Impact of exercise on health

How does the body respond to exercise? How does exercise impact whole body systems? Exercise physiologists answer these questions and help people make better decisions about their health.

Exercise physiology is the study of humans in motion. Exercise physiologists work in the lab and in the field to gather a wide range of data on an individual’s response to exercise. This includes measuring not just their speed and power, but also the biochemical processes taking place such as oxygen flow, blood, sweat and even urine. A good understanding of these can lead to findings that benefit everyone – the young and old, athletes and even the daredevils amongst us. By contributing to research in this area, you will be helping people to achieve more and take better care of their health.

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Exercise physiologists help athletes to determine the training methods and strategies that will give them the best chance at winning.

As the popularity of ultra-endurance events increases, sportsmen and women performing in extreme temperatures and altitudes are increasingly relying on physiological research to help their bodies push limits.

Outside of sports, exercise physiology research has informed health advice that applies to everyone. Research in this field has shown that physical activity into later life can fight age-related conditions such as muscle loss. Scientists have also studied people working in physically challenging jobs, such as firefighters, in order to develop guidelines that will ensure their safety and physiological well-being.

How do I get involved in exercise physiology research?

An undergraduate degree in any life science subject (including physiology, biomedicine, medicine, sports science, neuroscience, genetics etc.) will open the door to a career in physiology research.

Following this, you will have to apply for a PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) if you wish to pursue a research career in a university. This involves a substantial research project, typically 3-4 years in length, and training in scientific as well as transferable skills. These are usually fully funded by Research Councils, charities or increasingly industry.

Graduates often complete a Master’s degree before undertaking a PhD. Master’s degrees like a MSc (Master of Science), MRes (Master of Research) and, increasingly, integrated Master’s degrees (e.g. M.Biol or Master of Biology) help to develop a greater understanding of a particular scientific area. This will give graduates a better grounding and make them more competitive for PhD positions.

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