Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences Research 

We are ranked first in the UK among the Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences Institutes in the Research Assessment Exercise 2008.

Research in the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences


The School’s Research Mission is to address one of the key challenges facing contemporary societies: increasing the quantity and quality of engagement in physical activity to enhance health and wellbeing.

We are interested in finding new ways to support the physical activity and sport needs of all individuals and communities ranging from elite athletes, to young children, elderly exercisers, inactive groups and those recovering from illness or injury. To do this we focus our research on five interdisciplinary themes that address major societal challenges.

Active Lifestyles

Examining the mechanisms, contexts, and impacts of active and inactive lifestyles

It has been estimated that 61% of men and 71% of women fail to meet current recommendations for engagement in physical activity. If current trends continue, 60% of men, 50% of women and 25% of children in the UK could be obese by 2050. It is now widely acknowledged that engaging in appropriate levels of physical activity throughout the lifespan can offer health and wellbeing benefits to most individuals. Our research on Active Lifestyles focuses on formal types of exercise, such as organised sport, and also the accumulation of activity as part of daily living. We study Active Lifestyles in the context of physical and mental wellbeing, stage of life from childhood and adolescence through middle and old age, and physiological, psychological, social, educational and political impacts.

Healthy Ageing

Enhancing our understanding of the lifelong processes and complex determinants of healthy ageing

By the year 2020, almost 1 in 5 of the population of Europe will be aged 65 and over. Yet, although life expectancy is increasing, the period of life in which individuals enjoy good health is not keeping pace. Research within the Healthy Ageing theme seeks to better understand the lifelong process of ageing and the complex determinants of healthy ageing. Our research focuses on issues ranging from: understanding the effects of the ageing process on cardiovascular, immunological, motor and psychological function; developing and evaluating lifestyle interventions; and analysing and promoting active lifestyles in specific groups such as adolescents, groups at high-risk for obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, the elderly, and culturally diverse populations.

Effective Learning

Elucidating the issues that influence effective learning in educational, community, and clinical settings

Learning is a process, and research on effective learning focuses on the myriad ways in which high quality learning opportunities can lead to behavioural and personal change. Effective learning is multifaceted, and research within this theme considers issues such as learner and teacher characteristics, teaching/coaching strategies and techniques, psychological, affective, and behavioural outcomes, and the proximal and distal environments associated with developing desirable outcomes for a range of different learners. The learning contexts studied include: coaching in amateur and professional sport, physical education in schools, exercise classes in the community, lifestyle physical activity settings, and illness/injury rehabilitation sites.

Optimal Performance

Identifying, developing, and refining approaches and interventions to optimise performance across the range of capabilities

The optimal performance research theme is concerned with understanding how individuals, at all ages, stages and levels of ability, can achieve their potential in sport, exercise and other forms of movement. The School uses its multi-disciplinary strengths to undertake research that can benefit those ranging from Olympians in their quest for medals, to children making their first attempts to become proficient in a sport or physical activity, and to elderly residents of care homes who have wish to gain renewed movement independence. The aim is to identify, develop and refine interventions – be they physiological, psychological, neurological or biomechanical in nature – to help individuals to be the best that they can be in sport, exercise and movement.

Movement Rehabilitation

Investigating mechanisms and conditions affecting the control of human movement that inform new and effective methods for diagnosis and rehabilitation

Normal control of movement can go awry in neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, and also as a consequence of acquired brain injury, such as stroke or traumatic brain injury. To understand the aetiology of such conditions such that we can develop effective treatments, it is first necessary to understand the healthy brain. Within the Movement Rehabilitation theme, we undertake a wide range of research into the control of human movement both in health and disease states. This ranges from understanding the basic mechanisms of human balance, locomotion and grasping through to developing new methods of diagnosis and rehabilitation for patients with stroke, traumatic brain injury and other neurological conditions. With established expertise in sensorimotor neuroscience combined with numerous clinical links with local hospitals, we are well placed to undertake research that can have benefit to both healthy individuals and patients.


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