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Towards better evidence-informed global action: lessons learnt from the Lancet series and recent developments in physical activity and public health
  1. Ding Ding1,2,
  2. Andrea Ramirez Varela3,
  3. Adrian E Bauman1,2,
  4. Ulf Ekelund4,
  5. I-Min Lee5,6,
  6. Gregory Heath7,
  7. Peter T Katzmarzyk8,
  8. Rodrigo Reis9,10,
  9. Michael Pratt11
  1. 1Prevention Research Collaboration, Sydney School of Public Health, The University of Sydney, Camperdown, New South Wales, Australia
  2. 2Charles Perkins Centre, The University of Sydney, Camperdown, New South Wales, Australia
  3. 3Faculty of Medicine, Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia
  4. 4Department of Sport Medicine, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, Oslo, Norway
  5. 5Division of Preventive Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  6. 6Department of Epidemiology, Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  7. 7The Department of Health & Human Performance, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA
  8. 8Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA
  9. 9Research Group in Physical Actvity and Quality of Life (GPAQ), Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Paraná,Curitiba, Curitiba, Brazil
  10. 10Postgraduate Program in Urban Management (PPGTU), Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Paraná, Curitiba, Brazil
  11. 11Institute for Public Health, Department of Family Medicine and Public Health, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, California, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Ding Ding, Prevention Research Collaboration, School of Public Health, The University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia; melody.ding{at}


In the past few decades, the field of physical activity has grown and evolved in scope, depth, visibility and impact around the world. Global progress has been observed in research and practice in physical activity regarding surveillance, health outcomes, correlates/determinants, interventions, translation and policy. The 2012 and 2016 Lancet series on physical activity provide some of the most comprehensive global analysis on various topics within physical activity. Based on the Lancet series and other key developments in the field, literature searches, and expert group meetings and consultation, we provide a global summary on the progress of, gaps in and future directions for physical activity research in the following areas: (1) surveillance and trends, (2) correlates and determinants, (3) health outcomes and (4) interventions, programmes and policies. Besides lessons learnt within each specific area, several recommendations are shared across areas of research, including improvement in measurement, applying a global perspective with a growing emphasis on low-income and middle-income countries, improving inclusiveness and equity in research, making translation an integral part of research for real-world impact, taking an ‘upstream’ public health approach, and working across disciplines and sectors to co-design research and co-create solutions. We have summarised lessons learnt and recommendations for future research as ‘roadmaps’ in progress to encourage moving the field of physical activity towards achieving population-level impact globally.

  • physical activity
  • intervention
  • surveillance
  • prevention
  • epidemiology

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  • Contributors DD drafted the manuscript based on discussions involving all the authors, and literature reviews were conducted by ARV. All the authors have critically reviewed the draft and approved the final version before submission.

  • Funding This study was supported by the National Heart Foundation of Australia (101234) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH R13 CA228499-01). DD was funded by a Future Leader Fellowship from the Australian Heart Foundation (#101234) and a University of Sydney SOAR fellowship.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.