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Durham University

Physical Activity Lab

The Team

Dr Tessa Pollard BA, MSc, DPhil

Associate Professor and Director of the Physical Activity Lab

Tessa's current research draws on approaches from medical anthropology, public health and epidemiology to investigate the place of health-related practices, particularly physical activities such as walking, in everyday lives. She also draws on an evolutionary perspective, which considers how past adaptations may have led to today's health problems. For some time she has applied these approaches to investigate risk factors for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes in migrant and minority groups in the UK, and she currently has a particular interest in women's walking. Current projects use ethnographic methods to explore the impact of interventions on physical activity practices, particularly in relation to social prescribing and active travel to school.

Janelle Wagnild BA MSc PhD

Funded by the Durham Doctoral Studentship, Janelle's PhD set out to explore a possible link between sedentary behaviour during pregnancy and pregnancy complications, particularly gestational diabetes. She used qualitative methods to understand how pregnant women in the UK view physical activity and how their beliefs about the importance or safety of physical activity while pregnant influence their mobility patterns. She received her PhD in 2019 and is currently working on publishing her results and leading a critical systematic review exploring the well-established relationship dbetween television time and cardiometabolic health. Prior to beginning her PhD, Janelle completed an MSc Evolutionary Medicine with Distinction in 2015, also at Durham University and she earned her undergraduate degree in Applied Human Biology from Seattle Pacific University in 2013.

Emily Tupper BA MA

Emily graduated from the University of St Andrews in 2015 with a First Class degree in Social Anthropology. She is currently studying for a PhD, funded by an ESRC studentship from the Northern Ireland and North East Doctoral Training Partnership. Emily's research is concerned with those "doing good" by combining volunteering with physical activity and she is using ethnographic methods, including participant observation. She is interested in innovative approaches to health and wellbeing and the ways in which well people "stay well" through physical activity practices.

Affiliated Members

Stephanie Morris BA MSc PhD

Steph Morris undertook her PhD in the Physical Activity Lab, graduating in 2018 . Her research interests include young people's health and well-being; daily physical activity and mobility; walking groups; and ethnographic methods. Her PhD research project was entitled, ‘Understanding the place and meaning of physical activity in the lives of young people: an ethnographic study with young people at two youth centres in a low-income area of North East England'. She presented a contextualised understanding of how forms of physical activity fit into the daily lives of young people. Her work explored how and why physical activity patterns change at an age when physical activity levels generally decline, drawing attention to other aspects of the young people’s lives, their biographies and the sociocultural and economic contexts. This work was funded by an ESRC studentship from the North East Doctoral Training Centre. Steph is subsequently undertook ethnographic work for our 'Women's Experiences of Walking Groups' project, regularly joining walking groups and conducting participant-observation and walk-along interviews with women.

Kate Gibson BA MA PhD

Kate received her PhD from the University of Newcastle in 2018. Currently she is conducting ethnographic fieldwork evaluating the impact of a social prescribing intervention on a work package led by Tessa Pollard and Suzanne Moffatt as part of an NIHR project led by Suzanne Moffatt at the University of Newcastle,