The 2019 QUEX PhD candidates are working on the following projects. Please note, these positions have been filled.

19. Measuring, understanding and influencing physical activity, health and productivity in sedentary blue-collar Australian and UK workers

UQ academic lead

Associate Professor Nicholas Gilson, School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences

Exeter academic lead 

Associate Professor Melvyn Hillsdon, College of Life and Environmental Sciences 

Project description

Long hours spent working, combined with the sedentary nature of modern work, significantly contribute to low daily energy expenditure, physical inactivity, and the development of chronic disease risk factors and conditions (e.g. type 2 diabetes, obesity and hypertension). Activity-restrictive work environments, characterised by prolonged periods of sitting and lack of movement, also play a role in fostering high levels of employee presenteeism, poor job performance and lost work productivity.   

Certain occupational sub-groups are likely to be less active than others, and our formative research suggests that both ‘white-collar’ office workers and ‘blue-collar’ non-office workers spend considerable proportions of their day sitting. However, while the epidemiological and intervention evidence base is rapidly developing in office-based groups, there is an urgent need for complementary research in blue-collar workers, whose daily sedentary exposure and physical inactivity rates are likely to be high because of occupational roles that require long hours spent driving or operating machinery.

Recognising the need to expand research to occupational groups other than office workers, this novel, collaborative PhD project will focus on exploring physical activity, health and productivity issues in Australian and British sedentary blue-collar workers. To do this, we will leverage and further consolidate established university-industry partnerships, by working closely with Brisbane City and Devon County Councils, from where we will recruit and engage our target occupational groups.   

Project scope

The PhD candidate and supervisory team will develop the detailed research aims and study methods to address current gaps in the knowledge base. However, following preliminary face-to-face discussions during recent reciprocal visits to UQ and UoE, the team have agreed on the scope of the proposed project, with the aims and methods seeking to address key research questions in the following three areas:

  1. objective measurement of patterns of daily physical activity and sedentary exposure in targeted blue-collar occupations
  2. investigation of facilitators and barriers to physical activity in these occupations
  3. piloting of a tailored physical activity intervention to benefit the health and productivity of targeted sedentary blue-collar workers employed by our Council partners.