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Prof. Catherine Woods


Physical Education and Sport Sciences


Professor Woods is Chair of Physical Activity and Health in the University of Limerick.  She joined the Department of Physical Education and Sports Science in UL in 2016 and is currently a member of its Centre for Physical Activity and Health Research (C-PAHR). Previously, Catherine was a senior lecturer in Dublin City University (DCU) and head of its School of Health and Human Performance from 2008-2012. Professor Woods is a member of UL’s Health Research Institute, where she contributes to its lifestyle, technology and health research themes.  Catherine originally graduated from the University of Limerick with a BSc in Physical Education, after several years teaching she undertook a PhD in the University of Glasgow. She was recently awarded an Honorary Professorship at the University of Edinburgh.  

Research Expertise

Professor Wood’s area of expertise is Physical Activity for Health.  This research is framed within the social-ecological model, and consequently, I work across individual, interpersonal, community and policy levels. This multi-level approach is necessary in order to comprehensively understand and influence population levels of physical activity for health; however, it requires an extensive knowledge and an appreciation for inter-disciplinary work. Current research priorities include the promotion of physical activity and healthy lifestyles in children, in older adults (aged 50+) and in clinical populations (CVD and Cancer).  More recently, she has undertaken research in physical activity policy evaluation and development.

Research Leadership

Professor Woods has extensive leadership roles in Ireland and internationally.  For example, in Ireland, Catherine was nominated by her peers to be the academic representative to advise Healthy Ireland (HI), Ireland’s new health and wellbeing framework, on the writing of Ireland’s first National Physical Activity Plan (NPAP), published in January 2016.  All Government departments were represented on NPAP, and Catherine’s role was to advise the group on research developments within physical activity and health.  On an international level, Catherine has a leadership role in several successful EU funded projects, including the Horizon 2020 PATHway project (Physical Activity Towards Health) (, where she is clinical lead and joint co-ordinator.  She is deputy coordinator of the Joint Programme Initiative (JPI) on policy evaluation ‘The PEN Project’, and has previously secured funding from the EU FP7 Future Internet PPP, Marie Curie Action (People) 7th Framework Programme, and an EU Cooperation in the field of Science and Technical Research (COST Action). 

Professor Woods has successfully trained 6 PhD and 7 MSc research students; she currently has three post-doctoral researchers, is supervising four postgraduate students; and has published numerous book chapters, peer-reviewed journal articles and has presented her work at national and international conferences.

Research Impact

I seek better, more systematic methods of bringing research, practice and policy closer together to achieve real and sustainable impact. I am working on interventions targeting primary prevention in school-aged children ‘the Healthy Ireland Demonstration Project’ and with inactive adults aged 50+ ‘the Move for Life project’, and secondary prevention in adults living with chronic disease ‘MedEx’ and ‘PATHway’.  Additionally, as part of a European Policy Evaluation Network (PEN project), I will shortly commence work on exploring the potential of public policy to enhance physical activity and healthy nutrition and to reduce sedentary behaviour.  Essentially, this work will explore how policy can generate the enabling contexts in which quality evidence-based interventions can flourish.

Ongoing Projects

Project Title Role Year of Award Amount total (€) Funder Duration
I-PARC: Irish Physical Activity Research Collaboratoin PI 2018 €250,000 Health Research Board 24
Policy Evaluation Network (PEN) Co-PI 2018 3,900,000 JPI 36
Move for Life PI 2018 449,000 HSE, HaPAI. 22
CSPPA PI 2017 339.900 Sport Ireland and Healthy Ireland 15
Keep Youngsters Involved. Co-PI 2017 456,836 European Commission

ERASMUS+  EAC/A04/2016

36 months
Healthy Ireland Demonstration Project PI 2017 150,000 University of Limerick and St. Vincent’s Charity 36 months


PATHway: Technology enabled behaviour change for CVD patients Co-PI 2015-2019 4,997,893 H2020-PHC-2014-single-stage RIA Proposal number: SEP-210150403 44 months

Selected Publications

Woods, C.B. and Mutrie, N. (2018) Putting physical activity on the policy agenda.  In Piggin, Mansfield and Weed’s (1st Ed.) Routledge Handbook of Physical Activity Policy and Practice. Routledge.  Chapter 2. 

Walsh DM, Moran K, Cornelissen V, Buys R, Cornelis N, Woods C (2018) Electronic Health Physical Activity Behavior Change Intervention to Self-Manage Cardiovascular Disease: Qualitative Exploration of Patient and Health Professional Requirements.  J Med Internet Res 2018;20(5):e163 URL:, DOI: 10.2196/jmir.9181, PMID: 29739740, PMCID: 29739740

Duff O, Walsh D, Malone S, McDermott L, Furlong B, O'Connor N, Moran K, and Woods C., (2018)  MedFit App, a Behavior-Changing, Theoretically Informed Mobile App for Patient Self-Management of Cardiovascular Disease: User-Centered Development.  JMIR Formativ Res 2018;2(1):e8 URL:; DOI: 10.2196/formative.9550

Müller, A. M., Maher, C. A., Vandelanotte, C., Hingle, M., Middelweerd, A., Lopez, M. L., DeSmet, A., Short, C. E., Nathan, N., Hutchesson, M. J., Poppe, L., Woods, C., William, S. L., & Wark, P. A. (2018). Physical activity, sedentary behavior and diet related ehealth and mHealth research: Bibliometric analysis.Journal of Medical Internet Research, 20(4):e122. doi:

Walsh, D., Moran, K., Cornelissen, V., Buys, Roselien, Claes, J., Melilo, F., Zampognaro, P. and Woods, C.  (2018) The development and co-design of the PATHway intervention: a theory-driven eHealth platform for the self-management of cardiovascular disease.  Translational Behavioral Medicine.

Orlaith Duff, Deirdre Walsh, Bróna Furlong, Noel E. O’Connor, Kieran Moran and Catherine Woods (2017). Behavior Change Techniques in Physical Activity eHealth Interventions for People with Cardiovascular Disease: Systematic Review. Journal of Medical Internet Research.

Cantwell, C., Walsh, D., Furlong, B., Moyna, N., McCaffrey, N., Boran, Ll, Smith, S. and Woods, C. (2017) Health Professionals’ knowledge and practice of physical activity promotion in cancer care: Challenges and solutions.  European Journal of Cancer Care. DOI: 10.1111/ecc.12795

Claes J., Buys R., Woods C., Briggs A., Geue C., Aitken M., Moyna N., Moran K., McCaffrey, N., Chouvarda, I., Walsh D., Budts W., Filos D., Triantafyllidis A., Maglaveras N. and Cornelissen VA (2017) PATHway I: Design and rationale for the investigation of the feasibility, clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of a technology enabled cardiac rehabilitation platform.  BMJ Open;7:e016781. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2017-016781.

Murphy, J., Mac Donncha, C., Murphy M., Murphy, N. and Woods, C.B. (2017).  Validity and reliability of three self-report instruments for assessing attainment of physical activity guidelines in third level students.  Measurement in Physical Education and Sport Science.