Active Team App

After five years of development and research, ARENA's Associate Professor Carol Maher and team’s physical activity app ‘Active Team’ has now been publicly released and is available to download for free from Google Play and the Apple App Store. The app aims to encourage physical activity through a social community, where friends can challenge each other to reach fitness goals and receive virtual rewards.

Preliminary trials of the app showed that users increased their physical activity by an average of more than two hours per week, exceeding initial projections. The development of this app was made possible through Assoc Prof Maher’s National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) grant success, which provided funding for the project ‘Active Team - Examining an online social networking intervention to increase physical activity in controlled (RCT) and ecological (ET) settings.’

The ‘MedWalk’ trial


Dr Karen Murphy, in collaboration with Swinburne University, is currently undertaking the ‘Mediterranean diet and exercise to reduce cognitive decline and dementia risks in independently living older Australians: the MedWalk randomised controlled trial’ study. The MedWalk trial has received $1.78 million in funding through the NHMRC Boosting Research Grant, with Dr Murphy leading the South Australian site over the next five years.

The trial explores the effects of the combination of a Mediterranean diet and daily exercise on reducing cognitive decline and other dementia risk factors in older Australians. It aims to investigate the underlying factors responsible for reducing dementia risk and the cost-effectiveness of the intervention.

Finding a ‘best practice day’ to reduce dementia risk

Two older people resting at a picnic table with their bikesDr Ashleigh Smith, in collaboration with local and international colleagues, has won more than $1.2 million from the NHMRC to conduct a study evaluating the optimal aspects of diet and exercise to reduce the risk of dementia. The project will focus on diet and activity and how these factors work together and will examine longitudinal data from 450 people aged between 60 to 70 years over a three-year period. The goal of the study is to develop an evidence-based and user-friendly app to assist users in making better health choices, designed to underpin better brain health.


A fatigue marker for cricket fast-bowlers

Cricket player bowling

PhD student Fabian Garcia-Byrne is currently developing a fatigue marker for fast bowlers using GPS technology, aiming to assist coaches with an accurate scientific measure to monitor players’ fitness. Almost a quarter of Australia’s fast bowlers are side-lined due to injury at any one time, with the hope that targeted data will reduce the instance of injury and fatigue. The first outcome of the study is a breakthrough in sport science: a submaximal running test to track the endurance of fast bowlers, whereas previous studies could only show a correlation with neuromuscular fatigue. 

Fabian has presented his research at Cricket Australia’s Sports Science Medicine Conference in Brisbane and at the World Congress of Science and Medicine in Cricket in the UK.

Understanding how adult gamers use virtual reality for exercise

Are you aged 18 or older? Do you play virtual reality (VR) video games for exercise? Then we want YOU to fill out a survey to tell us about your experiences.


Virtual reality video games could be a great way to promote physical activity. In particular, immersive VR games, the kind that use a headset, may have advantages over normal exercise, by distracting players from the physical pain of exercise, while keeping up interest and motivation.

If you are an adult (aged at least 18 years) who:

  • Speaks English
  • Has regular access to a virtual reality headset gaming system (e.g. PlayStation VR, HTC Vive, Oculus Go)
  • Have played games using VR specifically for exercise purposes at least once in the past month

Then we would love for you to tell us about it. If you complete the survey you can enter the draw to win a voucher for Steam or Blizzard (your choice!).
Please click on the link below to complete the survey.
Enter survey here:

Full project title: Understanding the use of virtual reality games for exercise: the user perspective
Team: Associate Professor Carol Maher, Professor Tim Olds, Dr Courtney Davis, Dr Amanda Watson and Dr Rachel Curtis.
Ethics approval from UniSA HREC (Ethics application number 203118)

Testing different nutrition approaches to optimise performance

Almonds, dried grapes and cranberries (AGC) are rich sources of precursors of nitric oxide, including polyphenols. These components may help improve performance in endurance athletes, while polyphenols have excellent antioxidant properties that may improve recovery from strenuous exercise. These foods may also improve brain blood flow and enhance reaction time, which can be slowed when athletes are fatigued.

PhD student Noah d’Unienville is currently investigating these potential benefits for athletes to consume almonds, dried grapes (sultanas) and cranberries through a 5-week randomised controlled trial in cyclists. Measures of endurance performance/physiology, reaction time and markers of exercised-induced muscle damage will be assessed in an experimental group consuming an AGC mix and a comparator group consuming a snack food. The trial includes a standardised training program shown to improve endurance performance that features both strenuous and lighter training periods to determine the effects of AGC on minimising negative changes due to fatigue and maximising positive changes following a training taper.

Annual Rhythms in Adults’ Lifestyle and Health

ARIAResearchers at the University of South Australia are conducting a study to investigate health and wellbeing of parents with primary school aged children. This study is called Annual Rhythms in Adults’ Lifestyle and Health (ARIA). 

We are seeking male and female adults aged 18-65 years, who:
   • Are parents/guardians of a child aged 5-12 years 
   • Own a smartphone
   • Speak English
   • Are willing to wear a Fitbit and weigh themselves daily
   • Live in greater Adelaide

Participants in this study will need to:
   • Have a once off visit from our friendly research team at home to get started 
   • Wear a Fitbit activity tracker on their wrist and weigh themselves daily until December next year (2021)
   • Complete 9 online questionnaires about health, wellbeing, and diet throughout the study period

Participants who finish the study will keep their Fitbit activity tracker and scales and receive $100 in thanks for their time.
If you’d like to participate, please click the link below to complete the expression of interest form:
Or for more information, please contact the research team at

Weight loss study

Seeking night shift workers

Are you a shift worker, overweight and work at least four night-shifts in a fortnight?  We are seeking participants in Adelaide and Melbourne for a study comparing different types of diets to help with weight loss and improving overall health.

What's involved?

The study runs for 18 months. During this time, you will meet with a dietitian 8 times over 6 months and then three times over 12 months for a follow up.
On separate occasions you will need to:

  • provide a fasting blood sample
  • undergo body composition tests using Dual Xray Absorptiometry
  • complete some questionnaires about sleep, lifestyle, mental well-being, and physical activity
  • have your weight measured
  • receive dietitian supprt for weight management

You will receive:

Participants will receive a $100 petrol voucher and some study foods.

If you are interested in participating or would like more information about the study, please email: or phone (08) 8302 1365 or click on the following link:

SWIFt study is a joint partnership between Monash University and the University of South Australia
Approved by Monash University (Project ID 18426), Monash Health (Reference: RES19-0000-462A) and University of South Australia (Project ID 202379) Human Ethics Committees

The influence of snacking on promoting weight loss and protecting against weight regain

The primary aim of this project is to investigate whether the inclusion of almonds or low-fat carbohydrate-rich snack foods, in an energy restricted diet (i.e. a diet that provides fewer kilojoules than you currently consume) improves weight loss and limits weight regain. We are also interested in seeing whether there are improvements in cardiovascular, liver and gut health and changes in sleep patterns, quality of life, pain and functional mobility.

You might be eligible if you are:

  • Aged 25-65 years.
    • Overweight with BMI between 27.5 -34.9 kg/m2.
    • Non-smoker (minimum 6 months cessation).
    • Weight stable (within 5kg) in the past 3 months.

Participation in the study would include:

  • 3-month weight loss phase followed by a 6-month weight maintenance phase (9 months in total).
  • During the weight loss phase, you will follow an energy restricted diet that includes almonds or low- fat carbohydrate-rich snacks (e.g. such as pretzels, rice crackers, oven-baked fruit cereal bar).
  • During weight maintenance, your energy intake will be increased slightly to maintain your weight, with the quantity of almonds or control snack foods increased in line with your higher total energy intake.
  • Two screening appointments (45 mins and 75 mins respectively) prior to commencement of the study; 6 longer clinical appointments (2.0- 3.0 hours each); and 11 shorter visits (approx. 30 minutes each) over the 9-month period.

You will receive:

  • A supply of test snack foods for the 9 months of the study
  • Dietary counselling for weight loss and maintenance.
  • An honorarium of $400.

If you are interested in participating or would like more information about the study please contact us email:  or Ph: 8302 1365

This project has been approved by the Human Research Ethics Committee of the University of South Australia.