Exploring principles of fatigue management, activity pacing and self-regulation in persons with chronically fatiguing conditions (Ref: MRDF22/HLS/IHSC/ABONIE)

   Faculty of Health and Life Sciences

This project is no longer listed on FindAPhD.com and may not be available.

Click here to search FindAPhD.com for PhD studentship opportunities
  Dr Ulric Abonie, Dr K Hackett, Dr V Deary, Prof F Hettinga, Prof J Newton  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Is the ability to effectively ‘switch-off’ the key to powering-up? Exploring principles of fatigue management, activity pacing and self-regulation in persons with chronically fatiguing conditions with a focus on the unexplored impact of genuine rest on a physically active lifestyle and healthy lifestyle. (Ref: MRDF22/HLS/IHSC/ABONIE)

Fatigue is a significant and debilitating symptom affecting 25% of the population. It occurs mostly in those with a range of chronic diseases. The benefits of physical activity in managing the health condition of people with chronic diseases are well known, and tailored physical activity promotion programs (see for example www.ReSpAct.nl/en, Alingh et al., 2015) have led to positive results on quality of life, perceptions of fatigue and physical activity behaviours in people with a wide range of chronic conditions.

A particular topic of interest for improving fatigue management and physical activity in people experience fatigue complaints is activity pacing, a promising self-management strategy that targets inefficient activity patterns (i.e. underactivity and overactivity) to help those with chronic fatigue to engage in an active lifestyle, improve their physical activity levels, reduce fatigue symptoms, and thereby improve their overall health (Abonie et al. 2020, 2021). From a clinical perspective, one of the unexplored but very relevant areas of activity pacing and fatigue management is the importance of adequate and timely rest: how to switch-off to be optimally able to power up when needed? It is often not easy to truly rest: what are the related challenges and what should authentic rest look like (quality, duration, timing, frequency)? How to balance rest and activity?

In the present research, we will integrate expertise available within and across three departments in the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences (Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation; Social Work, Education and Wellbeing; Psychology): Supervisors from the proposed supervision team have independently developed research exploring different aspects of physical activity promotion and fatigue management in people with chronic conditions, and work in close collaboration with the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, CRESTA fatigue clinic - which is the UK’s first NHS generic fatigue clinic. This proposal brings our strengths together and as such aims to develop novel, impactful, multi-disciplinary and challenge-based research to improve vitality and health(care) in people with chronic conditions associated with fatigue, such as long-covid fatigue, stroke, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ME, arthritis, Sjogren’s syndrome and MS (depending on the candidate’s interest).

The project will provide the PhD candidate with a multidisciplinary and high-quality academic environment with strong links to clinical practice through the fatigue clinic. The candidate will be expected to develop qualitative research methods to involve patients, carers, professionals and other relevant stakeholders in the initial stages in the research in close collaboration with the clinic. Also, the candidate will be expected to conduct a review on importance of rest in fatigue management and physical activity and develop experimental designs to evaluate how rest advice impacts on physical activity behaviour, health and well-being using relevant questionnaires, physiological measures (such as HRV-vagal tone) and accelerometry. The project will contribute to further intervention refinement on an important topic that can contribute to healthier lifestyle and improved quality of life for people with chronic conditions, with direct impact through close collaboration with the fatigue clinic and potential for international collaborations.

Eligibility and How to Apply:

Please note eligibility requirement:

  • Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
  • Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
  • Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see


Please note: Applications that do not include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), or that do not include the advert reference (e.g. MRDF22/…) will not be considered.

Deadline for applications: 18 February 2022

Start Date: 1 October 2022

Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff and students. We welcome applications from all members of the community.

Informal enquiries to Dr Ulric Abonie ([Email Address Removed]).

Biological Sciences (4) Engineering (12) Medicine (26) Psychology (31) Sport & Exercise Science (33)

Funding Notes

Each studentship supports a full stipend, paid for three years at RCUK rates (for 2021/22 full-time study this is £15,609 per year) and full tuition fees. UK and international (including EU) candidates may apply.
Studentships are available for applicants who wish to study on a part-time basis over 5 years (0.6 FTE, stipend £9,365 per year and full tuition fees) in combination with work or personal responsibilities.
Please also read the full funding notes which include advice for international and part-time applicants.


R.A. Alingh, F. Hoekstra, C.P. van der Schans, F.J. Hettinga, R. Dekker, L.H.V. van der Woude. Protocol of a longitudinal cohort study on physical activity behaviour in physically disabled patients participating in a rehabilitation counselling programme: ReSpAct. BMJ Open 5 (2015) e007591.
Kate L. Hackett, Rebecca L. Lambson,Victoria Strassheim, Zoe Gotts, Vincent Deary, Julia L Newton. A concept mapping study evaluating the UK's first NHS generic fatigue clinic. (2016). Health Expectations, 19( 5), p. 1138-1149.
Hackett KL, Davies K, Tarn J, et al. (2019) Pain and depression are associated with both physical and mental fatigue independently of comorbidities and medications in primary Sjogren's syndrome. RMD Open 5: e000885.
Strassheim V, Deary V, Webster DA, Newton JL, Hackett KL. (2019) Conceptualizing the benefits of a group exercise program developed for those with chronic fatigue: a mixed methods clinical evaluation. Disability and Rehabilitation: 1-11.
Ulric S. Abonie, Gavin R.H. Sandercock, Marelle Heesterbeek, Florentina J Hettinga. Effects of Activity Pacing in Patients with Chronic Conditions associated with Fatigue Complaints: A Meta-Analysis. Disability and Rehabilitation 42(5) (2020) 613-622.
Ulric Abonie, Andrew Edwards, Florentina Hettinga. Optimizing activity pacing to promote a physically active lifestyle in medical settings: a narrative review informed by clinical and sports pacing research. JSS. 38 (5), (2020), 590-596.
Dures E, Cramp F, Hackett K, et al. (2020) Fatigue in inflammatory arthritis. Best Pract Res Clin Rheumatol 34: 101526.
U Abonie, F. Hettinga. Effect of a tailored activity pacing intervention on fatigue and physical activity behaviours in adults with multiple sclerosis. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(1), 17.
Diederik R. de Boer, Femke Hoekstra, Kim Huetink, Trynke Hoekstra, Leonie A. Krops, Florentina J. Hettinga. Physical activity, sedentary behavior and well-being of adults with physical disabilities and/or chronic diseases during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic: a rapid review (2021). IJERPH, 18(12):6342
Bregje L. Seves, Trynke Hoekstra, Femke Hoekstra, ReSpAct group, Florentina J. Hettinga, Rienk Dekker, Lucas H.V. van der Woude. Unravelling perceived Fatigue and Activity pacing in maintaining a physically active Lifestyle after Stroke Rehabilitation: a longitudinal cohort study. Disability and Rehabilitation. (in press). https://doi.org/10.1080/09638288.2020.1833090

Where will I study?