Game of Stones

Game of Stones is recruiting men who want to lose weight throughout 2021.

In Glasgow, the research fieldworkers are, Claire Torrens and Kathryn Machray supported by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Glasgow Caledonian University, University of Glasgow and University of Stirling. 

We are following Government COVID-Safe guidance. If you are interested in taking part– contact us via or using email

Game Of Stones Logo

What is the Game of Stones trial?

People with obesity are at greater risk of type two diabetes, some cancers, heart disease, stroke, infections like COVID-19 and mobility problems. However, men rarely take part in weight loss services. Together with men who have tried to lose weight, we designed a new weight loss service.

Game of Stones aims to find out if text messages (with and without cash incentives) can help men to lose weight over 1 year and keep it off for another year compared to a waiting list group.

Key questions this study will answer: Do men lose weight and keep it off? What are the costs and benefits for men and the NHS? Does the service help men who are less well-off as well as the more well-off? What are men’s experiences?

Researchers in Glasgow, Belfast and Bristol will recruit 585 men from varied backgrounds. GP practices will send invitation letters and researchers will recruit men at community venues. Men will be allocated by chance to one of three groups: texts with incentives; texts only; and a 12-month waiting list for texts. The full cash incentive is only paid at 12 months if all personal weight loss targets are met when men are weighed at 3, 6, and 12 months. Some money is lost for each target weight that is not met. Weight loss after 12 months is the main outcome hoped for and men are asked questions about their health, quality of life, well-being and experiences. Men are weighed 1 year later (24 months after the start).

The findings will be shared with the public, men’s health groups and health service staff through social media, blogs, reports, presentations and research papers.

The feasibility trial results are now published [1-4]. Many thanks to the 105 men who participated and everyone who helped us!  Men previously involved are very welcome to sign up again via  The text messages have been refined with men, for men and are new. They share tips to help men find a plan that works for them and stick to it. There’s no magic bullet, but there is a new website with information and self-monitoring features. Apart from the text messages – there are not many changes from our feasibility study - apart from changes to help protect against COVID of course. 

Who is funding Game of Stones?

The Game of Stones Trial is funded by NIHR Public Health Research [REF 129703] and has been approved by the North of Scotland Research Ethics Committee (2) [IRAS REF 290955].  

Who are the trial investigators?

Pat Hoddinott (Chief Investigator)

University of Stirling

Dr Stephan Dombrowski

University of Stirling

Prof Marjon van der Pol

University of Aberdeen

Prof Alison Avenell

University of Aberdeen

Prof Frank McKee

Queens University, Belfast

Prof Michelle McKinley

Queens University Belfast

Prof Katrina Turner

University of Bristol

Mr Andrew Elders

Glasgow Caledonian University

Prof Graeme Maclennan

University of Aberdeen

Prof Kate Hunt

University of Stirling

Prof Cindy Gray

University of Glasgow

Associate Prof Fiona Harris

University of Stirling

Martin Tod and Jim Pollard

Men’s Health Forum GB

Colin Fowler and Paula Carroll

Men’s Health Forum all Ireland

The trial managers are:

Catriona O’Dolan and Lisa Macaulay

In Bristol, the research fieldworkers are Ms Hilary Taylor and Jack Brazier supported by the University of Bristol and NHS England.

In Belfast, the research fieldworkers are Clare Jess and Christina O’Neill supported by Queen's University, Belfast and the Public Health Agency.

Behind the scenes support:

The Centre for Healthcare Randomised Controlled Trials (CHaRT) at University of Aberdeen - Mark Forrest, Beatriz Goulao and Seonaidh Cotton;

The Health Informatics Centre (HIC) at the University of Dundee - Claire Jones and Keith Milburn.

Game of Stones collaborators include:

Matthew McDonald and Rebecca Skinner, research fieldworkers on the 2017 Game of Stones feasibility trial, who are both doing PhDs in weight management for men;

Prof George Crooks CEO of The Digital Health Institute at the University of Strathclyde;

Dr Karen Allan, Academic Team Lead for Dietetics at Robert Gordon University;

Dr David Blane, University of Glasgow.

The independent trial steering group provides oversight on behalf of NIHR:

Prof Edmund Juszczak (Chair)

Prof of Clinical Trials and Statistics in Medicine

University of Nottingham

Prof Kate Jolly

Professor of Public Health & Primary Care

University of Birmingham

Prof Emma Frew

Professor in Health Economics

University of Birmingham

Mr David Gardner (PPI member)

Chairman of Scottish Men's Sheds and Chair of N Ayrshire Patient Participation Group

Scottish Men's Sheds

Mr Graham Jameson (PPI member)

Administration Officer, Registers of Scotland