A Q&A with Anna Lowe about Sheffield's Move More initiative - a slogan that sums up her lifestyle!
In an exclusive Q&A with PhysioUpdate, physiotherapist, researcher and eductator Anna Lowe discusses her involvement with various public health initiatives in her home city of Sheffield. With two sons and dogs needing regular exercise, Anna appreciates having the glorious Peak District on her doorstep. She reveals how cycling is an outlet that helps her to keep her personal 'overwhelmed-o-meter’ on an even keel.
We hear you are involved in a project called Move More – is this a good example of how to reach communities that have tended to be marginalised?
Move More is our whole system approach to increasing physical activity in Sheffield. The approach recognises that there is no easy solution when it comes to reducing inactivity, and no single organisation holds the key. Accepting the complexity of the issue and focusing on working collaboratively, across many organisations, is key in achieving the shared vision of a healthier, happier and more connected city.
Sheffield has stark inequities in health life expectancy, people in the most disadvantaged areas of the city will experience worse health than those in the most affluent areas.
Physical activity has an important role to play in supporting people to live well, that includes preventing and managing health conditions and supporting healthy ageing across the life course. In Sheffield, our approach to increasing physical activity has a sustained focus on reducing inequities and supporting where need is greatest. You can read more about our approach here: https://www.movemoresheffield.com/whatismovemore
How did you get into research?
My first experience of research was co-authoring on a paper with a more experienced colleague, whose support and guidance with that first step was critical. Most of my research has been qualitative and I have become more interested in co-design approaches. I also lead some pragmatic evaluations of public health interventions.
I have found research interesting and rewarding and it has been great to see more pathways emerge that enable clinicians to retain their clinical expertise while gaining research skills. I think physios make great contributions to research teams; having first-hand experience of working with people who face barriers to being active is really important.
We hear Sheffield is a great place to live and work in
I agree: Sheffield is a great place to live in. It's known as the Outdoor City and has beautiful parks and green spaces right across the city. See: https://www.theoutdoorcity.co.uk It's also really close to the Peak District National Park, so has very easy access to beautiful open space.
Tell us more about your roles and how you manage to ‘multi-task’
I've been very lucky to have had such varied opportunities and I draw on those experiences as a clinician, educator, researcher, programme manager and would-be-entrepreneur every day [Anna Lowe]
I've never had a career plan and have taken a meandering route, but I've been very lucky to have had such varied opportunities and I draw on those experiences as a clinician, educator, researcher, programme manager and would-be-entrepreneur every day. I have always enjoyed working across different organisations, seeing different approaches and organisational cultures.
I'm not sure I can offer any advice on how to avoid feeling overwhelmed, I think everyone has their own threshold for what's okay and what's not. I do think that, as my career has progressed, I have had to become a bit more comfortable with chaos and have recalibrated my internal ‘overwhelmed-o-meter’. I certainly don't always get it right, but I'm getting better at recognising when I'm approaching my threshold and need a nice long bike ride!
Tell us about your career highlights
A few things stand out: completing my PhD was a big moment and signalled a bit of a change of direction for me. The World Physiotherapy Conference in Geneva, Switzerland, in 2019 was definitely a highlight – presenting to a packed auditorium on physical activity leadership with colleagues from Uganda, Australia and the UK was very special.
In terms of work outputs, I would say creating the Active at Home booklet early in lockdown to support people to stay active at home. This generated huge momentum and over a million copies have been distributed to date. See: https://www.movemoresheffield.com/activeathome
What's next? I hope to continue working with partners across Sheffield to embed and further develop Move More. From a research perspective I am leading a project exploring how we can make it easier for women in midlife to engage in regular strength and balance exercises. The aim is to make strength training more accessible so that women arrive at the 'start line' of later life with better musculoskeletal health and greater physical reserves. I am very keen to develop this research and think there is a huge opportunity in this area.
How do you look after your own physical and mental wellbeing?
I am very lucky in that I grew up being active and have always loved it. My home is very close to the Peak District so I spend as much time as possible mountain biking with friends. I also have two kids and two dogs – so sitting around isn't an option!
Anna Lowe, PhD, is programme manager at the National Centre for Sports and Exercise Medicine at Sheffield Hallam University. Anna is employed by the university on behalf of NCSEM Sheffield – a partner collaboration including hospitals, universities, Sheffield City Council and a number of sport and volunteer organisations.Author: Edited by Ian A McMillan