Diabetes Australia research dollar targets Queensland rugby league clubs

Diabetes Australia is backing Queensland men’s love of rugby league to help them lose weight. The aim is to prevent chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes.

QUT researchers prevent chronic disease

QUT’s Associate Professor Toby Pavey, Dr Lee Wharton and Professor Remco Polman are researching the results of weight-loss intervention for men using community-based professional rugby league clubs to deliver the program.

League Fans in Training (League-FIT) is based on a Scottish initiative that used football teams to deliver lifestyle intervention such as exercise and nutritional advice to overweight and obese men. Professors Cindy Gray and Kate Hunt from the Scottish initiative are helping to guide the QUT team.

Lose weight and set goals

The program provides 12 weekly 90-minute sessions which includes education and goal setting (eg physical activity, nutrition, alcohol) and a rugby league-based exercise session. It’s delivered at the league club by coaches and some of the club’s players.

The Scottish trial achieved an average weight loss of 6kg and 4kg at three and 12 months respectively.

North’s Devils and South Logan Magpies

The QUT team are now working with Brisbane’s North’s Devils and the South Logan Magpies to see what can be achieved with Queensland men. Other clubs such as the Wynnum-Manly Seagulls have expressed interest to join the trial. Clubs in other codes as far afield as Perth and Darwin are also interested in joining the program.

This Sunday (October 10) North’s Devils and the Wynnum-Manly Seagulls compete against each other in the rugby league Intrust Super Cup Grand Final at Redcliffe.

Keep your loyalty to your original club

“Queenslanders love their rugby league,” says Dr Wharton. “Many of us played rugby league when we were kids and you keep your loyalty to your original club. We go back and watch their games, keep abreast of who’s playing and what’s happening at the club.

“This gives men the chance to reconnect with their clubs. They can exercise at the club’s gyms and playing fields, sometimes with the players, and feel part of it again.

“It’s a great incentive to stay engaged with the program, lose some weight and avoid the health complications such as type 2 diabetes that can come with being overweight or obese.”

Research for maximum good

Diabetes Queensland CEO Sturt Eastwood says members of the diabetes organisations looked to have their research dollars invested in projects that would do the maximum amount of good. Supporting League-FIT with Diabetes Australia Research Trust funding met that expectation.

“We know that it’s small changes that can be sustained and built on that deliver results when it comes to weight loss,” Mr Eastwood said.

“League-FIT will bring together men grounded in rugby league to work with their club to help them achieve results that can make them healthier for the rest of their lives.

Prevent chronic conditions

“It’s a big opportunity to prevent type 2 diabetes with the group of people who are most at risk of the condition: overweight men.”

Dr Wharton gave the example of one fan walking out after watching a game at North’s.

‘I’m not giving up drinking’

“As soon as we started talking he said the program wasn’t for him. ‘I’m not giving up drinking,’ he told me.

“That’s alright, mate. I’m not asking you to. I just don’t want you to have your beer at the footy and eat the sausage sizzle, too. Have your beer but not the sausage to start with.

“He liked that idea and knew he could do it. He joined the program and I think there will be a lot of men out there who will achieve once they’re combining healthier choices with the exercise plan through the clubs.

“That will bring about a difference.”

Research dollar is merit based and competitive

The Diabetes Australia Research Program supports and develops outstanding diabetes research in Australia. It provides a range of grants across the full spectrum of diabetes research through a merit based, competitive, peer review process. Research projects can focus on prevention, management of diabetes or the cure for diabetes.

Mr Eastwood said it was the generosity of Queensland members that gives Diabetes Australia the means to support these invaluable research projects.

Change the health of men watching footy

“We want the results to contribute to real changes for people living with or at risk of diabetes,” he said.

“This research could be the start of large-scale and successful interventions to change the health of men who have been watching footy, not playing it. In the future they might be training with the same athletes they’ve been watching on the field.”


Diabetes Australia is the only charity that cares for people with all types of diabetes. We provide educational programs, support, advocacy services, and fund vital research into better treatments and the search for a cure. For more information contact Diabetes Australia on 1800 177 055, or visit diabetesaustralia.com.au.

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