The ISS is an international scientific center of competence for health and physical activity. In particular, it has special research expertise in the following areas:

  • Assessment and surveillance of physical activity
  • Sport and physical activity infrastructures
  • Health sport and health-enhancing physical activity
  • Promotion of physical activity among specific target groups (esp. older people, low-income and minority groups
  • Policy analysis in the fields of health policy and physical activity promotion policy

Assessment and 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), he and Dr. Abu-Omar have 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 Dr. Abu-Omar have served as Temporary Advisors to the World Health Organisation on physical activity surveillance issues.

Sport and physical activity infrastructures

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

ImpalaThe IMPALA project investigates infrastructures for sport and leisure-time physical activity. Institutions from thirteen European nations take part in the project, which is coordinated by Prof. Rütten and co-funded by the European Commission (DG SANCO). IMPALA 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 European nations.

Health sport and health-enhancing physical activity

The ISS has conducted a number of projects in the field of health sport and health-enhancing physical activity for various institutions (e.g. ministries, sickness funds). Three recent examples are:

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.

Physical activity promotion among sedentary adults

The project developed a brief questionnaire to identify highly sedentary adults. In cooperation with the GfK Group, a panel survey was conducted with more than 10.000 adults. The survey results were used to characterise subpopulation who were highly sedentary. In a second wave of the panel, these higly sedentary adults provided information on perceived barriers to physical activity and potential means of motivating them to become physically active. The panel studies were partly funded by the BARMER sickness fund.

Workplace Health Promotion

The project piloted an intervention to promote active living among sedentary adults of the SIEMENS company. A breff survey tools was utilised to identify sedentary workforce at the company plant. Information on the health benefits of an active lifestyle, Stepcounters (Pedometers), and phone counseling sessions were used to promote physical activity among them. The project was one of the first in Germany to focus on the promotion of active living.

Promotion of physical activity among specific target groups

In recent years, the ISS has put a special research focus on physical activity promotion for specific target groups. The main foci include adults, older people, and socially disadvantaged groups.

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

PaseoThe 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).

The Movement as an Investment for Health Project (BIG)


The BIG project (2005-) aims at promoting physical activity among women in difficult life situations. BIG has 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 is 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”.