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The impact of Covid-19 on physical activity levels in young people from deprived backgrounds

   School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences

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  Dr Natalie Pearson, Dr L. Sherar  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Loughborough University is a top-ten rated university in England for research intensity (REF, 2014) and an outstanding 66% of the work of Loughborough’s academic staff who were eligible to be submitted to the REF was judged as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’, compared to a national average figure of 43%.

In choosing Loughborough for your research, you’ll work alongside academics who are leaders in their field. You will benefit from comprehensive support and guidance from our Doctoral College, including tailored careers advice, to help you succeed in your research and future career. Find out more.


Full-time: 3 years

Part-time: 6 years

Start dates: April 2022, July 2022, October 2022

Insufficient physical activity is a significant risk factor for multiple short- and long-term health outcomes in children and young people. For example, inactivity has been linked with higher levels of obesity and poor mental health outcomes such as depressive symptoms and anxiety.

While many young people do not meet the physical activity recommendations, children and young people who are socio-economically disadvantaged are less likely to be sufficiently active than children and young people who are more advantaged. While such inequalities are not new, they have been impacted profoundly by Covid-19. For example, there has been a large reduction in children being sufficiently active during the first Covid-19 lockdown (28.9%) compared to pre-pandemic (69.4%), and children from more deprived backgrounds were most impacted.

Given the importance of physical activity for the health of young people, understanding methods to engage and re-engage children and young people in physical activity is a public health priority. This research aims to examine novel ways and approaches to engaging children and young people from areas of deprivation. Using innovative, cross-disciplinary methods this project will:

  1. Assess current physical activity and sedentary behaviour patterns and practices; and the social and physical environments and COVID related drivers and barriers associated with these behaviours in deprived urban communities
  2. Co-design, with children, physical activity intervention strategies and policies to enhance health and wellbeing

The project aligns closely with Loughborough University’s Health and Wellbeing Global Challenge and the Sport and Exercise Research Beacon (priority area Children, Young People and Families). The research also aligns to the Lifestyle for Health and Wellbeing research theme in the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences.


Primary supervisor: Dr Natalie Pearson

Secondary supervisor: Professor Lauren Sherar


Our entry requirements are listed using standard UK undergraduate degree classifications i.e. first-class honours, upper second-class honours and lower second-class honours.

Entry requirements for United Kingdom

Students who have achieved, or expect to achieve, at least a 2:1 in psychology, sport and exercise science, public health or a related discipline are eligible to apply. Having a relevant MSc is desirable.

English language requirements

Applicants must meet the minimum English language requirements. Further details are available on the International website.

Find out more about research degree funding


All applications should be made online. Under programme name, select 'Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences'. Please quote the advertised reference number SSEHS/NP/2 in your application. To avoid delays in processing your application please ensure that you submit the minimum supporting documents.

Apply now

Funding Notes

UK FEE: £4,500 - Full-time degree per annum
INTERNATIONAL FEE - £24,100 - Full-time degree per annum
Tuition fees cover the cost of your teaching, assessment and operating University facilities such as the library, IT equipment and other support services. University fees and charges can be paid in advance and there are several methods of payment, including online payments and payment by instalment. Fees are reviewed annually and are likely to increase to take into account inflationary pressures.
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