Emma Cohen awarded a Social Sciences Division Engagement Fellowship
Physical inactivity and social isolation have significant negative effects on health that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Consequently, there is growing civic and policy interest in the health and wellbeing benefits of community-based exercise and social physical activity. Research by Cohen and collaborators at the Social Body Lab, Institute of Human Sciences (https://socialbodylab.web.ox.ac.uk/) suggests that interdependent, supportive, and exertive physical activity can enhance social connection and wellbeing. Moreover, social connection in physical activity is linked to greater enjoyment, lower feelings of fatigue, effort and difficulty, enhanced performance, and positive changes in wellbeing. This engagement fellowship will connect this research with the objectives and activities of The Daily Mile Foundation and the Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council in Northern Ireland, and their wider networks. Primarily based in schools, but now expanding to workplaces and a range of other settings across 86 participating countries, The Daily Mile aims to improve the health of all people through 15 minutes of daily social physical activity. In 2021, a government report identified children and young people in Northern Ireland as least likely to meet recommended levels of physical activity compared with other parts of the UK and Europe, and mental health problems were significantly more common. In this context, our local authority partner has placed physical activity, social connection and mental wellbeing at the core of its “Better Future Together” community plan (2017-2030). The goal of this collaboration is to support partner aims to foster a demonstrably more active and healthy population and to amplify and shape research for enhanced scientific and applied impact. Through our engagement objectives and activities, we will better understand mutual challenges, aims and needs, and build the foundations for ongoing partnerships and innovations in public health at regional and national levels.
Emma Cohen is an Associate Professor in Cognitive Anthropology within the Institute of Human Science in the School of Anthropology and Museum Anthropology. She is a tutorial Fellow in Human Sciences at Wadham College.