Physical Activity Research Group

The Physical Activity Research Group aims to advance the science of physical activity and related health behaviours, such as diet/nutrition, sedentary behaviour, weight loss/maintenance and sleep. Specifically, research within the group focuses on increasing the knowledge of individual, social and environmental correlates of these health behaviours. It further seeks to develop and evaluate innovative intervention strategies to improve health behaviours at an individual and population level, both in healthy populations (e.g., children, elderly) and populations with health conditions (e.g., people with diabetes, cardiovascular disease, depression).

A particular strength of the research group is the application of e- & mHealth intervention strategies such as the use of web-, app- and tracker-based behaviour change interventions, as well as the use of ‘computer-tailoring’ to provide automated and highly individualised advice to improve health behaviours. The Physical Activity Research Group regularly attracts highly competitive research funds (e.g., NHMRC and NHF) and houses the world renowned 10,000 Steps Australia project, which has over 350,000 online members.

300.000 Members joined 10.000 Steps Transcript

Professor Corneel Vandelanotte
NHF funded Future Leader Fellow 
07 4923 2183

Professor Vandelanotte is a Professorial Research Fellow and NHF-funded Future Leader Fellow, who leads the Physical Activity Research Group (PARG) at the Appleton Institute. He also holds an Adjunct Professor position at Curtin University and the University of Southern Queensland. His research focuses on web-, app- and tracker-delivered and computer-tailored interventions for increasing physical activity. Prof Vandelanotte’s research takes a population health approach to behaviour change, through the development and evaluation of innovative, affordable and effective health behaviour change interventions that can reach large numbers of people. He has mostly worked in the area of physical activity, but also in the areas of sedentary behaviour, diet/nutrition and sleep. Professor Vandelanotte has secured over $7.5 million of competitive research funds (e.g., NHMRC, NHF, Queensland Health) and published over 150 peer-reviewed publications.

Research Areas

  • Physical activity
  • Diet
  • Sleep
  • Computer-tailoring
  • e- & mHealth

Professor Corneel Vandelanotte CQUniversity Staff Profile

Dr Amanda Rebar
NHRMC funded Post-doctoral Research Fellow
07 4923 2182

Dr Amanda Rebar is a senior lecturer, National Health and Medical Research Council research fellow, and the Director of the Motivation of Health Behaviour Lab. Her main stream of research is on motivation of health behaviours, with specific interest in Automatic Regulation – such as habits and automatic biases – of physical activity. Additionally, she is interested in understanding the mental health outcomes of physical activity and how mental health issues impact health behaviour motivation. She specialises in longitudinal and intensive repeated assessment analyses. You can follow her on Twitter (@AmandaRebar), see her latest R script on GitHub (user: arebar) and follow past and ongoing projects on the Open Science Framework (OSF).

Research Areas

  • Physical activity
  • Exercise
  • Health psychology
  • Automatic/non-conscious regulation
  • Dual process models
  • Habits

Dr Amanda Rebar CQUniversity Staff Profile

Dr Susan Williams
Senior Lecturer - Nutrition
07 4923 2213

Sue is a Public Health Nutritionist and senior lecturer at Central Queensland University. She has extensive experience in project and information management with a long standing career in health care and academia. She commenced her research career in 2009 and her population based research of health and health behaviours is underpinned by her beliefs in the need for translational research which bridges the gap between research and practice in ‘real-world’ settings.

Dr Williams has experience in developing and implementing preventive health and health promotion programs in schools and communities in regional Queensland and expertise in quantitative and qualitative research methods. She is particularly interested in using systems approaches to create healthy settings in communities.

Dr Williams is highly regarded for her engagement with communities and in addition to research presentations, she frequently presents workshops and education sessions on health and healthy behaviours to community groups. Dr Williams has published 15 journal articles and 2 book chapters (Scopus h-index 6).

Research Areas

  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Public Health and Health Services

Dr Susan Williams CQUniversity Staff Profile

Dr Stephanie Schoeppe
NHMRC and NHF funded Post-doctoral Research Fellow
07 4923 2271

Dr Stephanie Schoeppe is a Senior Postdoctoral Research Fellow at CQUniversity, School of Health, Medical and Applied Sciences, Physical Activity Research Group. Her research areas include measurement, correlates and interventions relating to physical activity and sedentary behaviour in children and adults. My recent research interest is on family-based interventions that actively involve parents through parental social support and modelling, and the use of wearable activity trackers and smartphone apps. She is an author on 34 peer-reviewed publications in physical activity and public health research (ResearchGate h-index: 10). Moreover, she has produced 13 commissioned research reports (including 6 for the World Health Organization and 3 for the Australian Federal Government). She has delivered 42 presentations and been awarded over $960,000 in research funds. In 2016, Dr Schoeppe received two prestigious early career research fellowships from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and the National Heart Foundation (NHF) of Australia.

Research Areas

  • Physical activity
  • Sedentary behaviour
  • mHealth
  • Children

Dr Stephanie Schoeppe CQUniversity Staff Profile

Dr Stephanie Alley
Senior Post-doctoral Research Fellow
07 4923 2263

Dr Alley is a Senior Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Physical Activity Research Group at CQUniversity. Dr Alley holds a Bachelor of Psychological Science and a PhD in Health Psychology. Her research focuses on developing and evaluating physical activity interventions using new technology including computer-tailored websites and activity trackers. She is also interested in active aging and conducts research on the correlates of physical activity and the effectiveness of technology-based physical activity interventions in older adults. Dr Alley has over 30 peer reviewed publications and has secured over $250,000 in research funding.

Research Areas

  • Physical activity
  • Sedentary behaviour
  • eHealth
  • Older adults

Dr Stephanie Alley CQUniversity Staff Profile

Dr Saman Khalesi
Senior Lecturer, Discipline Lead - Nutrition, Post-doctoral Fellow
07 3023 4153

Dr Khalesi is a Lecturer in Nutrition at the School of Health Medical and Applied Sciences. He is a Registered Nutritionist with research interests in chronic diseases (including hypertension and CVD), dietary patterns, health behaviour, gut health and probiotics. He has published 22+ papers in peer-reviewed journals and attracted 200+ citations. He has earned a total of $194,334 in research funds and presented at national and international conferences. He has served as a reviewer for international funding bodies and peer-review journals. His research findings have been translated into policy and reproduced in international magazines. He collaborates with industry, research institutes and universities nationally and internationally.

Research Areas

  • Diet/nutrition
  • High blood pressure
  • Chronic Diseases
  • Pro- & prebiotics

Dr Sami Khalesi CQUniversity Staff Profile

Dr Melanie Hayman
Senior Lecturer/HOC - Allied Health
07 4930 6912

Dr Melanie Hayman is an early career researcher (graduated from her PhD in December 2016) and currently works with the Physical Activity Research Group, and also as the Head of Course for Health Science (Allied Health), School of Human, Health and Social Sciences, CQUniversity Australia. Her research focuses on the promotion of physical activity during pregnancy among pregnant women and practitioners, as well as the integration of e- and mHealth interventions into clinical practice. My expertise includes web- and app-based interventions to improve physical activity in women during pregnancy.

Dr Hayman's research focuses on innovative ways to improve the health and well-being of pregnant women in Australia. She is particularly interested in how technology can be utilised to better promote physical activity and nutritional behaviours among the 70 percent of pregnant women who do not meet physical activity or nutritional recommendations in Australia. Accordingly, Dr Hayman developed Fit4Two, a web-based program that has successfully improved health behaviours among pregnant women thus contributing to a reduced risk of obesity and other chronic diseases in the mother and her child.

Research Areas

  • Physical activity
  • Exercise
  • Diet
  • e- &m Health
  • Pregnancy

Dr Melanie Hayman CQUniversity Staff Profile

Dr Quyen To
Post-doctoral Research Fellow

Quyen To is a postdoctoral research fellow in the Physical Activity Research Group, CQUni. His current research focuses on using technology-based approaches to help improve physical activity at population level. He is also interested in applications of machine learning in health behaviour research. He has experience with analysing data from studies using different designs including complex surveys, longitudinal and intervention studies.

10,000 Steps

Project Leaders: Professor Corneel Vandelanotte, Associate Professor Mitch Duncan

Project Staff: Kelly Corry, Anetta Van Itallie, Cindy Hooker, Nina Smith, Emma Power

Funding Body: Funded by the Queensland Government

About the Project: 10,000 Steps was Australia’s first ‘whole of community’ health promotion physical activity project funded by Queensland Health. The initial Rockhampton project (2001-2003) was an exemplary model of an effective multi-strategy, multi-sector physical activity project. As a result of the success in Rockhampton, the Queensland Government has continued to fund the ongoing delivery of the program to increase participation in physical activity through Queensland and beyond.

The 10,000 Steps project aims to increase the day-to-day activity of Australians by encouraging the use of step-counting pedometers or activity trackers to accumulate "incidental" physical activity as part of everyday living. The free online program supports behaviour change in individuals by encouraging goal-setting, recording and monitoring of steps and physical activity, also with some gamification through monthly challenges, achievement of milestone badges and ability to challenge friends and workmates in team Tournaments. There are online resources that help workplaces and communities to promote physical activity through the use of the 10,000 Steps strategies and also free promotional materials that can be posted to Queensland Coordinators or downloaded by others.


TaylorActive Project – Increasing physical activity at a population level using an innovative web-based and video-tailored intervention

Investigators: Professor Corneel Vandelanotte, Professor Ronald Plotnikoff, Associate Professor Mitchell Duncan, Professor William Mummery, Dr Camille Short

Funded by: National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) for a total of $697 086.

Only 46% of Australians achieve the recommended 30 minutes of physical activity a day needed to prevent chronic disease, a preventable burden that costs the healthcare system $1.6 billion each year. Web-based interventions can reach most Australians at low cost, but often fail to engage and retain participants long enough to achieve long-term behaviour change. We will evaluate an innovative and more engaging approach that uses personalised web-based videos provided on a weekly basis that will help Australians become more physically active in the long-term.

Study Aims: To develop a web-based physical activity intervention using personally tailored videos and to study the effectiveness of the video-tailored intervention relative to a traditional text-tailored intervention and a control group (3 group, 9 month RCT) with the primary outcome measure being physical activity (measured objectively and via self-report).

Psychological distress in nursing students: roles of modifiable lifestyle behaviours

Investigators (Phase 1): Dr Saman Khalesi, Dr Susan Williams, Dr Robert Stanton, Dr Sonia Saluja, Dr Amanda Rebar, Dr Andrew Fenning, Mrs Penny Heidke, Associate Professor Talitha Best, Professor Corneel Vandelanotte

Psychological distress is common among nursing students due to the complex and demanding nature of the study, which can impair their academic, clinical performance and wellbeing. Poor lifestyle (diet, smoking, alcohol over-consumption and inactivity) can impair physical and mental health. This study aims to: identify lifestyle factors linked to psychological distress (Phase 1); identify the barrier to lifestyle modification (Phase 2); and develop and implement targeted interventions to improve lifestyle and psychological distress in Nursing students (Phase 3). If successful, these interventions may ultimately improve health, wellbeing, clinical performance and resilience of students prior to entering the nursing workforce.

Step it Up: A family-based web- and app intervention to increase physical activity in children

Research team: Dr Stephanie Schoeppe, Professor Corneel Vandelanotte, Dr Susan Williams, Professor Jo Salmon, Dr Stephanie Alley, Dr Amanda Rebar, Dr Melanie Hayman, Associate Professor Mitch Duncan, Mrs Anetta Van Itallie, Mrs Deb Power

Funded by: a CQUniversity Staff Start-up grant.

Aim: To test the initial feasibility and efficacy of an innovative web- and app intervention to increase physical activity in children aged 10-13 years and their parents.

Significance: In Australia, 81% of children aged 5-17 years do not achieve the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity a day, and they spend about 11 hours per day being sedentary during school hours, TV viewing, indoor play, and car travel. Insufficient physical activity contributes to Australia’s high prevalence (25%) of childhood overweight and obesity, as well as an increased prevalence of childhood type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. An active lifestyle provides children significant health benefits, such as high bone density, mastery of fundamental movement skills, physical fitness and healthy weight. Encouraging active lifestyles in children is important to prevent that unhealthy behaviours track from childhood into adulthood and cause chronic diseases.

The Diabetes Online Risk Assessment (DORA) Project

Investigators: Dr Susan Williams, Associate Professor Kate Ames, Associate Professor Celeste Lawson, Dr Sonia Saluja, Professor Corneel Vandelanotte

Funding: CQUniversity Merit grant

Study Aim: to understand what types of health messages people like to receive and how useful these messages are in encouraging them to take follow-up actions after completing a health risk assessment.

Why we are doing this study: An estimated 2 million Australians are at high risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus and are unaware of their risk, and up to 58% of cases may be prevented if they are detected early. The AUSDRISK is a validated tool that was developed to assist in predicting five-year risk of diabetes. The study is examining the usability and acceptability of an intervention that provides tailored video-based stories in combination with text-based feedback, to facilitate follow-up action and behaviour change in individuals who receive an intermediate or high-risk score following completion of the Australian Type 2 Diabetes Risk Assessment Tool (AUSDRISK).

Capturing community voices to explore drivers of health and wellbeing decisions related to nutrition

Investigators: Dr Susan Williams, Associate Professor Kate Ames, Dr Wendy Madsen, Professor Jenni Judd, Dr Jay Deagon, Fiona McKenzie (QCWA Country Kitchens).

Note: This research is being conducted by CQUniversity research staff in partnership with the staff of the Queensland Country Women’s Association Country Kitchens program.

Funding: CQUniversity Interdisciplinary Research Grant Scheme

Study Aim: to work with community members to explore and document community-specific factors that may help or hinder communities to make healthy food choices, and understand what factors drive the wellbeing decisions of individuals living in rural and regional communities in Queensland.

Why we are doing this study: Individuals living in rural and regional communities are at greater risk of developing nutrition-related health conditions and their risk of these diseases and overall health is further challenged by their limited access to, and use of, health and support services and reduced access and affordability of healthy foods. There is a need to understand interrelationships between the range of factors underlying nutrition-related decisions made by community members and by capturing the voices of communities, we can develop a greater sense of what is needed and how interventions can be tailored to the needs and wants of the target community.

Fit4Two Program

Fit4Two is a web-based program that has successfully improved health behaviours among pregnant women, thus contributing to a reduced risk of obesity and other chronic diseases in the mother and her child.

The Fit4Two program also helps to reduce the burden on practitioners by supporting them in their provision of care in a manner that is cost-effective, time-efficient, sustainable, and highly engaging. Furthermore, Fit4Two is not limited in accessibility and can provide essential support to women residing in rural, regional and remote communities where pregnant women experience poorer health and birth outcomes and limited access to specialist healthcare services. Fit4Two has been identified as a promising approach to improving the quality of healthcare, and as such is now being replicated and tested among other population groups including older adults and overweight/obese adults and internationally among pregnant women in Canada and the USA.

Active For Life: Increasing physical activity in older adults using an innovative personally-tailored and web-based intervention

Investigators: Dr Stephanie Alley, Professor Lynne Parkinson, Associate Professor Jannique van Uffelen, Dr Stephanie Schoeppe, Professor Anthony Schneiders, Professor Corneel Vandelanotte

Funded by: CQUniversity - Value $36 000

Regular physical activity leads to significant improvements in the physical and mental health of older Australians (+65 years of age) and reduces risk of chronic disease. Yet over 70% of older adults are not meeting the recommended physical activity levels for health. This needs to be addressed to improve their quality of life and to reduce the impact of chronic disease in this population. There is very little research examining how new technology can be used to help older adults to become more active. As 79% of older adults are now using the Internet, web-based physical activity interventions hold promise to reach large numbers at low cost. These interventions have shown to be effective in the general population, especially when they provide highly personalised advice and integrate activity trackers.

Study Aims: To examine the effectiveness of a tailored web-based physical activity intervention, both with and without activity tracker integration for older adults in a randomised controlled trial.


Towards a better understanding of why people do or do not adopt an active lifestyle during and following cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation

Primary Investigator: Dr Amanda Rebar1

Associate Investigators: Professor Corneel Vandelanotte1; Dr Jennifer Judd1; Dr Benjamin Gardner2; Dr Chris Askew3; Dr Irina Kinchin1; Kristie-Lee Alfrey1

1CQUniversity Australia; 2 Kings College London; 3 University of the Sunshine Coast

Funding Body: CQUniversity Linkage Partnership Grant

Study Aim: To investigate why heart and lung disease patients do or do not adopt an active lifestyle during and following rehabilitation and test whether people who attend rehabilitation are more likely to be more physically active, exercise tolerant, and have better cardiovascular and respiratory health outcomes than those who do not attend rehabilitation.

The development and evaluation of a web-based falls prevention program for community dwelling Australians aged over 65 years

Investigator: Meghan Ambrens (PhD Candidate)

PhD Supervisors: Professor Corneel Vandelanotte (Principal Supervisor), Dr Stephanie Alley, Professor Anne Tiedemann (University of Sydney) (Associate Supervisors)

Thesis Abstract: As a leading cause of mortality and morbidity in older adults, falls are a significant health concern in Australia. Research has explored the risk factors associated with falls and found exercise as a single intervention reduces the risk of falls. Despite this, the prevalence of falls continues to rise in Australia. Adherence to falls prevention programs is poor. This project will explore the effectiveness of an interactive computer-tailored intervention to reduce falls in community-dwelling Australians aged over 65 years. Changes in knowledge regarding falls and falls risk, as well as adherence to a web-based,  falls prevention program will also be assessed.

10,000 Steps Celebrates 200 Billion Steps Milestone

Members of the 10,000 Steps website have achieved an incredible milestone by logging their 200 billionth step on the 10,000 Steps website.

CQUni physical activity researcher races into top spot

CQUniversity’s researcher Professor Corneel Vandelanotte has stepped up the pace in the field of e-health experts, overtaking world-renowned physical activity researchers and placing in top spot in the latest rankings.

Take enough steps to ensure you can really enjoy those Easter buns and chocs

Professor Vandelanotte and his Physical Activity Research Group have calculated how many steps on a moderate or brisk walk are required for various treats that are popular over Easter.

FIFO mental health study sparks social media backlash

A researcher has been shocked by the backlash over a study that found most fly-in fly-out (FIFO) workers did not seek mental health support because they felt they should toughen up.

Families invited to 'Step It Up' and become more active

The Step it Up Family Program aims to help Rockhampton and Yeppoon-based families become more active through the use of Garmin activity trackers and smartphone applications.

Phase Two of CQUniversity Pregnancy Study Launches

Phase two of a CQUniversity study on the importance of staying active while pregnant has been launched and is now available to pregnant women attending seven different health clinics across the Rockhampton region.

CQUniversity's 10.000 Steps program Transcript