ESRC PhD Opportunity

Step it up! Determining the impact of a national workplace walking challenge on physical and cognitive health and well-being

Dr G Ozakinci

Deadline: Friday 13th March 2020

Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Sedentary lifestyle is one of the most significant risk factors for many of the major health challenges in the UK including cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. It has also been clearly linked to disorders of the brain including neurodegenerative disorders, dementia, and mental health problems. According to the Scottish Government, ‘physical inactivity contributes to nearly 2,500 deaths in Scotland and costs the NHS around £91 million per year’. In England, a 2016 report showed that physical inactivity cost the NHS more than £455 million in 2013-2014.

Given that employed adults spend large parts of their daytime at the workplace, initiatives aimed at promoting physical activity that take place in the workplace present an ideal setting. Step Count Challenge (SCC) is a Scottish workplace-based scheme, organised by the charity Paths for All (PFA), designed to address this precise issue. However, despite anecdotal evidence of health benefits, there has been no systematic study of the scheme to date. The current proposal merges health psychology with neurocognitive methods to measure the physical, emotional, and cognitive health benefits of increasing physical activity at work. This creates a unique training opportunity for a student to carry out interdisciplinary research using mixed methods within 2 world leading laboratories. They will use health psychology models of behaviour to determine the key factors involved in increasing workplace activity and critically in maintaining this increase in the long-term. They will also examine whether engaging cognitive activity, shown to promote development in memory related neural systems, during exercise confers additional health benefits.

Funding Notes

Applicants must meet the following essential criteria:
• A good first degree (at least 2:1) in Psychology or related disciplines
• Demonstrate an interest in and knowledge of subject areas related to the project such as physical activity, behavioural and cognitive science, health psychology and workplace health promotion
• Have a good grounding in research methods relevant to health psychology and cognitive science.
• SGSSS welcomes applications from full-time PhD students in their first year of study, or part-time PhD students in their second year. However, if you will have completed more than one full year’s study or equivalent, we regard you as having completed a substantial proportion of a PhD and you are therefore no longer eligible to apply for funding through us.

Students must meet ESRC eligibility criteria. ESRC eligibility information can be found here*:

Award Details:
The scholarship is available as a +3 or a 1+3 programme depending on prior research training. This will be assessed as part of the recruitment process. The programme will commence in September 2020. It includes
• an annual maintenance grant at the RCUK rate
• fees at the standard Home rate
• students can also draw on a pooled Research Training Support Grant, usually up to a maximum of £750 per year

Information on how to apply can be found on the SGSSS website-
All applications should be submitted via GradHub-

Applications will be ranked by a selection panel and applicants will be notified if they have been shortlisted for interview by 19th March 2020. Interviews will take place on 27th March 2020.

All scholarship awards are subject to candidates successfully securing admission to a PhD programme within University of St Andrews. Successful scholarship applicants will be invited to apply for admission to the relevant PhD programme after they are selected for funding.