Research Topics

The ISS has a special research expertise in the areas of:

  • Assessment and Surveillance of Physical Activity
  • Promotion of Physical Activity among Older People, Low-Income and Minority Groups
  • Dissemination and Implementation of Research Findings
  • Rehabilitation Science
  • Health-related Physical Activity and Exercise Therapy
  • Interdisciplinary Human Movement Science
  • Functional Analysis of the Motor System


Research Projects

Students completing the MA Physical Activity and Health programme are provided with excellent opportunities to join current research activities at the ISS. The ISS has established itself as an international scientific centre of competence for health and physical activity with a strong focus on ageing. Among the Institute’s current projects are:

The European Network for Action on Ageing and Physical Activity (EUNAAPA)

EUNAAPAThe EUNAAPA project, which ran from 2006-2008, developed an interdisciplinary network to foster the implementation of successful evidence-based policies and programs for the promotion of physical activity among older people in Europe. In close co-operation with experts from relevant fields (sport, healthcare, social care) and levels (national, regional, local), the EUNAAPA group investigated commonly-used assessment instruments for physical activity and physical functioning in older people. EUNAAPA identified successful evidence-based programs and strategies for physical activity promotion among older people, and engaged in discourse with policy-makers from all relevant sectors and levels to foster the implementation of successful physical activity promotion programs and strategies for older people

Building Policy Capacities for Health Promotion through Physical Activity among Sedentary Older People (PASEO)

The PASEO project intends to improve the implementation of programs for the promotion of physical activity among sedentary older people by helping build new policy capacities. PASEO will set up national alliances and employ a process of co-operative planning to build both inter-organisational (e.g., structures linking organisations) and intra-organisational capacities (e.g., personnel and resources). The project builds on the EU-sponsored EUNAAPA project (2006–2008). 15 European nations take part in PASEO, which is co-ordinated by Prof. Rütten and funded by the European Commission (DG SANCO).

Improving Infrastructures for Leisure-Time Physical Activity in the Local Arena (IMPALA)

The IMPALA project aims to identify, implement, and disseminate good practice in the planning, financing, building, and managing of local infrastructures for leisure-time physical activity. IMPALA will assist in consorting efforts for the development of local infrastructures for leisure-time physical activity in EU member states, thus helping to reduce inequalities in access to infrastructures for leisure-time physical activity within and across nations. Partners from 12 European nations take part in IMPALA, which is co-ordinated by Prof. Rütten and funded by the European Commission (DG SANCO).

The Influence of Multi-Modal Physical Activity on Cognition and Activities of Daily Living of Patients with Early Stage Alzheimer’s Disease (Sport & Kog)

The Sport & Kog project is a large multi-centre randomised controlled trial involving 19 different institutions from disciplines such as Neurology, Psychiatry, Gerontology, Sports Medicine, and Sports Science.  The study will focus on the effects of a multi-modal physical activity and exercise programme on the health and well-being of patients with early stage Alzheimer’s disease. Prof. Rütten is leading the development and implementation of the intervention within the trial. The project is funded by the German Ministry of Health.

The Movement as an Investment for Health Project (BIG)

The BIG project (2005-2007) aimed at promoting physical activity among women in difficult life situations. BIG developed and evaluated interventions using the WHO health assets approach. The project was funded by the German Ministry of Research. A follow-up project to test the transferability has been funded by the Bavarian Ministry of the Environment, Public Health and Consumer Protection. The Federal Ministry of Health presents BIG as a model project within the National Action Plan on Nutrition and Physical Activity and currently sponsors its transfer to other regions in Germany. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has made BIG a case study in the programmes “Assets for Health and Development” and “Tackling Obesity by Creating Healthy Residential Environments”.

The Global Surveillance of Physical Activity

Prof. Rütten and his staff are frequently called upon as expert consultants in the area of physical activity surveillance. Prof. Rütten has co-ordinated the European Physical Activity Surveillance System (EUPASS) project funded by the European Commission (DG Sanco), has advised the European Commission on the utilisation of survey instruments for physical activity surveillance, and has analysed large scale European data on physical activity for Eurostat. Since 2005, Prof. Rütten and his staff serve as Temporary Advisors to the World Health Organisation on physical activity surveillance issues. 

Integrative patient education to optimise stationary rehabilitation of patients with low back pain

Aim of the project is a multi-centre implementation of a specific integrative patient education program to build up competence in self-management for patients with chronic back pain. The effectiveness in comparison to the usual approach in stationary rehabilitation will also be evaluated. The implementation of the quasi-experimental design will be taking place in five rehabilitation clinics for a period of three years. Within a control and intervention phase, the relevant variables for the competence in self-management will be assessed at the beginning (t1), at the end of rehabilitation (t2) and in the 12-month follow up (t3). 

Aftercare for patients with unspecific lower back pain after rehabilitation

For long-term improvement of pain and functional capacity within a rehabilitation procedure for back pain, it appears that a high intervention intensity, respectively a high volume (more than 100 therapy hours) is needed. Due to the relatively short intervention period of rehabilitation procedures, a sustainable effect on physical attributes as well as on processes of change in behaviour and attitude are difficult to achieve. The development of adequate goal directed and differentiated after care procedures, which take into account specific chronic developments and bounding relevant factors of back pain are appropriate. This is of particular importance for a sustainable outcome. The goal of this research project is to develop, implement and evaluate in a randomised controlled multi-centre trial, an aftercare program in co-operation with the 'Deutsche Rentenversicherung Bund'.

Development of evidence based concepts for exercise therapy

The aim of this project is the development of structured therapeutic exercise intervention concepts for indication areas such as: chronic back pain, diabetes mellitus type II, lipometabolic disorders, musculoskeletal disease (hip and knee osteoarthritis, respectively history of hip or knee endoprosthesis) and oncological disease. For each of the indication areas, goals, contents and methods of the exercise therapy should be clear and specified based on a) indication dependent disordered function, activity and participation, and b) the available evidence on the effects of therapeutic exercise interventions, in particular indication areas. Based upon evidence, therapeutic exercise modules will be conceptualised, manuals produced and strategies compiled for implementation into daily routine.

Fit in old age through professional training (F.i.A.T.)

Sustaining mobility and independence in older people is an important goal in geriatrics. The geriatric syndrome “frailty” has a fundamental impact on the functionality, frequency of falls, hospital and nursing home admissions, and mortality of older people. So far “frailty” is defined most frequently by its physical components. Five criteria developed by L. Fried (2001) are applied. If there are one to two criteria presented, the term “pre-frailty” is used. In the case of three or more criteria, the existence of “frailty” is diagnosed (Fried et al. 2001). In order to delay or prevent entirely the progression of frailty, early exercise training is recommended. The aim of this randomised-controlled trial is to investigate the effects of usual strength training in comparison with specific explosive power training in people with “pre-frailty”. The training contents are adjusted to daily requirements. Aside from principal application, effects on muscle strength, muscle power and functionality will be investigated.

MuSKAt – multiple sclerosis, physical activity and training

The aim of project “MuSkAT” is to investigate physical activity and its influence on the immune system regulation of patients with multiple sclerosis. Psychosocial factors such as quality of life and depression will also be examined. Based on the results of a preliminary explorative study and the assembled patient database, indication specific motor function and cognitive-behavioural contents of interventions will be developed within several subsequent studies. These specific indication contents are important for introduction and commitment to physical activity for optimal resource-related health promotion for patients with multiple sclerosis.

Building scientific expertise in sensorimotor training/proprioceptive training

In recent years training concepts and programs have been established among various fields that aim at improving sensorimotor capabilities within prevention, rehabilitation and performance-oriented training. Investigation into the effect of sensorimotor training within different application areas provides inconsistent findings, which are difficult to classify due to differences in the investigation methodology and measured outcomes. The aim of an expertise was to verify the effectiveness of sensorimotor training content, based on a systematic analysis of research in accordance with internationally recognised standards (Cochrane-standard). The level of evidence is based on an assessment of the methodological quality of applicable studies.