The University of Dundee’s Professor Annie Anderson will advise football fans across Europe about the health benefits of changing their diet as part of a £5million project.
The funding has been awarded to an eleven strong consortium, led by the University of Glasgow, by the EU to develop and evaluate a European-wide programme to help male football fans become more active, less sedentary and improve their diets in a sustainable way.
Twenty million fans attend top division football games each week across Europe and many more watch on TV. The ‘EuroFIT’ project team will work with top football clubs from across the continent to encourage fans to take up healthier lifestyles.
It will attract men to lifestyle change through the personal connection and loyalty to the team they support. Groups of football fans will be encouraged to take part in a tailored fitness and lifestyle programme with their own football club, receiving tips about how to boost their exercise, sit down less and improve their diets.
The project builds on the successful Football Fans in Training (FFIT) model which has run for three seasons in Scotland. The model seeks to encourage healthy weight loss and fitness that can be sustained over the long term. In the 2010-11 season alone, 412 men shed 2,300kg of weight and lost 2400 cm from their collective waist measurements. In Scotland, the programme is run in partnership with the Scottish SPFL.
Professor Anderson is a leader in the field of public health nutrition and worked on the FFIT programme along with colleagues across Scotland. Her role in ‘EuroFIT’ will be to provide advice on the diet component of the project to organisations, clubs and supporters across Europe.
“There are three main areas of the study - improving physical activity, decreasing sedentary behaviour and improving diet,” she said. “The areas I am interested in developing include guidance on portion size, the importance of eating breakfast, replacing unhealthy foods with low fat options, and increasing fruit and vegetable intake.
“By working with football clubs we have the chance to make a real difference to what is otherwise a hard-to-reach demographic. Football Fans in Training proved to be a great success and we are excited to be part of this project, led by colleagues at Glasgow University, to broaden the reach across Europe.
Professor Sally Wyke, Principal Investigator and Deputy Director, Institute of Health and Wellbeing at the University of Glasgow said, “We know that men, particularly, are much less likely than women to use existing opportunities for lifestyle change.
“Football is a real draw for many men, and increasingly also for female supporters. The commitment many feel to their clubs and the opportunity to train with other fans to be healthier is a real bonus for them. This project is extremely exciting and ambitious - it could be adapted for all sorts of other groups, and lead to positive lifestyle changes in men, their families and wider social networks across Europe.”
Football fans will take part in an interactive programme led by coaches in the participating football clubs, and held in club grounds. Technological developments will be used to provide continous feedback for monitoring progress which will help keep men motivated and active. This includes the new SitFIT™, being developed by Glasgow-based PAL Technologies Ltd which will monitor how much time you spend sitting and how much time is spent moving around.
The researchers will evaluate EuroFIT in a multi-centre randomised controlled trial in top professional football clubs across the UK, the Netherlands, Norway and Portugal, to verify its impact on physical activity and sedentary behaviour, physical and mental health.
EuroFIT is funded by the the European Union's 7th Research Framework Programme. It is supported by several leading professional football clubs including Arsenal, Benfica and FC Porto.
Notes to editors:
The full partners in the EuroFIT programme are University of Glasgow UK (Programme Co-ordinators); PAL Technologies Ltd, UK; European Healthy Stadia Network CIC Ltd, UK; VU University Medical Centre Amsterdam, Netherlands; Radboud University Nijmegen, Netherlands; Norges Idrettshogskole, Norway; University of Lisbon, Portugal; Pintail Ltd, Ireland, University of Aberdeen, UK, University of Edinburgh, UK and University of Dundee, UK.