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Fully Funded Swansea University MSc by Research Scholarship: The Dose-response Effect of Varying Isometric Handgrip Exercise Training Frequency on Blood Pressure and Vascular Health

Swansea University - Sports Science

Location: Swansea
Salary: This scholarship covers the full cost of UK tuition fees and a stipend of £6,000. Additional research expenses will also be available.
Hours: Full Time
Contract Type: Fixed-Term/Contract
Placed On: 11th May 2022
Closes: 10th June 2022

Start date: October 2022 

Project overview:

This is a one-year MSc by Research studentship which will investigate the effects of varying the frequency of low-intensity isometric handgrip exercise training (IET) on cardiovascular health in people with high blood pressure.

Project background:

Hypertension is a major cause of cardiovascular disease, stroke and premature death, and in 2021, The World Health Organisation estimated that 1.3 billion people across the globe have hypertension. Simple and effective lifestyle strategies are required to help people improve their blood pressure and/or attenuate increases in blood pressure with ageing. Exercise is one possible strategy: in previous research, several different types of exercise have been shown to have beneficial effects on blood pressure (Blackwell et al., 2017). However, many individuals do not adhere to currently recommended levels of exercise, due to a combination of the required time commitment, lack of motivation, and the associated levels of effort, exertion, and physical discomfort (Korkiakangas et al 2009). Thus, there is a need to identify alternative exercise interventions which will overcome these barriers but remain effective at improving blood pressure and vascular health (Herrod, Lund, & Phillips, 2021, Toohey et al, 2018).

Low intensity isometric hand grip exercise training (IET) has been shown to result in large decreases in resting blood pressure in younger and older age groups, in both men and women, and in individuals with normal as well as elevated baseline blood pressure (Badrov et al, 2013; Bentley et al., 2018; Millar et al., 2014). In this research, IET has almost universally involved performing 4 x 2 IET holds at 30% of maximal voluntary contraction, 3 times a week, over a 4-8 week intervention (Millar et al, 2014). There are very few studies that have investigated the effect of changing different protocol parameters on changes in blood pressure and vascular health, and the minimal effective dose of IET is unknown. Defining the minimal effective dose of different types of exercise may help overcome key barriers to exercise by lowering the required time commitment, reducing perceived effort/exertion, and promoting more positive affective responses. One important modifiable parameter is training frequency and it is unknown whether reducing the frequency of IET will reduce the efficacy for improving blood pressure.

Therefore, this MSc by Research project will involve a randomised controlled trial to compare the effects of IET with a frequency of 2 or 4 sessions/week on blood pressure and vascular health in people with hypertension. 

Eligibility

Candidates must normally hold an undergraduate degree at 2:1 level (or Non-UK equivalent as defined by Swansea University) in Sports Science or similar relevant science discipline.

English Language requirements: If applicable – IELTS 6.5 overall (with at least 5.5 in each individual component) or Swansea recognised equivalent. 

Due to funding restrictions, this scholarship is open to applicants eligible to pay tuition fees at the UK rate only, as defined by UKCISA regulations.

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