Summary

The health benefits of exercise for older adults are well established. However, most older adults do not take enough exercise to benefit their health. Group exercise programmes are offered to inactive individuals by their primary health care team.Evidence suggests that most older adults do not fully participate in, or maintain, their levels of exercise after such programmes.

Recent research from our team has shown that older adults would prefer to take part in exercise groups that are more enjoyable and offer opportunities for social engagement. Therefore, an exercise programme that emphasises social interactions and enjoyment may impact on levels of  physical activity engagement and improve social well-being in older adults.

Aim

This int project is part of a wider programme of work within the School of Health Sciences to develop novel physical activity programmes for older adults, in collaboration with Active Belfast and the Belfast Health Development Unit.

Methods

The studentship will involve three main phases:

1. Identifying intervention components Using a method developed in a previous interdisciplinary physical activity programme for older adults (https://www.journalslibrary.nihr.ac.uk/programmes/phr/1213304), the student will conduct a systematic review of previous group-based older adult programmes to identify intervention components. These will then be used to inform the development of ‘experience days’ with older adults. During these days, 10-12 older adults will be asked to join a group exercise session and try a variety of the approaches used previously. Focus group methodology will be used to modify these approaches and to input on the design of an exercise programme that maximises the opportunity for group interaction.

2. Measures of social interaction Following this, the student will seek to develop a new method to assess group interactions in exercise classes. Previously in-person observations were used to record group interactions. However, having an observer in the room may influence the group dynamics and the observer may miss interactions. Therefore, the student will run exercise classes and use a 360⁰ camera, placed in the middle of the room. The video footage can then be reviewed using virtual reality technology and social interactions assessed using social network analysis. In addition, measures of fidelity and experience will be developed.

3. Develop and test the feasibility of a novel interactive exercise programme The final phase will utilise the information from phase 1 to develop a novel group-based intervention that emphasises group interactions for older adults. This will be informed by the results of the systematic review, focus groups and relevant social theories, with an emphasis on enjoyment and social interaction. In keeping with the MRC guidance for complex interventions, three 12-week group-based exercise classes will be run for older adults, facilitated with the support of the Belfast Health Development Unit.

Participants will be asked for their feedback on the programme. Measures of physical activity, function, health, and mental well-being, social cohesion, and enjoyment will be taken before and after the programme. The measure of social interaction using 360⁰ cameras will be piloted.


Essential criteria

  • To hold, or expect to achieve by 15 August, an Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC) in a related or cognate field.
  • Experience using research methods or other approaches relevant to the subject domain
  • Sound understanding of subject area as evidenced by a comprehensive research proposal
  • A comprehensive and articulate personal statement
  • Clearly defined research proposal detailing background, research questions, aims and methodology
  • A demonstrable interest in the research area associated with the studentship

Desirable Criteria

If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.

  • First Class Honours (1st) Degree
  • Masters at 65%
  • Practice-based research experience and/or dissemination
  • Sound understanding of subject area as evidenced by a comprehensive research proposal
  • Relevant professional qualification and/or a Degree in a Health or Health related area

    The University offers the following awards to support PhD study and applications are invited from UK, EU and overseas for the following levels of support:

    Vice Chancellors Research Studentship (VCRS)

    Full award (full-time PhD fees + DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £15,000 maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Vice-Chancellor’s Research Bursary (VCRB)

    Part award (full-time PhD fees + 50% DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £7,500 maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Vice-Chancellor’s Research Fees Bursary (VCRFB)

    Fees only award (PhD fees + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Department for the Economy (DFE)

    The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £15,285 per annum for three years. EU applicants will only be eligible for the fee’s component of the studentship (no maintenance award is provided). For Non-EU nationals the candidate must be "settled" in the UK. This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Due consideration should be given to financing your studies; for further information on cost of living etc. please refer to: www.ulster.ac.uk/doctoralcollege/postgraduate-research/fees-and-funding/financing-your-studies



The Doctoral College at Ulster University


Reviews

Profile picture of Professor Stenver Lin

Ulster University has very enhanced independent  learning.  I strongly recommend my students to go abroad to broaden their vision to get  new motivation.  I tell them that when studying at Ulster University, they will receive an abundance of knowledge, new experiences and strong technology to enhance their life.

Professor Stenver Lin - PhD Radiology

Watch Video  

Profile picture of Professor Chein Huei Kao

I am currently the Director for the Department of Nursing-midwifery and Women's Heath at NTUNHS.  I studied at Ulster University for 3 years and it was a very happy time.  Ulster is very good for study, not only in academic work but it also shows you how to be a good teacher.

Professor Chein Huei Kao - PhD Health Science of Nursing

Watch Video  

Profile picture of Anne Fee

My career has spanned working within the community for both voluntary and statutory organisations. After completing my degree (Psychology) and Masters many years ago I was drawn once again to the academic life and the challenge of a PhD. I was tremendously privileged a secure a fellowship from HSC R&D office to fund my PhD. After having most recently worked within a health Trust supporting family carers, I wanted to investigate the impact of support services for family carers. I knew that male carers were 'hidden' and as such were particularly in need of support, so my PhD was within this area.I'm definitely most proud of MYSELF! My proudest moment was when I initially secured the funding for the PhD. My favorite memories involved data collection with the wonderful interview participants; and also the camaraderie of my PhD peers, who were always on hand to share the laughter... and the tears. I'll never forget.... my viva!

Anne Fee - PhD in Nursing and Health


Profile picture of Hafi Saad

I am a medical doctor by training, graduating from the University of Khartoum. I have a clinical MD in Community Medicine from Sudan Medical Specialization Board and a Masters in Molecular Medicine in from Institute of Endemic Diseses/University of Khartoum. I was the head of the Community Medicine Department at Shendi University in Sudan from 2010 – 2013 before moving to Northern Ireland to complete a Master of Public Health at Queen’s University, Belfast. I moved to Northern Ireland to complete a Master’s of Public Health at Queen’s University, Belfast in 2012/13. I was awarded the Ulster University Vice Chancellor’s Research Scholarship (VCRS) to undertake a PhD in the prevalence and risk factors of congenital heart disease in Northern Ireland which contributes to the primary prevention of congenital heart disease in Northern Ireland by determining the extent to which specific maternal risk factors are associated with the risk of having a baby with

Hafi Saad - PhD in Nursing and Health