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Pacing and performance in sports, rehabilitation, exercise and health (RDF19/HLS/SER/HETTINGA)

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  • Full or part time
    Prof F Hettinga
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Recent research explored how athletes and exercisers alike regulate their exercise intensity. However, most studies and theories focused on (elite) athletes alone, and a gap of knowledge exists in our understanding of pacing and fatigue in special populations: What are the specific problems that persons with an intellectual disability experience related to pacing behaviour when engaging and participating in exercise and sports, and how important is cognition in pacing? How do fatigued patients with disabilities or chronic diseases manage their fatigue and pace their activities over the day? Can adequate pacing of activities and management of fatigue help them to be more physically active and improve their quality of life? Opponents have been found to improve performance in elite athletes, can we make use of this phenomenon to improve physical activity and exercise adherence in a range of populations who could benefit from a healthy and active lifestyle?

The present project will aim to use knowledge available from studies conducted on pacing, exercise regulation and fatigue in elite athletes to improve training, exercise adherence and exercise engagement in other populations, particularly in populations in which pacing skills are under development or limiting their performance. With optimal training and guidance, performance, participation and health of special populations can be optimised and physical activity behaviour can be promoted. The project focus will be directed towards exploring theoretical explorations related to understanding pacing behaviour and fatigue and the role of cognition and environmental factors such as opponents, as well as towards a more practical goal to optimize performance and/or physical activity in special populations. Candidates interested in improving performance, exercise behaviour/adherence, physical activity, health, mobility and participation are welcome to apply and direct their application towards one of the research questions suggested above. Please find below relevant preceding work in the different populations.

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. RDF18/…) will not be considered.

Deadline for applications: Friday 25 January 2019

Start Date: 1 October 2019

Northumbria University is an equal opportunities provider and in welcoming applications for studentships from all sectors of the community we strongly encourage applications from women and under-represented groups.

Faculty: Health & Life Sciences
Department: Sport Exercise and Rehabilitation
Principal Supervisor: Dr Florentina Hettinga

Funding Notes

The studentship is available to Home/EU students where a full stipend, paid for three years at RCUK rates (for 2018/19, this is £14,777 pa) and full fees.


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 (in press)

M.J. Konings, F.J. Hettinga. Pacing decision-making in sport and the effects of interpersonal competition: A critical review. Sports Med. 48(8) (2018) 1829-1843.

M. Elferink-Gemser, F.J. Hettinga. Invited Commentary: Pacing and self-regulation: Important for talent development in endurance sport. Int. J. Sports Phys. and Perf. 12(6) (2017) 831-835.

Stein G.P. Menting, Marco J. Konings, Marije T. Elferink-Gemser, Florentina J. Hettinga. Pacing behaviour of elite youth short track speed skaters in 1500m head-to-head competition. Int J Sport Phys Perf (in press)

F.J. Hettinga, M. Konings, G.J. Pepping. Regulation of exercise intensity in head-to-head competition: The science behind racing against opponents. Front. Physiol. 8 (2017) 118.

D. Van Biesen, F. Hettinga, K. McCulloch, Y.C. Vanlandewijck. Pacing ability in elite runners with intellectual impairment. Med. Sci. Sport Exerc. 49(3) (2017) 588-594.

D. Van Biesen, F. Hettinga, K. McCulloch, Y.C. Vanlandewijck. Pacing strategy in competitive track races: is the regulation of exercise intensity linked to cognitive ability? Front. Physiol. 7 (2016) 624.

B. Smits, G.J. Pepping, F.J. Hettinga. Pacing and decision-making in sport and exercise: On the roles of perception and action in the regulation of exercise intensity. Sports Med. 44(6) (2014) 763-75.

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