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Games are a golden opportunity for research

University to explore physical activity, volunteering and health at Masters Games.

Researchers from the University of Tasmania will be investigating the experiences of athletes and volunteers who are participating in the 16th Australian Masters Games.

Four projects will shed light on what drives an athlete to compete, how volunteerism could improve disadvantaged communities, the dietary measures that enhance a sportsperson’s performance and what an individual gains by choosing to volunteer.

The University's Pro Vice-Chancellor (Community, Partnerships and Regional Development), Professor David Adams, said it was exciting to see the projects taking shape.

“This diverse research of local and national significance forms the next stage of our institution’s continuing partnership with the Games,” Professor Adams said.

“With the competition commencing Saturday 21 October, we are encouraging athletes and volunteers from all backgrounds to help shape our findings by sharing their experiences with staff on the ground or through accessing online surveys.

Already the University has partnered with the Australian Masters Games to train the volunteer workforce while supporting a photographic arts residency to document their experiences. This research is another way we can help forge long-lasting and positive community outcomes.

Pro Vice-Chancellor (Community, Partnerships and Regional Development), Professor David Adams.
“We expect the research to uncover invaluable insights that have potential to reform existing awareness, attitudes and future programs in physical activity, while also empowering us with knowledge that could help grow volunteering here and interstate

University of Tasmania research projects:

Becoming and Being a Masters Athlete – Professor Catherine Palmer, Dr Casey Mainsbridge, Dr Nick Hookway and Dr Anthea Vreugdenhil

Researchers will explore what influences first-time, elite, beginner and experienced athletes from a range of sporting disciplines to take part in the Australian Masters Games. The findings will help health professionals, educators and practitioners better understand and address the problem of low physical activity in adults later in life, while providing insight that will help guide how future programs are shaped in Tasmania. Information will initially be gathered through online and in-person surveys, with the next step involving interviews and the opportunity for participants to document their experiences through capturing digital images that will form part of a future exhibition.

Sports Volunteering as Health Intervention? Motivations and Outcomes for Volunteering at the Australian Masters Games - Dr Nick Hookway, Dr Sue Pearson, Professor Catherine Palmer, Dr Jen Evans, Dr Peter Brett, and Ms Jillian Brandsema

Volunteering can change lives in profound ways but there is a lack of research on how sports volunteering can help motivate people, build social capital, and improve health and wellbeing within disadvantaged communities. This research project will develop important insights into supporting and growing volunteering in Tasmania, while exploring how volunteerism can operate as a community health intervention to engage different groups, including young people and socially disadvantaged Tasmanians. The research is of particular relevance to the North-West amid the region’s high levels of unemployment, low educational attainment and poor health outcomes. Conducted through online surveys and interviews, the project will analyse the demographics, motivations, experiences and outcomes of volunteers at the Australian Masters Games.

Specific Food Perceptions of Competitors and Attendees at the 2017 Australian Masters Games - Kiran Ahuja, James Fell and Cecilia Kitic

Gastrointestinal issues are common in athletes, with up to 90% of runners reporting symptoms such as abdominal pain and bloating during exercise. Severe episodes can even cause an athlete to reduce their exercise intensity or stop altogether. In this project, researchers will be working to understand why certain individuals are more prone to gastrointestinal disturbances, which will be an important step towards reducing the impact of symptoms that both athletes and individuals experience when undertaking regular exercise. Previous research conducted by this academic team highlighted how athletes remove certain foods from their diet in an attempt to reduce gastrointestinal symptoms. On this occasion, researchers are particularly interested in learning more about the prevalence of gastrointestinal disturbances in athletes and regular exercisers, and what strategies individuals are using to combat this.

Stepping Up and Stepping Out: Educating for Sporting Volunteering and Civic Engagement – Dr Jen Evans, Dr Peter Brett, Mrs Jillian Brandsema

This research project aims to uncover the rewards and individual gains of North-West volunteers while exploring regional and cultural attitudes around volunteering at a major sporting event. The project will also examine the effectiveness of the University of Tasmania’s online course which helped train volunteers to support the competition while assessing its potential to influence future volunteer training. Researchers will examine whether volunteers identify themselves as active citizens, what difference they believe volunteering makes to the social fabric of the region, and whether there is a distinct and different perception about volunteering in a sporting context. Information has already been gathered via the online training course, with further data about the volunteer experience to be collected from volunteers and their supervisors after the completion of the Games. 

The University of Tasmania is supporting a fifth project with the University of Sydney which will investigate the prevalence of nutrition-related chronic conditions in Australian Masters Games athletes.

Interested in conducting your own research? Apply now to become a research student.