Developing advanced human body measurement

26th January 2021

A new research and innovation programme is underway at Sheffield Hallam University’s Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre (AWRC) that is set to transform the way we measure the human body.

The Human Morphology lab, based at the world-leading centre for physical activity research, will use state-of-the-art technology to advance current methods of assessing human health through ‘Advanced Human Body Measurement’.

The ‘Advanced Human Body Measurement’ programme brings new ways of assessing a person’s shape and body size improving on current, simple measures such as the Body Mass Index (BMI).

Using ultramodern body scanning equipment, researchers at the AWRC will look at how the shape of a person’s body (not just their size) might give an insight into an individual’s risk of developing long-term health conditions such as type-2 diabetes and importantly, provide tailored advice on how improvements in health and wellbeing can be made.

Dr Simon Choppin, a senior research fellow at the AWRC who is part of the team leading this work, said: “This is a really exciting development for the AWRC and highlights our commitment to transforming lives through health-related research and innovation.

“Using technological advances within the healthcare sector, we can explore new ways of assessing someone’s health that goes beyond taking manual height and weight measurements and paves the way for us to develop new and more accurate ways of monitoring our body and our health.

The Advanced Human Measurement programme will allow us to conduct world-leading research with a multi-disciplinary team of experts, using state-of-art technology to help us transform the way we prevent and treat health conditions across the life-span.”

The launch of the new programme comes as the Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre marks the first anniversary since it opened its doors in January 2020.

Based at the Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park, the AWRC has the ambition to become the world’s leading centre for physical activity research. With a focus on co-production, the Centre brings together leading academic expertise in various disciplines including behavioural science, engineering, the arts, software design, robotics and sport and exercise science to work alongside communities, the NHS and industry partners to produce scalable programmes and products to address global health challenges.

During the pandemic, the AWRC has become a hub for research and innovation into Covid-19 recovery and rehabilitation (RICOVR), including working with people who have enduring symptoms post-virus, known as long-Covid. 

The work of the RICOVR unit at AWRC has engaged over 10,000 people since the start of the pandemic. Studies include a video series, educational booklet and symptom app to help people manage symptoms of fatigue, an exploration of the lived-experience of people with long-Covid, helped Hospital Trusts to resource plan for Covid as well as a collaborative study with the University of Derby to understand the determinants of recovery from long Covid.

In the past year, more than 500,000 copies of the Active at Home booklet have been delivered to older and vulnerable people across the country. As the research hub for the National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine (who led the work), researchers at the AWRC alongside Age UK, the Centre for Ageing Better, Sport England and the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy designed the booklet to support older and vulnerable people to stay active and healthy at home during the pandemic.

It contains exercises and techniques that are relevant for older or less mobile people to do around the home including seated exercises. The booklet also provides advice on keeping mentally active, managing lifestyle and contact details for local support organisations.

Professor Robert Copeland, Director of the Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre, said: “The AWRC was established to undertake world-leading research that addresses global health challenges through innovations that help people move. I am delighted with the impact that we have had in our first year of operation, especially the key role we have played in the national effort to tackle Covid-19. Our researchers have helped to shape the recovery journey for people internationally and we will continue to make a meaningful and sustainable difference to the physical and psychological health of people in our region.

“I am incredibly proud of what the AWRC has achieved to date and that is down to the hard work, creativity and quality of the staff that are co-located there. We sit at the heart of an agenda to improve the health and wellbeing of our nation. Through our research and innovation agenda and with our strategic collaborators we will continue to tackle health-related inequality, address the social, behavioural and environmental determinants of health and transform lives.”

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