June 23, 2020

Lack of health research on professors inspires a student research project

New survey to assess how physical activity of professors is impacted by COVID-19

The idea to investigate the activity levels of professors came to Madison Grande during a class project in leadership. The fourth-year Faculty of Kinesiology student discovered professors had to pay for gym memberships, and she wondered if this was a barrier to their activity levels.

“When I began to investigate past studies about professors’ physical activity levels, I found very little research about them in general. These are our role models, our leaders in education, and it’s important that they are healthy,” says Grande.

To explore the topic further, Grande launched a survey to gather data on the physical activity and sedentary behaviours of professors, and their general health, before and after COVID-19.

How have profs' activity levels changed?

Grande says the COVID-19 pandemic added a new spin on her research.

The work-from-home situation put extra duties on the professors in a short amount of time, so this is an opportunity to understand how their activity levels have been impacted,” says Grande.

Little evidence exists on the impact of working from home during a pandemic. Grande’s research project is being supervised by Dr. Patricia Doyle-Baker, (Dr. PH/PhD), in the Faculty of Kinesiology.

Doyle-Baker says her routine has certainly changed since Covid-19, and she is curious to know how other professors are managing their work from home.

“I know I’ve never worked so hard in my life. I went from working 50 hours a week to 60 hours-plus now. I also do more sitting in online meetings and have less time to work out and less access to fitness equipment. My ability to maintain my muscle mass requires an innovative at-home workout regime,” says Doyle-Baker. Her expertise and passion is exercise physiology.

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We hope that this study will help inform us about future pandemics, and what physical activity resources and supports university professors may need when they return to their academic lives at universities,” says Doyle-Baker.

Professors needed to do a survey

Kinesiology researchers are looking for full-time Canadian college and university professors who teach at least one course to take a 20-minute survey. The survey mainly focuses on questions about activity levels, but to understand overall health, researchers also ask about the biggest challenges of working at home, sleep, screen time and anxiety levels.

“We hope to get at least 400 participants to get the data we need, because if you want a healthy student population, you need a healthy professor population,” says Doyle-Baker.

Take the survey here.