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

Faculty of Health Sciences and Sport

About the Project

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.

To be eligible for this studentship, you should have:
• 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.

Funding Notes

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 here: View Website


• Songsorn P, Brick N, Fitzpatrick B, Fitzpatrick S, McDermott G, McClean C, Davison GW, Vollaard NBJ, Metcalfe RS (2019). Affective and Perceptual Responses during Reduced-Exertion High-Intensity Interval Training (REHIT). Intern J Sport Exerc Psychol. Accepted for publication.

• Vollaard NBJ, Metcalfe RS, Williams S. (2017). Effect of Number of Sprints in an SIT Session on Change in VO2max: A Meta-analysis. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 49 (6): 1147-1156.

• Vollaard NBJ, Metcalfe RS (2017). Research into the Health Benefits of Sprint Interval Training Should Focus on Protocols with Fewer and Shorter Sprints. Sports Med. 47 (12): 2443-2451.

• Ruffino JS, Songsorn P, Haggett M, Edmonds D, Robinson T, Thompson D, Vollaard NBJ (2016). A comparison of the health benefits of reduced-exertion high-intensity interval training (REHIT) and moderate-intensity walking in Type 2 diabetes patients. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab, 42 (2): 202-208.

• Metcalfe RS, Koumanov F, Ruffino JS, Holman GD, Thompson D, Vollaard NBJ (2015). Physiological and molecular responses to an acute bout of reduced-exertion high-intensity interval training (REHIT). Eur J Appl Physiol, 115 (11): 2321-34.

• Metcalfe RS, Babraj JA, Fawkner SG, Vollaard NBJ (2012). Towards the minimal amount of exercise for improving metabolic health: beneficial effects of reduced-exertion high-intensity interval training. Eur J Appl Physiol, 112 (7): 2767-2775.

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