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Unit information: Physical Activity , Disease and Public Health in 2020/21

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Unit name Physical Activity , Disease and Public Health
Unit code PHEDM4013
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Armstrong
Open unit status Not open




School/department School for Policy Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law

Description including Unit Aims

This unit will critically review the role of inactivity in the aetiology of disease and the role of physical activity in the prevention and management of disease, highlighting the different roles of exercise at different life stages. The unit will review key issues in identifying the optimal physical activity recommendation for public health, enabling students to understand the links between physical activity and health for people of all ages and across a range of lifestyles and backgrounds.

To develop understanding of:

  1. The role of physical activity and inactivity in the aetiology of chronic diseases such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cancer and mental health problems.
  2. The biological mechanisms through which physical activity may operate to prevent chronic disease.
  3. Physical activity in the maintenance of health and physical function through the lifespan and the strategies which may be employed to help optimise physical activity for health.
  4. The role of physical activity in the management of chronic disease.
  5. How to communicate scientific content critically to a lay audience.

Intended Learning Outcomes

  1. Be familiar with and able to critically appraise the theory and evidence base for physical activity in the aetiology of chronic disease, including obesity, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cancer, osteoporosis and mental disorders.
  2. Understand the key issues involved in optimising health at different life stages and transitions including childhood and adolescence, middle age and older age and in groups such as ethnic populations.
  3. To develop the skills necessary to design and evaluate strategies which are effective in optimising physical activity for health within populations.
  4. To develop science communication skills required for communicating scientific content critically to a lay audience.

Teaching Information

The unit will be delivered through blended learning involving a combination of lectures, group discussion and self-directed exercises.

Assessment Information

Part 1: 1500-word critical review for a lay audience (50%; covers ILO 1,3,4).

Part 2: A one-page infographic to present the evidence for the role of physical activity in the prevention and/or management of a chronic disease and a 1000-word summary (50%; covers ILO 1,2,4).

Reading and References

UK Chief Medical Officer’s Physical Activity Guidelines (2019). (Can be downloaded from

2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee. 2018. Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee Scientific Report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2018. (Can be downloaded from

Cardiovascular Disease: Diet, Nutrition and Emerging Risk Factors. Stanner S (ed). Blackwell Publishing Ltd., Oxford. ISBN 1-4051-0166-0.

Pate, R.R., Pratt, M., Blair, S.N., Haskell, W.M., Macera, C.A., Bouchard, C., et al. (1995). Physical activity and public health: recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American College of Sports Medicine. J.A.M.A. 273: 402-7.

'At least five a week: Evidence on the impact of physical activity and its relationship to health'. A report from the Chief Medical Officer. April 2004. (Can be downloaded from

Dose-Response Issues Concerning Physical Activity and Health: an Evidence-Based Symposium. (2001). Med. Sci. Sports. Exerc. 33 (6); Supplement.

Powers, S.K. & Howley, E.T. (2014). Exercise Physiology: Theory and Application to Fitness and Performance (9th ed). New York; McGraw-Hill.