Health, Nutrition and Physical Activity

The Health, Nutrition and Physical Activity (HNPA) research area focuses on strategies to improve health through physical activity, behavioural and lifestyle modifications, as well as nutrient or dietary interventions.

Our goal is to promote physical activity and healthy lifestyles in all individuals, and in doing so support behaviour modification through practical and real world approaches. Our research considers the impact of reducing sedentary behaviour across the lifespan, and how specific interventions such as nutrition intake can support or improve health behaviours and non-communicable disease risk factors.

The team's work is broadly themed in the following areas:

  • Influence of energy intake
  • Influence of energy expenditure

Our research involves both laboratory and real world assessment, including experimental and interventional designs.

Influence of energy intake: A key aspect of improving individual health is dietary intake. Our research focuses on the impact of nutritional strategies (both dietary and applied supplementation) to promote fat oxidation and metabolic rate either with or without exercise. Current interest particularly lies with innovative strategies to reduce deep fat (visceral) accumulation and improve cardio-metabolic risk factors. Within this theme there are two central areas of interest:

  • Using nutrition and physical activity to enhance fat oxidation and body composition
  • Exploring the association between diet, physical activity and workplace resilience

Strategies pertaining to innovative nutrition intake include supplementation (e.g. green tea, probiotics, amino acids, and nucleotides) and dietary interventions (e.g. carbohydrate reduction, intermittent fasting, ketogenic or moderate protein intake).

Influence of energy expenditure: Another significant aspect of improving health is increasing levels of free-living physical activity and reducing levels of sedentary behavior. Our research focuses on:

  • Correlates of physical activity and sedentary behaviour in children, adolescents, adults and special populations (e.g., cancer survivors)
  • Health benefits of increasing levels of free-living physical activity and reducing sedentary time
  • The development of interventions to displace sitting with activity

We currently hold two grants in this area funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) and Cancer Research UK (CRUK) respectively:

  1. How to displace sitting with standing among office workers and
  2. Promoting physical activity across the lifespan through play.

We've identified several exciting postgraduate research projects which could be incorporated as part of a Masters or Doctoral programme.

The Health, Nutrition and Physical Activity research area is part of the Cambridge Centre for Sport and Exercise Sciences research group.


Find out more about the members of our research team by exploring their staff profiles and previous research.

Dr Justin Roberts (energy intake and functional nutrition) 
Dr Lee Smith (energy expenditure and physical activity)
Dr James Johnstone
Dr Dan Gordon
Mr Adrian Scruton

Find out more about our Sport and Exercise Sciences PhD.