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Effectiveness of novel workplace-based exercise interventions for improving general health and well-being

We currently have a PhD opportunity available. The overarching aim of this PhD project is to determine the acceptability and feasibility of reduced-exertion high-intensity interval training (REHIT) in a workplace setting and to examine its effectiveness in improving health in this setting.

Background information

Public health guidelines recommend that people should take part in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week to improve health. Currently, ~20 million adults in the UK (one-third of the adult population) fail to meet these recommendations. Decreases in global physical activity levels are typically as a result of reduced occupational activity, with desk-bound occupations a key feature of the modern workplace. Office workers can spend between ~66-82% of their working hours sitting and not moving. With approximately 73% of adults in employment, strategies to increase physical activity in the workplace are a public health priority.

Despite this, workplace physical activity interventions are difficult to implement with lack of time and high workload sited as key barriers to being active during work hours. Interventions that produce significant health benefits and are short in duration such as High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) are therefore of interest in this setting. The evidence on the effectiveness of such interventions is such that it has led to them being included in the new American PA guidelines with the recent review of the UK guidelines likely to include the same advice. However, the feasibility and acceptability of HIIT in the workplace is largely unknown with evidence to date typically coming from lab-based studies. There is an urgent need for research that looks to implement these new guidelines and assess HIIT interventions in the workplace context.

We have developed a novel exercise protocol called ‘reduced-exertion high-intensity interval training’ (REHIT), with a total time-commitment of just 2x10 minutes per week. REHIT has been shown to produce significant health benefits in lab-based studies, but its effectiveness in a ‘real-world’ setting is unknown. Therefore, this PhD will determine the acceptability and feasibility of REHIT in the workplace and examine its effectiveness in improving health in this setting.

The overarching aim of this PhD project is to determine the acceptability and feasibility of REHIT in a workplace setting and to examine its effectiveness in improving health in this setting.

The supervisors of the project are Dr Niels Vollaard and Dr Gemma Ryde.

Candidates are welcome to make informal enquiries about the project to Dr Niels Vollaard on n.vollaard@stir.ac.uk

The project is self-funded, however the opportunity may occasionally arise for paid tasks relating to teaching and research within the Faculty. Further information relating to fees and funding can be found on our postgraduate tuition fees page.

Entry requirements

  • A 1st or 2:1 or equivalent in a relevant undergraduate degree.
  • For international students, an overall IELTS of 6.5, with a minimum of 6.0 in each element.

How to apply

Applicants are asked to send in all the documentation listed below, attached in a single email, to fhss.pg.cpd.team@stir.ac.uk using the subject header ‘Novel workplace-based exercise interventions’ physical and mental health and wellbeing Application’.

Documents to attach include:

  • Academic Transcript(s) and Degree Certificate(s): Final degree transcripts including grades and degree certificates (and official translations, if needed) - scanned copy in colour of the original documents.
  • References: Two references on headed paper (academic and/or professional). At least one reference must be academic. The other can be academic or professional. Your references should be on official headed paper. These should also be signed by the referee. If your referees would prefer to provide confidential references direct to the University then we can also accept the reference by email, from the referee’s official university or business email account to pg.cpd.team@stir.ac.uk clearly labelling the reference e.g. ‘Breast Screening Adherence Reference’
  • Copy of CV: detailing relevant education and work experience.
  • Applicant Statement: a brief 1-page letter of motivation, outlining your research interests and your thoughts on how you could contribute to our research agenda.
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