The first round of QUEX PhD candidates are working on the following projects. Please note, these positions have been filled.

9. Improving physical activity in middle-aged working men using novel m-health strategies

UQ academic lead

Professor Wendy Brown, School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences

Exeter academic lead

Professor Charles Abraham, Professor of Psychology Applied to Health, University of Exeter Medical School


At a population level, middle aged men (40-64 years) are the demographic group most 'at risk' of overweight and obesity, with consequences for the development of hypertension and a range of non-communicable diseases in late middle/early older age. They are also the population group with the lowest levels of physical activity (PA), reflecting the challenges of making time for PA in the face of work and family responsibilities at this life stage.


The overall aim of this research is to compare the acceptability, feasibility and efficacy of different m-health strategies for improving motivation for, and progress towards, PA goals in low income, overweight middle-aged men.  Although a 10,000 steps per day target is commonly used in physical activity intervention trials, our research has shown that this does not resonate with men, who tend to prefer interventions which have either competitive or fitness based targets. Therefore in this research, we will assess the utility of the wrist worn 'Mio Slice' which uses individual heart rate data to provide personalised feedback on the accumulation of 'vigorous' physical activity units (PAI). Vigorous PA elicits greater health benefits, and weekly PA targets can be achieved with less time commitment than is required for walking.  This novel approach, which does not require specialised gym equipment, has been piloted and found to be feasible by the UQ supervisors. 


The research will be conducted in three stages:

  1. A scoping review to summarize previous research and identify working men's perceptions of the utility of m-health approaches. 
  2. Development of the intervention program using components mapped into specific motivational and behaviour change techniques, drawing on evidence-based taxonomies including those developed by the supervisory team.3 The intervention will be pilot tested with members of the target group in both Exeter and Brisbane, to ensure cross-cultural relevance, and revised prior to testing in stage 3.
  3. Strategies to compare accumulation of vigorous PA (PAI) will be compared with accumulation of daily steps (pedometer) using a two-site randomised intervention study, with participants in both Exeter and Brisbane. 

Both process and outcome measures (perceptions, motivation, adherence, compliance, steps/day, minutes in high intensity, overall PA volume) will be assessed. The target group is middle aged, overweight men who are employed in low-paid occupations. 

The student will develop skills in:

  • critical review
  • the development of a theory based behavioural intervention program
  • the design and conduct of a randomised intervention trial
  • management and analysis of self-report and objective PA data.

He/she will be trained in recruitment strategies, data collection, data management and analysis, and in writing for publication in high impact journals. We anticipate there will be 4 high-quality papers in leading behavioural and sports science journals (eg BJSM, American J Preventive Medicine).