Sit Less, Get Active

HelenBy Helen Ryall

Healthy University Project Coordinator, University of Edinburgh

Most people know that it’s good to move, right? But knowing why, what, how much, where and how often – and how to fit that into a busy life – and it can begin to feel a bit overwhelming to some of us. That’s where the University of Edinburgh’s MOOC called ‘Sit Less, Get Active’ can help.

University of Edinburgh MOOC ‘Sit Less, Get Active’ Logo

I can barely remember a day in the last 6 months where the word ‘MOOC’ hasn’t come out of my mouth. I didn’t even know what a MOOC was before then! The letters MOOC stand for Massive Open Online Course. MOOCs are online courses that can be taken by anyone from any part of the world as long as the person has access to the Internet. The main goal of this University of Edinburgh project is to empower and enable people to sit less and move more in various settings such as their neighbourhood, home, work, or school.

The course is the brainchild of a very enthusiastic colleague from the Usher Institute for Population Health Sciences and Informatics at the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, University of Edinburgh. Originally a GP from Serbia, Danijela Gasevic came to Scotland and has shared her experience, passion and vision of creating opportunities for people so they sit less and move more. On this wave of enthusiasm, she has gathered up a few other keen physical activity promoters and colleagues on the way to make this dream a reality. They include myself (Helen Ryall), Dr Andrew Murray, Dr Graham Baker, Professor Chris Oliver and Professor Nanette Mutrie – as well as a large number of organisations who have advised us, endorsed us or worked with us in many capacities such as the Sport and Physical Activity Division of The Scottish Government, NHS Health Scotland, NHS Lothian, Sustrans Scotland, Edinburgh Leisure, and SPORTA.

The MOOC Team

So what is the MOOC about? The main goal of this University of Edinburgh project is to empower and enable people to sit less and move more. Unlike other great courses that already exist, this isn’t a theoretical course that explains how the body works and the impact of physical activity on our body and mind. It’s a practical course that provides real examples on how to sit less and be more active in a variety of settings and help people learn how to set SMART physical activity goals, monitor their activity, and give some suggestions on how to make activity a habit. The course is presented in short 5 minute films that show the learner how people around Scotland are already making physical activity part of their lifestyle – they include children, older adults, teachers, parents, dancers, doctors and many more. We hope the course will inspire others to follow in their footsteps.

Although registration is already open, the course starts in May 20016 and will be three weeks long, with a commitment of not more than one hour per week. For the six months after the course, we will offer (and strongly encourage) people to receive short weekly physical activity e-mail messages, and monthly short videos as nudges to be more active.

We really encourage health professionals and others to be active themselves. We hope that they will take this course and treat it as continuous professional development that will have double benefits: it will help health practitioners be more active for their own health, and also equip them with the knowledge of how to help their patients sit less and be more active.

For more information about the course, please contact either myself at or Danijela at Also, if you are active in social media, please follow us on Twitter @GetActiveMOOC where we post regular examples and ideas on how to be more active. And of course, don’t forget to sign up yourself

In the meantime, we have a fast-approaching deadline to meet to get the course finished in time for the May launch. Ironically, when the launch date comes I am looking forward to having some time to sit down and put my feet up – but don’t tell anyone!


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