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Physical Activity Research

Current activities Research team

Physical inactivity is one of the major modifiable risk factors for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes and obesity and is the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality causing an estimated 3.2 million deaths globally. The Physical activity research department was established in order to create an active research environment to enhance physical activity research in India. The department is dedicated to promote physical activity and help individuals to enhance their health, fitness, and quality of life.
This department facilitates cutting edge research using advanced technologies to identify physical activity patterns among the population and further initiates awareness to habituate active living. The department works with international research centres and academic institutions to enable knowledge transfer and to propel research in a path that reaches the society through awareness and advocacy measures


To undertake scientific research to enhance the health and quality of life of communities through the promotion of active lifestyle.

    To conduct basic and applied scientific research related to the prevention and management of diabesity, understand linkages between physical activity and health-related outcomes (i.e., physical, metabolic, etc.) in adults, adolescents and children.
    To advance physical activity as a health priority through capacity building to support advocacy initiatives.
  Etio-pathophysiology of Diabetes
          - Knowledge of causation
          - Dynamics of the disease
          - Identification of risk factors and risk groups
Prevention strategies

          - Availability of prophylactic measures
          - Early detection measures
          - Continuous evaluation of implemented preventive measures
Treatment measures



(i) Built Environment and Physical ACTIVity – INDIA Study (BE ACTIV INDIA) - Adolescent Component.
PI : Dr.R.M.Anjana                                                                                                                                      
Co-PIs: Dr.R.Guha Pradeepa, Dr.Ranjani Harish, Dr.Ranjit Unnikrishnan, Dr.V.Mohan

Funding agency: Madras Diabetes Research Foundation
Duration: 2014-2016


  • Physical inactivity is one of the major modifiable risk factors for NCDs. The benefits of physical activity (PA) in adolescents and youth are well established, with most global guidelines recommending at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous PA (MVPA) per day. Adolescence has been shown to be associated with a steep decline in physical activity in many populations; therefore, efforts to promote PA during this period are essential. Thus, the Physical Activity Research Department is currently studying the association of Built Environment [human made surroundings which include homes, schools, parks, pedestrian pathways, roads, and accessibility to facilities such as shops and hospitals as well as infrastructure such as water supply and electricity] and Physical Activity in relation to Metabolic health among adolescents aged 12-17 years through the BE ACTIV INDIA! Study. This study is the first of its kind in India and is part of the IPEN (International Physical Activity and Environment Network), an ongoing 19-country study on the effects of the BE on PA in adults and adolescents. This study aims to examine the associations between detailed measures of the neighbourhood and school built environment  (Geographic Information System [GIS] and questionnaires) and physical activity and sedentary behavior (acclerometry and by questionnaires) with various metabolic parameters such as glucose intolerance, obesity, hypertension and dyslipidemia in 600 adolescents aged 12-18 years, undertaken by us in Chennai. The key factors that will be explored through the study are neighbourhood safety, crime safety, distance and access to locations, travelling from and to school and food patterns.

    Results from this study will provide accurate information on the contribution of built environments to physical activity, obesity, and other health outcomes will help make evidence-based policy and planning decisions. These policies have the potential to significantly improve PA levels in the population in general as well as among adolescents with the ultimate aim of preventing NCDs.

2. Development of physical activity questionnaire – MPAQ [long and short version]

Measurement of physical activity in epidemiological studies requires tools which are reliable, valid
and culturally relevant. A number of PAQs have been described in the literature, most of which have been designed for use, and validated in, developed countries. Several factors mitigate against the use of these questionnaires in low and middle income countries like India. A major drawback of these PAQs in the Indian context, is the importance given to leisure time physical activity (LTPA). While LTPA contributes significantly to total physical activity in Western populations, studies from India show that less than 10% of the population performs any LTPA at all. Also, the use of many of these PAQs demands a certain level of literacy in the respondents, which may not be the case in developing countries like India. Hence, this department in collaboration with the Food, Nutrition and Dietetics Research department developed a physical activity questionnaire (PAQ) that would measure habitual, culturally relevant activities in various domains over a year and which would be valid for use in adults of different age groups with varying levels of activity in urban and rural settings in low and middle income countries like India - termed the Madras Diabetes Research Foundation- Physical Activity Questionnaire (MPAQ). The MPAQ has 4 main domains (work, General, Commutation and Leisure time activities).

The reliability and validity of MPAQ was assessed and reported that the interclass correlation coefficients (ICC) for total energy expenditure and physical activity levels were 0.82 and 0.73 respectively, between baseline and 1st month. The ICC between Global Physical Activity Questionnaire (GPAQ) and the MPAQ was 0.40 overall. The construct validity of the MPAQ showed linear association between sitting and Moderate and Vigorous Physical Activity (MVPA), and BMI and waist circumference independent of age and gender. The Spearman’s correlation coefficients for sedentary activity, MVPA and overall PA for MPAQ against the accelerometer were 0.48 , 0.44  and 0.46  respectively.

Thus, it is evident that the MPAQ is an acceptable, reproducible and valid instrument, which captures data from multiple activity domains over the period of a year from adults of both genders and varying ages in various walks of life residing in urban and rural India.



Project done by Ph.D. student under the guidance of Dr.R.M.Anjana


Ms.Abishamala Kingsly ( Deakin University, Australia)

Aspects of the built environment have been linked to physical activity (PA)  and obesity among adolescents in many countries. However, it is not clear from the currently available data as to how much current levels of adolescent PA in India are linked to attributes of the built environment. The primary aim of this PhD is therefore to examine associations between the built environment and adiposity and PA among adolescents in Chennai, South India. This PhD study is nested within a larger study called the BE ACTIV India! Study. The BE ACTIV India!– Adolescent study is part of the IPEN (International Physical Activity and Environment Network) Adolescent study, that will pool data collected within diverse urban environments around the world.

The student’s work includes collection of anthropometry measurements (such as height, weight, body fat and waist circumference), objective measurement of physical activity using accelerometers and subjective measurement of physical activity and built environment is done by administering questionnaires. The questionnaire includes elements such as:

    Demographic variables
    • Distance to locations,
    • Access to destinations,
    • Physical training at school
    • Perceived barriers to PA
    • Self efficacy to PA
    • Decisions about PA
    • Enjoyment of PA
    • Social support for PA
    • Availability and frequency of use of exercise equipment
    • Perceptions about neighbourhood environment such as traffic, road and crime safety, access to destinations and aesthetics

  Research Team  

Dr. R.M.Anjana

Dr.R.Guha Pradeepa
Dr.Ranjani Harish

Ms. K. Abishamala

Ms. M.Ashwini
Ms. E. Reshma

Mr. J. Robin
Mr. S. Vinoth Kumar
Ms. A. Suganya


Head of the Department

Research Associate

Research Fellow

Research Assistant



Being physically active and staying fit and healthy will help you
to get the most out of life, whatever your age.    

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