Research group Lifestyle and Health

Regular exercise is good for our health, and conversely, physical inactivity is associated with health risks. But how are physical activity and fitness related? And which factors influence that relationship? These are the questions that the Lifestyle and Health research group seeks to answer. The research group focuses on people who are at risk such as those with a (chronic) health condition.

What is fitness?

Many factors play a role in determining fitness, such as heredity and the lifestyle of a person. Does the person smoke? Does he or she do any sport? Is he or she physically active enough? Personal factors can also come into play, such as age, gender, socio-economic status, motivation, illness perceptions and attitudes towards physical activity. Social factors can also play a role, such as the influence of parents on the physical behaviour of children with disabilities.

Fitness in those with medical conditions

In those living with (chronic) medical conditions that make it difficult to engage in physical activity, there is always a risk that they will become steadily less active and therefore will lose their fitness. This can give rise to even more health problems. To stop this viscous cycle, it is important that the problem is evaluated properly and that the patient receives the right treatment. Whether that works will depend on several factors. Can the patient articulate which problems he or she is experiencing? Is the patient adherent to his or her therapy? Does he or she do his or her exercise as directed and does he or she complete the rehabilitation programme? It is therefore important that patients understand what they are told by their therapist and that there is a good patient-therapist relationship. 


The research group is developing its knowledge for and with practitioners from teaching and professional practitioners (especially Cesar exercise therapists and physiotherapists). The goal is innovation:

  • developing innovative forms of healthcare and networks in the fields of lifestyle and health

  • developing innovative educational programmes for students and teaching staff 

How does the research group innovate for professional practice? An example 

Often, it is difficult for patients who have had a stroke and who live at home to continue to get enough exercise. A number of physiotherapists therefore asked the research group to develop an effective and inexpensive tool to motivate these patients to remain physically active. The instrument had to be compatible with the limitations and home situation of these patients. And physiotherapists should be able to measure the patient’s activity from a distance, in order to understand whether progress is being made, or just the opposite.

As part of the SUSTAIN research project (InveStigating and Stimulating long-Term walking Activity IN stroke), the research group is working with other research partners on:

  • how to measure walking activity as accurately and effectively as possible among patients living at home who have had a stroke;

  • which underlying factors could explain walking activity;

  • which supporting technical resources are already in place. 

Subsequently, the research group will develop a tool that corresponds to the needs and the physical and mental capabilities of this patient group.