Psychology can play a crucial role in understanding disabled people’s experiences of health and wellbeing. Psychological principles can also support disabled individuals to engage in healthy lifestyle behaviours; such as regular physical activity and exercise.

Some of our research questions include: How can we use psychological principles to increase exercise behaviour in disabled populations? What are disabled people’s experiences of living a physically active lifestyle? What are the costs and benefits of exercise for different types of disability? What are the mental health benefits associated with regular exercise?


Promoting Physical Activity in Thalidomide Survivors

A Participatory Action Research Approach

Thalidomide survivors, born circa 1960 with often severe birth defects, are currently experiencing premature ageing. Approaching their mid-50s, there is high prevalence of disability induced health issues such as arthritis and obesity. To address these issues and help survivors age successfully, the Thalidomide Trust has funded a research project into promoting physical activity.

The research team for this project is Han Newman (research lead), Dr Anthony Papathomas (principal investigator) and Dr Christof Leicht (co-investigator). The project will be guided by the principles of participatory action research (PAR). The PAR approach to research prioritises collaboration with the people the research focuses on. The goal is knowledge but also social change that benefits participants. PAR aligns with the disability activist mantra “nothing about us, without us”.

The project will therefore involve Thalidomide survivors as co-producers at every phase of the research process. The overarching objective is to develop an understanding of Thalidomide survivors’ experiences of physical activity and use this understanding to promote an increase in physical activity motivation and behaviour.

We intend to answer the following 4 research questions:

1.            What are Thalidomide survivors’ experiences of physical activity and exercise?

2.            What are the main barriers and facilitators to engaging with regular physical activity?

3.            What are the perceived benefits of physical activity?

4.            How can the Thalidomide community be empowered to engage in more physical activity?

Want to take part?

We are currently looking for Thalidomide survivors who would be interested in taking part in a focus group exploring experiences of physical activity. We will be holding 5-6 focus groups in various locations across the UK.

Whether you are a regular exerciser or consider yourself to be inactive, we’d like to hear from you – we’re interested in all experiences.

If you are interested in the study, would like some more information, or think you might like to take part, please contact Han Newman via email - or by phone – 01509226548.