EdUHK Scholar Develops Intervention to Promote Health and Fitness

Urbanisation, technological advances, and increasing convenience in everyday life have restricted the amount of physical exercise most people engage in, resulting in a major public health concern. This persistent and growing health-related problem calls for an acute need to develop an intervention programme that can effectively promote physical activities, not only at individual level but also at the family, community, and citywide levels.

Whether positive psychology concepts can be integrated with health-promotion behaviours among families had largely been unknown until researchers in Hong Kong developed a positive physical activity (PPA) intervention. This has been made possible by using the positive psychology concepts of joy, gratitude, and savouring to promote Zero-Time Exercise (ZTEx) (which involves integrating simple physical activities into everyday life) and improve physical fitness in Hong Kong families.

Dr Henry Ho Chun-yip, Assistant Professor at the Department of Psychology of The Education University of Hong Kong (EdUHK), together with other researchers and healthcare professionals, worked with different stakeholders during the study, including the government, social service organisations and schools. A cluster randomised controlled trial was conducted with 1,983 participants in 1,467 families in Hong Kong. Data were collected using structured questionnaires and physical fitness assessments before the intervention, and in follow-ups one and three months after the trial.

Social workers and teachers of the participating organisations and schools were trained to design and implement the community programmes. The training workshop was delivered by clinical psychologists, registered social workers, a registered nurse, and academic researchers to comprehensively cover the contents of positive psychology, physical activity, programme design and programme evaluation.

The study measured self-reported frequency of ZTEx both alone and with family members, and assessed balance and endurance as indicators of physical fitness. It found that PPA intervention was effective in increasing ZTEx with both groups in each time periods, and in improving balance and endurance in the three-month follow-up.

Semi-structured focus groups added in-depth insights into the participants’ motivational, interpersonal and affective experiences. The findings showed that PPA intervention is a cost-effective way to improve physical activity and fitness, and that a community-based collaborative approach was successful in engaging community stakeholders in an active and fruitful partnership for programme development.

The findings support the proposition that health promotion behaviour is maintained when the participants experience positive emotions during the activities. Through the application of positive psychology, the participants associated ZTEx with feelings of enjoyment, which nurtured unconscious motives for this health promotion behaviour, thus leading to a successful lifestyle change and improved physical fitness.

This study has important implications for Hong Kong, where 71% of adults did not meet the WHO physical activity recommendations. 1

For details of the research, please visit the APA PsycNet website.

1 School of Public Health. (2013). FAMILY project cohort study: Baseline findings. Pok Fu Lam, Hong Kong: The University of Hong Kong.

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The Education University of Hong Kong

Nestled in a scenic mountain range, just one hour from Hong Kong’s business districts, The Education University of Hong Kong (EdUHK) offers tranquility and world-class scholarship in a vibrant, inclusive community. EdUHK is a publicly funded tertiary institution dedicated to the advancement of teaching and learning through diverse academic and research programmes on teacher education and complementary disciplines, including social sciences and humanities. The University places great emphasis on research capability with the aim of contributing to the advancement of knowledge, scholarship and innovation. EdUHK is committed to creating a sustainable impact on social progress and human betterment and defining the education landscape for not only Hong Kong, but also the Asia Pacific region. Ranked 3rd in Asia and 16th in the world in Education (QS World University Rankings by Subject 2021), EdUHK will continue to make an impact locally, regionally and internationally through high quality research and scholarship. Adopting an Education-plus approach, its primary mission is to lead educational innovation, and to promote and support the strategic development of teaching, teacher education and disciplines complementary to education by preparing outstanding and morally responsible educators and professionals while supporting their lifelong learning. To know more about EdUHK, please visit

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