Body composition and physical activity in 6-8 years old children

The epidemic of obesity is on the increase in South Africa. This is evident at a younger age than decades ago. The aim of the study is to determine physical activity levels and body composition together with energy expenditure in 6- to 8-year-old children by means of isotope application.    PI Prof A Monyeki (

Cardiorespiratory and haematological responses as well as endurance performance between elite athletes and cyclists after a combined endurance and inspiratory muscle (IMT) training program

A lot of contradictory results exist with regard to IMT. Furthermore, no investigation has thus far compared the possible benefits of IMT between two different groups of endurance athletes or the possible influence of IMT on the HRV of endurance athletes. In addition, a lot of uncertainty remains with regard to the usefulness of heart rate variability as a measure to gauge the aerobic kinetics and capacity of endurance athletes. It is against this background and shortcomings with regard to existing research that the objectives of this project are to: determine the effects of a six-week endurance and IMT training program compared to an endurance training program alone, on selected cardiorespiratory and hematological responses as well as endurance performance of endurance athletes; compare cardiorespiratory and hematological responses as well as endurance performance between elite middle- and long-distance athletes and cyclists after a six-week combined endurance training and IMT program; determine changes in HRV parameters due to an incremental V̇O2max test in amateur, male endurance athletes and road cyclists; determine if HRV during an incremental test can be used to estimate ventilatory threshold 1 (VT1) and 2 (VT2) in amateur, male endurance athletes and road cyclists; determine the significance, adequacy, accurateness and usefulness of HRV parameters to serve as predictors of amateur, male endurance athletes and road cyclists’ aerobic capacity and kinetics.

PI Prof Ben Coetzee (

Cognitive functioning in team sport participants

Scientific research indicates that better cognitive abilities provide athletes a competitive edge. Cognitive abilities such as attention (often referred to as focus or concentration), situational awareness and decision-making are some of the higher-order cognitive functions which can be enhanced by NeuroTracker training. In broad, the project will aim to investigate the level of team sport participants’ cognitive abilities, to determine the effect of NeuroTracker training on their cognitive abilities, investigate positional differences of players’ cognitive functioning as well as to consider the transfer effect of NeuroTracker training to real-world, sport-specific situations. We will aim to involve participants of the following team sports: netball, rugby, field hockey and soccer.

PI Prof Ankebe Kruger an Mr Retief Broodryk ( or


Developing a motor PERFormance and physical FITness tool for low resourced communities (PERF-FIT)

Children continue to learn various motor performance skills such as hopping, running, throwing, jumping and balance that will improve their motor development. But for some with motor deficits, these skills take longer to develop, if at all. Therefore, the main aim of the project is to contribute to the establishing of the validity of the PERF-FIT by comparing it to different standardized test batteries. These findings, together with the lack of findings from a South African context, lend to the importance of designing a tool that can be implemented in South African communities in order to identify South African norm values.

The PERF-FIT test battery will be developed to provide a set of valid, reliable, feasible, and cheap field‐based motor performance items for the assessment of health‐related physical fitness in children in low resourced communities. By selecting a group of children between the ages of 6 and 12 years old residing in low-resourced areas we intend to test the proposed tool on validity and reliability. In this known-group validity research study, children will be expected to perform tasks that include locomotor-, manipulation-, balance- and anaerobic activities. From the study, we expect to compare standardized measures for motor performance and fitness levels for children between the ages of 6 years old to 12 years old that will be applied as an outcome measure to screen and identify early motor deficits or delays in children in low resourced areas. This project will be conducted in collaboration with UCT.

PI Prof Dané Coetzee (

Effect of an exercise intervention in persons with major depression

Exercise as treatment for depression reveals similar advantages as the use of medication. However, the current evidence is based on depression scores collected by means of questionnaires. Literature on the effect of an exercise intervention on biological markers of depression and the relationship with depression questionnaires is non-existent. The objectives of the study are to determine the relationship between physical activity, fitness, and depressive state and selected biomarkers of depression of individuals treated for major depression. Furthermore, the effect of an exercise intervention on physical activity, fitness and depressive state, and selected biomarkers of depression in individuals treated for major depression, classified as mild to moderate as scored with the Beck’s Depression Inventory Scale (BDI) (score = 10–29).

A randomised control trial will be performed with 100 participants randomly allocated to an experimental and a control group. The control group will receive two sessions of stretching exercises per week, while the experimental group will be performing combined aerobic and resistance training three times per week. The intervention will last 12 weeks. Both the experimental and control groups will receive standard psychotherapy from their preferred therapist for the intervention period. The benefits of the study are that the participants are expected to improve on the depressive scale and the scientific society will understand the relationship between biological markers of depression and the subjective scoring of depressive scale questionnaires. 

 PI Prof Hanlie Moss (


Incidence of injuries and conditioning protocols in netball players: The Netball Study


Netball is a global increasingly popular sport, practised by amateurs and professionals, of both genders across a large part of the life span.  Yet, the incidents and prevalence of specific lower extremity netball injuries are growing and very common.  More so, the conditioning, monitoring and fitness protocols currently applied in netball to promote performance and decrease the risk of injuries are in question.  Furthermore, research on the above mentioned are limited.  The aim of this study therefore is to investigate the prevalence of selected upper and lower extremity netball injuries, in relation to specific netball monitoring, conditioning, training and fitness protocols within young female netball players, as well as the effect of an exercise intervention on these variables. 

This study will be a randomised controlled trial in young amateur and elite female netball players.  PI Dr. Henriëtte Hammill (  Dr. Yolandi Willemse (

Internal and External Monitoring of Performance, Recovery and Sleep during a Tournament (IEMPReST-study)

Participating in sport at a collegiate level have grown immensely, leading to athletes seeking advantages in training and competition to give them an edge above their competitors. Competing in a tournament places a great physiological, psychological and physical demand on the athletes, especially if the competitions are only separated with a few days. In this regard, recovery is seen as a vital component of their daily regime to hasten their “return back to play” state. Therefore, this study will aim to firstly,evaluate the effects of a sport tournament on the physiological, physical and psychological states of a range of collegiate athletes, and secondly, to evaluate whether the implementation of two recovery strategies (sleep hygiene and pneumatic compression therapy), might enhance their internal and external performance indicators. This might provide athletes and managing team with the adequate resources to enhance performance and minimize the risk of injuries.

PI Dr. Adéle Broodryk (


NW-CHILD study: A longitudinal analysis of health risk factors, growth and development among 7-13 year old children

Although many efforts are made to improve the health and well-being of people living in SA, many challenges exist to the health and optimal development of the 18,3 million children growing up in this low- to middle-income country. Health risk factors among paediatric populations, such as increasing sedentary behaviour, lack of motor and physical fitness, growth retardation and development of non-communicable diseases such as obesity and hypertension, have hampering effects on various developmental domains of the child, resulting in long-term consequences. Backlogs in motor proficiency, physical fitness and malnutrition and associated scholastic problems influence psycho-motor, emotional and social development, with negative effects on their quality of life. This research aimed to determine the longitudinal effects of health risk factors over a period of six years (ages 7–13 years) and included factors such as living in high-risk environments and associated poor growth and development, increasing levels of hypertension, overweight and obesity, sedentary behaviour and nutritional deficiencies. Motor proficiency delays and the long-term effects they have on physical activity behaviour and scholastic success were also investigated. The NW-CHILD longitudinal study is a stratified random sample that started at baseline with more than 800 participants living in the North-West Province of South Africa and included two repeated measurements of health risk variables and motor proficiency over a six-year period (2010, 2013, 2016). Baseline measurements were performed in 2010 (Grade 1 learners, M = 6,78+0,49 years), with first follow-up measurements in 2013 (Grade 4 year, 574), and final measures in 2016 (Grade 7 year). Standardised measurements and questionnaires were used and the results were analysed on an ongoing basis by means of the Statistica for Windows/SAS programs. The outcomes of the study will benefit the current but also the future health of children, as existing knowledge can be translated to preventive programmes, strategies and the development of risk markers that can play a preventative role in health and developmental problems in children.

PI Prof A Pienaar (


Physiological and physical performance indicators of male and female field-hockey players

Over the past decade several rule changes have been implemented by the Fédération Internationale de Hockey (FIH) with the most significant ones being the “self pass” free hit rule, unlimited substitutions and a change in the format from two 35min halves to four 15min quarters. The purpose for above-mentioned rule changes was to increase the intensity of matches, but limited literature is currently available to confirm whether these changes were effective in increasing the intensity. Due to the format of hockey changing we can hypothesize that the demands of the match has also changed, which will most likely require changes in the way players need to be prepared for matches during training.  Furthermore, the physical characteristics and components contributing to successful match performances also needs some investigation. If the demands of hockey matches have changed it would warrant researchers to investigate whether current evaluation tools are still relevant to determine the physical traits needed to optimally perform during matches.

PI Prof Martinique Sparks (


Reducing the age-related deficits in cognitive and motor functioning of elderly

The general population is growing older due to longer life expectancy and improvements in medical treatments and technologies. This increase in the aging population, impose an increased burden on health systems. A large body of evidence exist supporting the role of regular physical activity in combating various non-communicable diseases. However, physical activity decreases in the aging population at a rapid rate. It can be due to many reasons, but the ability to perform activities of daily living, is directly related to the motor and cognitive functioning of an individual. It was presented in previous research that this ability decline with age, contributing to a reduction in daily activities, which include physical activity and exercise. This project aims to investigate the relationship between a perceptual-cognitive training, motor learning and performance improvements in the elderly.

PI Prof Stanislaw.Czyz E-mail:


Relationships between growth characteristics, physical activity and neuromotor milestone development of 6-12-month-old infants from different socio-economic backgrounds in the Northwest Province: GrowActive-Infant study

The first thousand days from birth, especially the first twelve months from birth, are considered a unique window of opportunity to establish a solid foundation for an infant’s overall development. During this period, infants’ movement complexity increases, and they adapt and develop strategies for different life situations, paving the way for the development of well-coordinated motor skills. Although there are well defined timeframes at which infants should have reached certain milestones, various factors, such as growth, physical activity (PA), motivation to explore, opportunities, necessary stimulation and the environment, play a significant role in infants’ development. This research study, aims to determine the effect of possible anthropometric growth- (head and upper arm circumference, weight, length, arm length, arm span, leg length and sitting height) and differences in physical activity patterns (infant actigraph) on the neuromotor milestone development (reflexes, stationary, locomotor, object manipulation, grasping, visual-motor) of 6 to 12 month old babies from varying socio-economic statuses. The GrowActive-Infant study is a cross-sectional study, including availability samples from areas within the Potchefstroom surroundings in South Africa. The study aims to include a minimum of 100 babies in each month group (6, 7, 8, 9, 10 ,11 and 12 months), with 50 babies from high- and 50 babies from low SES areas, culminating to a minimum total of 700 babies. Measurements are planned to start in February 2020. Standardized measurements and questionnaires will be used and the results will be analysed on an ongoing basis by means of the Statistica for Windows/ SAS programs. The outcomes of the study will benefit the current but also the future health of babies as knowledge gained will shed light on the possible influence of impaired or advanced growth and PA patterns on infants’ neuro-motor milestone development. Furthermore, information in this regard can help with the planning and implementation of effective interventions to help infants reach their milestones optimally and promote PA in children, which could reduce obesity in infants.

PI Mr Barry Gerber (


The Exercise, Arterial Modulation and Nutrition in Youth South Africa (ExAMIN Youth SA) study, 6-8 year old children

The current global widespread obesity and early cardiovascular deterioration incidence are two of the most important future health care challenges. Physical inactivity and its associated unhealthy dietary intake among adolescents are of great concern, especially in a South African setting in which no current monitoring occurs to describe the impact of this sedentary and unhealthy lifestyle on cardiovascular health. The significance of this proposed study will be to address the critical areas in which unfavourable arterial modulation related to dietary behaviours and physical activity are observed and strategize appropriate future interventions to optimize healthy ageing by targeted biomarkers. This current study of which Prof Ruan Kruger from the Hypertension in Africa Research Team (HART) is the Principle investigator, aims to build on previous findings to identify potential contributing factors that may affect health outcomes in South African children adversely. Additionally, the study will cross-compare data with international centers on these health outcomes. The focus of the study is on children between the ages of 6 and 8 years and include various motor and fitness tests. Prof Anita Pienaar from PhASRec in the School of Human Movement Science is a co-investigator in this project and responsible for the physical and motor measurements as part of the project. The baseline measurements are currently concluded and included measurements of various physical and motor tests on a subsample of 661 apparently healthy children residing in the Potchefstroom and Klerksdorp areas of South Africa.   Prof Anita Pienaar (


The influence of schoolbags on physical and functional health of children from grade 3 to 11 of the Tlokwe Municipality

The adverse impact of carrying heavy schoolbag is a global parental concern. This research project involves the surveillance of the children in grade 3 residing in the North-West province who carries school backpacks. The mass the schoolbag, change in posture when the child is carrying the bag (loaded phase) and not carrying the bag (unloaded phase), will be digital recorded. A comparative analysis between manual recordings of specific joint versus electronic images captured will be made. Kinanthropometric measures of body symmetry will be measured to determine whether carrying backs on shoulder produces postural symmetry. Other factors, which influence the health of the child will be also measured such as daily physical activity (measured through a Fitbit watch and questionnaire) and the impact of schoolbag carriage has on the child's lung capacity will also be measured. The objective is to determine whether carrying heavy school backpacks has an adverse impact on the child health. The study will track the participants when they are in grade 7 and finally in grade 11.

PI Dr Terry Ellapen(


The external and internal match demands on the readiness of Ultimate Frisbee players to perform during participation in a tournament

Although Ultimate Frisbee is one of the fastest growing sports in the world, with a growth in participant numbers of more or less 31% from 2017 to 2018 in the United States of America alone, only a few researchers have to date investigated the physical demands of Ultimate Frisbee during match play. It is unclear whether the internal and external demands of Ultimate Frisbee match play will be similar in South African players as their international counterparts. Furthermore, researchers suggest that future research should also include more quantifiable data such as heart rate variability (HRV) and other measures so that the potential mechanisms provoking fatigue can be described. It is against this background and shortcomings with regard to existing research that the objectives of this project are to determine: the external and internal match demands of Ultimate Frisbee during participation in a tournament; the influence of external and internal match demands on the readiness of Ultimate Frisbee players to perform during participation in a tournament; the influence of pre-competition diet, hydration status, sleep quality and quantity as well as mood states on the internal stress, readiness to perform, and neurological function of Ultimate Frisbee players during a tournament.

PI Dr Christo Bisshoff (


The sustainability of physical activity participation and nutrition education through the use of a mobile application

Sustainable physical activity intervention and nutrition education is a goal for many working in the field of community health.  This research study will develop a mobile application to guide community health workers in implementing a physical activity intervention and guide them with respect to the correct nutrition education. 

The health-worker application will also be combined with an application for the participants that provide tips and tidbits of information to accomplish behaviour change in these participants. The initial investigation phase (identifying the problem, developing a design brief and formulating a design specification) and the planning phase (designing and planning the mobile application) will flow from the investigative (first) phase of the study.  After the development of the mobile application the intervention will take place and the impact of the intervention will be tested.  

PI Chrisna Ravyse (