Postdoctoral Fellow : Dr Jen Thomas

Dr Jen Thomas, Sport and Exercise Science, Swansea University 

Title: Integrating physical activity with psychological therapies for wellbeing and behaviour change of socially disadvantaged young people.  

My PhD research explored whether physical activity (PA) could be used to encourage young people with experiences of homelessness (YPEH) to engage with psychological therapy. Through delivering PA-based interventions either with or without additional therapy, my research findings suggested that:  

  • PA offers potential to increase YPEH’s engagement with group psychotherapy.  
  • PA alone (without therapy) may be equally effective for improving health and wellbeing.   

Findings indicated that providing opportunities to learn new skills and connect with others were the most important ‘ingredients’ for promoting wellbeing and behaviour change.  Other contributions to this field included identification of barriers and enablers when providing activity-based opportunities for enhancing the health and wellbeing of this population.    

It is important that these findings reach and benefit those working directly with YPEH, and are also applied to wider communities who may be at-risk of poor mental health, and experience barriers to engaging in physical activity.  

This fellowship will enable me to translate this research to practice, through organising knowledge exchange events and developing a ‘toolkit’ of resources which can be used by practitioners in this context. I also plan to publish two journal articles: one explaining how specific PA delivery techniques can promote wellbeing and positive behaviours; and one which provides a framework for implementing interventions with this population. To maximise impact, I will also present this research at UK-based and international conferences.  

My long-term goal is to build upon PhD findings through leading a large-scale research project in partnership with public sector services. To achieve this, I am eager to engage with local organisations and policymakers, to better understand current challenges, and explore the potential for developing a joint grant funding proposal.