Lifestyle and Health – research


Infographic explaining how much physical activity to do

Everyone should be encouraged to reduce the amount of sedentary time by:

  • reducing time spent watching TV, using a computer or playing video games
  • taking regular time not sitting during work
  • breaking up sedentary time, such as swapping a long bus or car journey for walking part of the way

Declining levels of physical activity

People in the UK are around 20% less active now than in the 1960s. If current trends continue, we will be 35% less active by 2030.

Increasing car use is a major contributing factor to lower levels of physical activity in the UK. In 1961, 69% of households did not own a car or van, but by 2012 this had decreased to 25%.

Figures from the Health Survey for England show that 67% of men and 55% of women aged 16 and over do at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week.

Infographic showing how active we are

Lack of physical activity is costing the UK an estimated £7.4 billion a year, including £0.9 billion to the NHS alone.

Long term conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular and respiratory disease lead to greater dependency on home, residential and ultimately nursing care. This drain on resources is avoidable, as is the personal strain it puts on families and individuals.

Health Risk Reductions due to exercise 

Infographic showing the health benefits of physical activity

Physical activity is also important for people diagnosed with cancer and cancer survivors. Physical activity after treatment for cancer can help to reduce:

  • the impact of some side effects
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • fatigue
  • impaired mobility
  • weight changes

Macmillan has estimated that there are 2 million cancer survivors in the UK and around 1.6 million do not meet the recommended levels of physically active.

Other positive outcomes of physical activity include:

  • a sense of purpose and value
  • a better quality of life
  • improved sleep
  • reduced stress

Infographic showing physical activity rates per region of England

Healthy at work

With 70% of the adult population in employment, there is strong evidence that workplace physical activity programmes are effective. These can include:

  • flexible working policies and incentive schemes
  • policies to encourage employees to walk or cycle
  • information, ongoing advice and support
  • independent health checks focused on physical activity



Changing Direction

In my persuasion module I have been asked to focus on a particular health related cause in which I would like to make a change. In my previous blog post, I laid out my reasoning and research behind a campaign that would seek to educate and bring greater awareness of the issue of voluntary euthanasia.

While I feel that this was a worthy and worth while cause to pursue. It may be a very difficult topic as it is a difficult one to broach and a highly contentious issue. Many have an inherent fear of death and thus the topic of intentionally ending one’s life is one that would require a very fine line to be towed in order not to overstep ones role and cause anguish in people.

In my research I have come to be interested in another health related cause which is one with far more universal and relatable consequences. It has been a topic constantly espoused by the media in recent years and appears to be a growing problem. As we as a society grow more prosperous and have more labour saving technologies. Exercise has become more of a novelty and a voluntary pastime. As a country we are becoming more sedentary and this is the cause of numerous major health problems.

Many organisations, both governmental and charity based, share the goal of trying to persuade people to be more physically active. Not only to engage in exercise and sports. But especially to simply remain still and prone less.

Change4Life (NHS)

According to Change4Life benefits of an active lifestyle include:

  • Improved behaviour, self confidence and social skills
  • Improved attention levels and performance in learning
  • Coordination
  • Strength in muscles and bones
  • Health and Fitness
  • Maintain healthy weight
  • Improved sleep
  • Improved mood

I personally have a very active lifestyle as I have found it gives me all of these benefits. I absolutely struggle to sleep, gain weight and feel less motivated and positive if i go for any period of time without exercising and I notice this in others. Many people I know live sedentary lifestyles and poor diets and it affects their health and well-being.

I would like to take this research further and hopefully create work aimed at targeting these issues in our society.  Poor physical health based entirely on lifestyle cause a great deal of health issues and needlessly put enormous strain on our healthcare system.

According to Health.Gov 

Sitting or lying down, (with the exception of sleeping), are what we call ‘sedentary’ behaviours. You can be sedentary at work, at school, at home, when travelling or during leisure time. Sedentary behaviour requires little energy expenditure. Examples of sedentary behaviour include:

  • Sitting or lying down while watching television or playing electronic games.
  • Sitting while driving a vehicle, or while travelling.
  • Sitting or lying down to read, study, write, or work at a desk or computer.

There is a difference between a person who is sedentary and a person who is physically inactive. Being ‘physically inactive’ means not doing enough physical activity. However, being ‘sedentary’ means sitting or lying down for long periods. So, a person can do enough physical activity to meet the guidelines and still be considered sedentary if they spend a large amount of their day sitting or lying down at work, at home, for study, for travel or during their leisure time.


Much of my knowledge comes from TED talks I have listened to in the past. They are a font of information on topics such as physical and mental health.

According to Lifespan Fitness, the website from which I retrieved this video, the possible risks of a sedentary lifestyle are:

  • Physical inactivity may increase the risks of certain cancers.
  • Physical inactivity may contribute to anxiety and depression.
  • Physical inactivity has been shown to be a risk factor for certain cardiovascular diseases.
  • People who engage in more physical activity are less likely to develop coronary heart disease.
  • People who are more active are less likely to be overweight or obese.
  • Sitting too much may cause a decrease in skeletal muscle mass.
  • Physical inactivity is linked to high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol levels.

Persuasion – Health

Thus assignment is focused on persuasion. The aim is to create an effective and communicative message to persuade audiences to create change or contemplate and learn about issues they may have been unaware or apathetic about.

We were asked to pick broad categories on which to focus in groups, each group member would pick their own specific cause that fit into that category. I chose voluntary euthanasia as my cause.

Voluntary Euthanasia

This topic is, for want of a more appropriate word, rather ‘niche’. It is however, a very important topic for anyone for whom it becomes relevant to. Voluntary euthanasia is a very current moral debate. The reason I felt compelled to focus on this cause was the documentary about one of my favorite authors, Sir Terry Pratchett (1948-2015). In 2007, aged 59, he publicly announced that he had a rare form of early onset Alzheimer’s, called posterior cortical atrophy. He committed himself to raising awareness of the condition and became a strong advocate for voluntary euthanasia, even creating  documentary called ‘Choosing to Die’ where he explored the topic as well as traveling to Dignitas to accompany a patient ending their own life.

“I vowed that rather than let Alzheimer’s take me, I would take it. I would live my life as ever to the full and die, ­before the disease mounted its last ­attack, in my own home, in a chair on the lawn, with a brandy in my hand to wash down whatever modern ­version of the “Brompton cocktail” some ­helpful medic could supply. And with ­Thomas Tallis on my iPod, I would shake hands with Death.” – Sir Terry Pratchett

Currently the practice is rare. As of November 2017, human euthanasia is legal in the Netherlands, Belgium, Colombia, Luxembourg and Canada Assisted suicide is legal in Switzerland, Germany, Japan, and in the US states of Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Vermont, Montana, Washington DC, and California.

Currently momentum is slowly building to allow voluntary euthanasia in more countries. I can understand concerns about the process. There are strong arguments on both sides of the isle.


  • An important freedom is the right to die. There are those, a very small minority, but nevertheless there are people in very rare circumstances who chose euthanasia. For some, it could be argued that this is the right choice. If a person is suffering unbearable chronic pain or other afflictions that give them a very poor quality of life, Some would like the ability to take control of their fate.
  •  It is a legal right in the UK for an Adult to act as they see fit in private as long as they cause no harm to others. Death is surely a private matter and needs to consent.
  • Regulated, controlled euthanasia gives a far less traumatic way out for someone seeking to end their life. This is true for them and their family and loved ones. Forewarning can allows people to process the fact of death and not be damaged by potentially discovering the individual who has ended their own life by chance.
  • Terminal Illnesses can be painful and immensely traumatic. Whether the symptoms are physical, such as locked in syndrome, where a person is conscious but unable to perform the slightest physical action. Or a degenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s which often leads to senility long before death. Should victims of these afflictions be forced to undergo this trauma unnecessarily?
  • There are numerous instances of carers of terminally ill or heavily disabled people being prosecuted after having helped their loved ones end their lives because the patient was physically incapable. While it must be determined that this is indeed what happened. Those carers are forced to endure further trauma after assisting in suicide. Something they may not be equipped to handle.
  • This is less of an argument than a side effect, But if a terminally ill patient who wishes to die is kept alive despite that then they may incur huge costs in public health resources and finances. This seems cruel as well as wasteful.
  • Those who have the capacity and the will to end their own lives will do so regardless of the law. But they may not be equipped to do it properly or in a way which is as painless as possible. This often brings unnecessary trauma to the deceased and their family.


  • Many religions have tenants that suicide is a sin and therefore forbidden as your creator is the one who gave you life and therefore the only one allowed to take it away. It wasn’t until the Suicide Act (1961) that suicide ceased to be a criminal offence in the UK.
  • Abuse of the system us potential danger with government sanctioned voluntary euthanasia. It can be hypothesized that an elderly family member with a large estate could be pressured into being euthanized by a family in order to claim inheritance. Or that an elderly or disabled person may feel a burden to their carers.
  • Accepting euthanasia could be seen to be accepting that some lives hold less value than others,
  • Euthanasia is irreversible and may not be the appropriate path for a patient who may be in need of psychological care or other options.
  • Allowing euthanasia may lead to less quality of care for vulnerable groups and less incentive for doctors to keep some patients alive to the best of their abilities.
  • There are those who believe voluntary euthanasia may lead governments to overstep this and move to involuntary euthanasia.

There are powerful arguments on both sides. I was not previously aware of some of the anti-euthanasia arguments. To be clear, should voluntary euthanasia be legalized, there would have to be a huge deal of regulation and checks and balances instituted to prevent nay of the concerns arrayed against voluntary euthanasia coming to fruition.


Web Design

In the end I decided that I wanted to make an interactive website to project my visual work in one clean, easily navigated source. I had originally intended to build a website from scratch before finding out it would be beyond me to do so in the timeframe allowed.

From that point I had decided on an animation. However by happy accident I found that my earlier research on visual storytelling:


I decided to investigate website template products. I found that websites like SquareSpace and Wix could facilitate most of the effects I wanted without the need for coding. I was infatuated with the concept of parallax scrolling and other visual effects. These were available to me.

I wanted a double layered site. The front portion would be the meat of the site, the information, the graphics and written work. The background would consist of relevant images that would help guide the narrative. I also wanted the website to be entirely simple to use. Allowing a viewer to simply scroll down to access all of the information in a clean package.

Here is the result:

I have to mention, the editor fought me every step of the way, with elements moving and disappearing when I switched between devices and screen ratios. I had originally intended for the third animation (the 10 countries with the highest dog population) to include buttons in the shape of the countries concerned that would display further information when the cursor was passed over them. I did this only to come back to it, the day of the project and find that they had all been removed without explanation.

My Thoughts

This was a very exciting and challenging brief to complete. I honestly wish we could be set a task and then reset the same task again immediately after so that all the bugs and mistakes we made the first time could be eliminated and we could produce new work of much higher quality.

From One to Many

It has been found that all dogs currently living are descended from a common ancestor, the grey wolf. I wanted to in some way illustrate the enormity of our joint progress through the millennia while also creating an installation that could stand as a piece in its own right.

I did some extensive research on the history of dog breeding in the UK and found that there were 90 distinct breeds that originated across the Uk and Ireland. I couldn’t distinguish the origins of the Irish dogs to include only those originating in the North so rather than exclude them I included the entirety of Ireland.

Beginning with Wales. I created a silhouette in Photoshop and began filling it with images of Welsh breeds.

Screen Shot 2018-02-15 at 13.51.47

There were only 10 distinct breeds originating in Wales and I didn’t want this to be the entirety of my image. As my research progressed I steadily added dogs by nationality.

Screen Shot 2018-02-15 at 13.54.09

England alone had 51 distinct breeds and took many hours of work.

Screen Shot 2018-02-15 at 13.55.24

In total there were 90 distinct breeds that I discovered. It took me an entire day to create and fill the template as well as researching every breed. The primary purpose of this piece was as an illustrative tool to show how people have effected dogs. They have been selectively bred for numerous roles and in modern society many are bred for aesthetics.

Possibly given more time I would have expounded upon the fact that many purebreds suffer due to genetic disorders as a result of their small genetic pools, while other such as Pugs, have issues such as breathing difficulties due to their underdeveloped snouts. I would also like to have had this last piece printed and framed as an installation for my submission, however it was a last minute decision to create and so i was left short on time. I think it makes a strong ending to my project.




How to visualise my ideas

Visualising my information was one of the key points in my process. I needed something simplistic that would convey the message in a powerful way. I looked at numerous examples of modern illustrated infographics and found hem to have a very similar theme. There was a lot of colour and vibrancy.

While many of these pieces were actually very appealing. I didn’t want to make something that simply copied their work. So I looked at the idea of using silhouettes.

One further reason for doing this was that I originally intended on making an animated piece.

Charles Burns

Charles Burns makes beautiful cutouts of people he meets with nothing more than paper and scissors. He calls himself the roving artist because he wanders around and creates his pieces in minutes wherever he finds himself.

I love the way he captures such a lot of a subjects personality with nothing more than a blank piece of paper. It is a testament to creative minimalism and harnesses the human phenomenon of pareidolia (our instinctive recognition of human forms) to be effective.

I wanted to create this effect with my work. As I had been focusing heavily on evolution. My obvious first choice was the The March of Progress, properly called The Road to Homo Sapiens. This must be the most famous representation of evolution currently.


The illustration was commissioned by Time-Life Books for the Early Man volume (1965) of the popular Life Nature Library. It prominently features the sequence of figures, drawn by natural history painter and muralist Rudolph Zallinger (1919–1995).

From all of my research. One thing I have found lacking in this illustration, is the influence of dogs. The evidence does suggest that without our interactions and subsequent coevolution with dogs, we would not be the force we are today.

Screen Shot 2018-02-15 at 12.56.00

Here was my alternative. A simplified rendition of the original March of Progress with the role of dogs properly represented. Ad accurately as I could, based on the current knowledge of domestication of dogs, I have places a wolf like silhouette to show the transitional phase. And a Golden Retriever acting a docile pet to represent our current relationship with dogs.

Dogs and People – Research

Evoluionary Origins of Domestic Dogs

“Remove domestication from the human species, and there’s probably a couple of million of us on the planet, max. Instead, what do we have? Seven billion people, climate change, travel, innovation and everything. Domestication has influenced the entire earth. And dogs were the first. We’re not dissimilar to any other wild primate. We’re manipulating our environments, but not on a scale bigger than, say, a herd of African elephants. And then, we go into partnership with this group of wolves. They altered our relationship with the natural world.” – Archaeologist and geneticist Greger Larson

  • The origin of canine domestication is not well known. Various claims suggest it first happened in numerous areas of the world and that it began anywhere between in the past 30,000 years.
  • The archaeological record shows the first undisputed dog remains buried beside humans 14,700 years ago, with disputed remains occurring 36,000 years ago.
  • Dogs appear to have been domesticated independently in various areas of the world and have then interbred with one another and wolves and this means their genetic lineage is a bit of a mish-mash.
  • The closest living relative of the dog is the extant grey wolf and there is no evidence of any other canine contributing to its genetic lineage.

  • 33,000-year-old fossil suggests dogs arose in multiple places, study says.
  • Dogs—the oldest domesticated animals—are common in the fossil record up to 14,000 years ago. But specimens from before about 26,500 years ago are very rare. This is likely due to the onset of the last glacial maximum, when the ice sheets are at their farthest extent during an ice age.

  • The United States is home to an estimated 70 to 80 million pet dogs, making up 37 to 47 percent of all American households.
  • Canis familiaris, the domestic dog, was the first species to be domesticated by humans from Eurasian gray wolves at least 15,000 years ago. What is largely unknown, however, is where. (Conflicting information on origins)

  • Researchers from the University of Chicago and several international institutions found that several groups of genes in humans and dogs—including those related to diet and digestion, neurological processes, and disease—have been evolving in parallel for thousands of years.
  • The dog was the first domesticated species and appeared more than 15,000 years before present (YBP). The dog was established across Eurasia before the end of the Late Pleistocene era, well before cultivation and the domestication of other animals around 10,000 YBP, indicating that dogs were domesticated by hunter-gatherers and not early agriculturalists. Studies support two population bottlenecks had occurred to the dog lineage, one due to the initial domestication and one due to the formation of dog breeds.

  • Europe has the oldest uncontested Palaeolithic remains and having been the centre of modern dog breed creation.
  • Most modern breeds share predominantly European ancestry.
  • The fact that dog and human populations rose together is evidence that their success is intrinsically linked.