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EUROFIT Report Summary

Project ID: 602170
Funded under: FP7-HEALTH
Country: United Kingdom

Periodic Report Summary 2 - EUROFIT (Social innovation to improve physical activity and sedentary behaviour through elite European football clubs: European Fans in Training)

Project Context and Objectives:
Low levels of physical activity, sedentary lifestyles and poor diets can increase the risk of developing diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. People can improve their health and reduce their risk of disease by adopting healthier lifestyles. However, men are less likely to engage in programmes to support lifestyle changes. For example, only 10-30% of participants in current weight management programmes across Europe are men. New and innovative ideas are needed to engage and support men in improving their health.
EuroFIT is building new social partnerships between football clubs, fans and researchers to improve men’s health by addressing physical inactivity, sedentary behaviour and poor diet. EuroFIT builds on the success of the UK-based Football Fans in Training (FFIT) project, in which men participate in a weight management and healthy living programme delivered in over 30 of Scotland’s professional football clubs.
EuroFIT brings together health researchers, football clubs and fans to build and deliver a programme that men find attractive and engaging. The goal of EuroFIT is for participants to achieve measurable improvements in physical activity, sedentary time and eating habits/diet, and to sustain these changes over time. EuroFIT researchers have designed the intervention programme using a combination of theory, evidence, experience and participatory intervention design, incorporating the latest evidence-based behavioural change techniques and informed by self-determination, goal-action and sociological theories about interaction. Coaches and fans have contributed to the design of the programme to ensure that it meets their needs.
The programme has been delivered in 15 clubs in Portugal, Norway, the Netherlands and the UK and is being evaluated in a randomised controlled trial. Participants learn techniques to change their behavior through interacting with each other and with coaches and participate in physical activity sessions designed to increase their fitness over time. The programme is delivered during 12 weekly sessions. The information and techniques delivered in the ‘classroom’ part of the session have been designed specifically with the male audience in mind. Delivery of the EuroFIT programme in the club stadia by coaches associated with the club has been a key driver of engagement for the participating fans.
Men in the programme also receive a wearable device (SitFIT) that enables them to monitor their own physical activity and sedentary behaviour, as well as enjoying access to a game-based app developed for the project (MatchFIT). Researchers are measuring body weight, eating habits, blood pressure, risk of cardiovascular disease, mental health and other quality of life outcomes when men start the EuroFIT programme and again after 12 months to assess if there were positive lifestyle changes, and if the changes were sustained over time.
During the project, the EuroFIT team is also examining how to replicate the programme in new clubs in the future. Specifically, implementation plans are being developed, based on research results from the project. As a real world test, new clubs are testing the implementation plans by funding and delivering the EuroFIT programme without further support from the EuroFIT team. In addition, ways to expand the programme to other target groups, such as women and children, will be explored.

Project Results:
So far, the focus of the project has been on developing the EuroFIT programme, developing the technologies used in the programme (SitFIT and MatchFIT) preparing for the trial to test the programme, and delivering the trial. EuroFIT researchers have completed a systematic review of existing ways to reduce sedentary behaviour, and incorporated these findings into the programme. The programme has been updated to include the latest research about interventions that are effective in helping people to increase their physical activity and sustain behaviour changes in the long-term.
Researchers from the four participating countries have worked together to identify aspects of the programme that required tailoring for local cultures and to carry out these adaptations.
The EuroFIT programme has been delivered in 15 football clubs by local coaches. It was important to have their input in order to make sure that what was developed would be feasible. Interviews were held with key stakeholders (representatives from football clubs, funding agencies and sports associations) to learn about their previous experiences with delivering health promotion programmes in club settings.. Learnings from the clubs and coaches were incorporated into the development of the programme and design of the trial, and have enriched the programme as delivered in the trial.
The EuroFIT programme includes two technologies, which have been developed in parallel. Men involved in the programme were given a pocket-worn device (SitFIT) that measures their physical activity and sedentary behaviour. The device has a display that will let the men monitor their own behaviour. Following an iterative prototyping process and a pilot study, the SitFIT design was finalised for the study (most recently, a further iteration, with greater sustainability, has been developed)
A game-based app (MatchFIT) has also been developed specifically for the project. Men have the option of using MatchFIT to join in a team-based game with other men in the programme, as well as to track their own activity over the course of a week. This has proven to be attractive and engaging for many, though not all, users.
Evaluation trials to test lifestyle interventions like EuroFIT are complex. Following a feasibility study of the planned intervention measurements in each country, the initial plan for the data collection for the trial has been improved. Based on this work, the EuroFIT team finalised the protocol for the trial.
Following a pilot delivery in a single English club, the main EuroFIT programme was rolled out in 15 clubs in all four countries. 1113 men were recruited to take part in the RCT, and measured at baseline and again 3-4 months later, when half (560) had been offered the opportunity to take part in the programme. 12-month follow up data collection in 3 countries has been completed, with the fourth country underway.
A detailed process evaluation has been designed including focus group discussions with participants after the programme and 12 months after baseline measurement. Data collection is complete in 3 of the 4 countries. Interviews with coaches and managers have been conducted in all countries. Benefits to participants’ wider networks and families will be further explored in the next reporting period.
To verify the sustainability of the EuroFIT programme into the future, we have engaged with new clubs in each country, which are rolling out the programme without EU support (i.e. using their own funding, or with support from other funders). To date, the indications are very positive.

Potential Impact:
EuroFIT is a true social innovation, bringing together actors from across society (professional sports clubs, fans, public health experts and technologists) to address a well-established but difficult problem – engaging inactive men in positive lifestyle change. EuroFIT exploits the potential of football related social networks and mutual peer support to encourage the maintenance of lifestyle changes. EuroFIT empowers each participant to take control in managing his own health. It demonstrates to men that change is possible and achievable, and that it is not “too late to do anything about it”.
Health promotion programmes, like EuroFIT, have great social impact if they are found to be effective, including reductions in health risk and improvements in well-being. Men that EuroFIT attracts are ‘difficult-to-reach’ through traditional public health programmes, yet they include those most at risk of future ill-health or premature death, and therefore are a high priority for improving individual and public health across Europe. By reaching this ‘difficult-to-reach’ group, EuroFIT has the potential to decrease inequalities because more men, especially those in low socio-economic status groups, will be attracted to lifestyle change.
During the project, the EuroFIT team is measuring changes in lifestyle and health outcomes, and looking at whether these changes are sustained over the long term, building the evidence-base to support implementation of the EuroFIT programme in future.
EuroFIT will generate excellent research evidence on the use of social innovation for health. Research impact will be achieved through new understanding of the how health indicators respond to changes in sedentary behaviour and physical activity and through new knowledge about long-term maintenance of lifestyle changes. EuroFIT researchers from a broad range of disciplines are working together to deliver an interdisciplinary solution for health promotion. The new data we produce will fill current research gaps and offer generalisable, sustainable, solutions to improving public health.
The EuroFIT team is sharing what is learned with other researchers through presentations at key academic conferences, publications in high impact, peer-reviewed journals and interactions with related projects in the area of health promotion programmes and innovation.
Unhealthy lifestyles are costly. Physical inactivity, sedentary behaviour and poor diet are a major cause of disease, which leads to higher healthcare costs and other indirect costs. As a health promotion programme that supports sustained change, EuroFIT will deliver economic impact if effective. The EuroFIT programme will be low cost, and is easy to replicate and implement after the project ends. Throughout the project, the team will continue to focus on the cost of delivering the programme and the longer-term healthcare savings.
EuroFIT will also have an impact on policy. We will deliver this impact by producing evidence that EuroFIT works and clear implementation strategies to allow the programme to be easily replicated in new clubs. Led by partner Healthy Stadia, the team is developing a model for the delivery of EuroFIT across Europe if it is found to be effective. Early plans include working with existing delivery organisations such as SPFL Trust in the UK.

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Reported by

United Kingdom


Life Sciences
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