an associated research program which addresses questions of national and international significance.

Our research team has extensive experience on projects across a range of disciplines including health, education, sport, recreation and technology. This is complemented by extensive research in the areas of behavioural epidemiology, sport management and public health combined with technical skills.

Key research focuses are:

  • participation levels and trends
  • influences on participation
  • value of sport: the health benefits of participation
  • places to play: the nexus between facilities and participation.

We have developed a range of commercial research projects:

  • Community Profiles – Analysis and benchmarking of LGAs in relation to a range of indicators including: demographics, health, education and physical activity and sport participation and facilities. This is vital for community strategic planning in sport and recreation.
  • Consulting Services – Consulting briefs involving sport and recreation and the interaction of participation and facilities provision with health outcomes.
  • Database Development – Sport and Recreation Spatial develops, creates, and monitors database systems in sport and recreation. These assist organisations to quantify their mission and vision and underpin strategic planning and solutions with a strong evidence base.
  • Geographical Information System (GIS) – Sport and Recreation Spatial provides a national Geographical Information System (GIS) for presenting spatial data relevant to all levels of the sport and recreation sector.
  • Social Return on Investment – Analysis of the economic, health and social benefits of participation in sport and its return on investment value. 
  • Sport and Recreation Studies – Analysis of sport and recreation data at a national, state and local community level, for planning and development by government and the sport and recreation development.
  • Sport Retention Studies – Analysis for major sports of continuing participants and those who have dropped out. This includes participation trends, demographics, barriers and facilitators, analysed by geographical location. This is vital information to guide recruitment and development strategies to gain, maintain and retain players and members. 
  • Sports Facility Forecasting – Analysis of sports facility requirements/provision both now and into the future. This is vital for facility infrastructure planning and development and to maximise participation in sport.


Research students

  • Jenna Fowlie
  • Andrew O’Loughlin
  • Gabrielle Lindsay Smith
  • Ambili Unni

Group leader Rochelle Eime is a behavioural epidemiologist with 15 years of research experience in sport-sector participation, health and education.

Find a researcher
Search for VU researchers by name or provide keywords e.g. areas of expertise, publications, projects.