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An exploration of community-based physical activity programmes as part of prehabilitation and rehabilitation pathways in adult cancer care

Project Description

PhD Research Studentship (full-time for 3 years)
Stipend: £15,009 per annum
A three-year PhD studentship is available to UK, EU and overseas students. The studentship covers home/EU tuition fees, stipend equivalent to full UK Research Council rate and research expenses. International students must cover tuition fee shortfall (approximately £8000 per annum).

About the AWRC
The AWRC is a state-of-the-art research centre at SHU, dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of the population through physical activity. Our vision is to transform lives through innovations that help people move, and our mission is to help prevent and treat non-communicable diseases (NCDs) through co-designed research into physical activity. Located on the Olympic Legacy Park (OLP) in Sheffield and part of the Global Innovation Corridor for the Sheffield City Region, the AWRC is also home to the research hub for the National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine (NCSEM) in Sheffield. It brings together expertise from multiple academic disciplines across SHU housed in a world-class physical environment providing industry and the public sector with access to expertise to develop and evaluate products, services and interventions to promote physical activity and improve health and wellbeing.

Background to the PhD
Approximately two-and-a-half million people in the UK are currently living with or beyond cancer and this is set to rise to four million by 2030. People affected by cancer experience long-lasting adverse effects of their disease and treatment including cancer related fatigue, anxiety, depression, peripheral neuropathy, weight changes, osteoporosis, lymphedema, urinary and bowel problems, night sweats, hot flushes and difficulty with memory and concentrating.
There is a growing body of evidence that supports the role of exercise in reducing the negative impact of cancer (and treatment) related side-effects at all stages of cancer treatment. Exercise has been shown to lead to maintained or improved physical function/fitness (i.e. improved body composition and aerobic capacity) and improved psychological wellbeing (i.e. reduced cancer related fatigue and improved quality of life). There is also evidence that those who are more active have a reduced risk of cancer reoccurrence and improved survival rates. An increase in the number of new cancer diagnoses along with improved cancer survival rates mean there is an ever growing proportion of the population living with and after a cancer diagnosis that stand to benefit from exercise and the associated health improvements.
Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust (HDFT), in collaboration with Yorkshire Cancer Research (YCR), are piloting a physical activity referral pathway for patients with cancer as part of their care before, during and after treatment. SHU have been commissioned to conduct an independent evaluation of the Active Against Cancer - Harrogate pilot.
The successful PhD candidate will work alongside staff at both HDFT and SHU to assess the effectiveness and treatment fidelity of the physical activity referral pathway in bringing about positive clinical, psychological and economic outcomes. This will be as part of a wider exploration of physical activity within prehabilitation and rehabilitation pathways in cancer care that considers which behaviour change techniques are most effective in supporting lifestyle change in people with a cancer diagnosis. The PhD will also explore the training requirements for staff delivering prehabilitation and rehabilitation pathways as well as developing an evaluation toolkit that can be utilised by other exercise and cancer rehabilitation services. Example research questions include;
• Which behaviour change techniques are most effective in supporting lifestyle change in people with a cancer diagnosis?
• What are the training requirements of staff (i.e. physical trainers, physiotherapists, clinical nurse specialists) delivering a physical activity referral pathway for patients with cancer?
• Is a physical activity referral pathway before, during and after treatment effective in bringing about positive clinical, psychological and economic outcomes?
• Is the physical activity referral pathway acceptable to patients receiving the intervention and staff delivering it?
The PhD programme will allow the successful student to gain practical experience of NHS service delivery and regular patient contact whilst working alongside exercise professionals and medical staff. They will also develop quantitative and qualitative research methods skills and expertise under the supervision of academic staff at SHU. The PhD student will be based at SHU with regular travel to Harrogate (~2 days per week). Travel expenses will not be reimbursed.


Entry requirements
• Successful applicants will hold a good undergraduate degree (at least 2:i honours degree or equivalent) in sport and exercise science, health psychology, public health or a related subject.
• Have excellent problem solving, organisational, oral and written communication skills.
• Have a high degree of professionalism when working with patients / public.
• Have a strong minimum of English proficiency (IELTS minimum overall score of 7.0 with at least 6.5 in each component).
• A cancer rehabilitation level 4 qualification, behaviour change qualification and / or a relevant masters qualification in sport and exercise science, health psychology, public health or a related subject will be an advantage.
• Experience of public health evaluations, mixed methods research, measurement of physiological and psychological outcomes, and exercise prescription / delivery in clinical populations is also desirable.

Supervision team
Director of Studies - Professor Robert Copeland
Second supervisor - Dr Anna Myers and Dr Anna Lowe
General information about the Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre can be found at:

Application Process
Students should apply to Sheffield Hallam University via the University's application form, including a 1500 word research proposal in section 9.
You can access an application form at:
Please send applications forms and supporting documentation to [email protected]

For informal enquiries about the project please contact: Dr Anna Myers, [email protected] or Professor Robert Copeland, [email protected]

For more information on the application process please contact: [email protected]

Key Dates
• Deadline for applications: midnight on Sunday, 22 September
• Interviews will be held on Wednesday, 09 October in Sheffield, Collegiate Campus
• Studentship begins end October/early November 2019

How good is research at Sheffield Hallam University in Sport and Exercise Sciences, Leisure and Tourism?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 32.00

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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