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Physical activity and sedentary behaviour in adults with a spinal cord injury

The proposed research will be conducted with an industry partner to develop a device for accurate measurement of physical activity and sedentary behaviour in adults with a spinal cord injury who use a manual wheelchair (those with paraplegia). This will be followed by the development and evaluation of an intervention aimed at increasing physical activity and reducing sedentary behaviour in this group. Over 50,000 people in the UK have suffered a traumatic spinal cord injury and this condition significantly increases the risk of chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, stroke, poor mental health, and early death. This may be largely due to reduced physical activity levels. However, researchers are currently limited in suitable devices for measuring physical activity in this group so the association between physical activity levels and health risk is difficult to quantify accurately.

Furthermore, the amount of time individuals spend engaging in sedentary behaviour (i.e. sitting with very low levels of energy expenditure) is associated with the aforementioned health risks. However, it is not clear how much time adults with a spinal cord injury spend being sedentary because of devices not being available to measure this.

There is also limited research evaluating the effectiveness of interventions to increase physical activity and/or reduce sedentary behaviour in this patient group.

This PhD project will address this gap in research by working with an industry partner to develop a research-grade device that permits valid and reliable measures of physical activity and sedentary behaviour in adults with a spinal cord injury who use a manual wheelchair. This will provide researchers with an essential tool for quantifying physical activity and sedentary levels in the general paraplegia spinal cord injury population. This device will also allow accurate monitoring of responses to an intervention that will be developed and evaluated during the PhD. The details of the proposal will be finalised with the PhD applicant. The project has the following aims:

  1. To validate a wearable device for measurement of physical activity and sedentary behaviour in adults with a spinal cord injury who use a manual wheelchair.
  2. To use the validated tool for conducting an assessment of physical activity and sedentary behaviour levels in the general population of people with paraplegia.
  3. To develop and evaluate an intervention to increase physical activity and/or reduce sedentary behaviour in individuals with paraplegia.

This project would be well suited to students with a background in sport, health and exercise sciences, physiotherapy, public health, healthcare, biomedical sciences, life sciences or related areas. An MSc qualification is essential.

Please contact Dr Daniel Bailey for an informal discussion and guidance on how to move forward.

How to apply

If you are interested in applying for the above PhD topic please follow the steps below:

  1. Contact the supervisor by email or phone to discuss your interest and find out if you woold be suitable. Supervisor details can be found on this topic page. The supervisor will guide you in developing the topic-specific research proposal, which will form part of your application.
  2. Click on the 'Apply here' button on this page and you will be taken to the relevant PhD course page, where you can apply using an online application.
  3. Complete the online application indicating your selected supervisor and include the research proposal for the topic you have selected.

Good luck!

This is a self funded topic

Brunel offers a number of funding options to research students that help cover the cost of their tuition fees, contribute to living expenses or both. See more information here: https://www.brunel.ac.uk/research/Research-degrees/Research-degree-funding. The UK Government is also offering Doctoral Student Loans for eligible students, and there is some funding available through the Research Councils. Many of our international students benefit from funding provided by their governments or employers. Brunel alumni enjoy tuition fee discounts of 15%.