MSc Physical Activity, Exercise and Health - University of Portsmouth

Physical Activity, Exercise and Health

Part Time2yrs

Full Time 1yr

Promoting health and fitness through science

Course Overview

Why take this course?

With current obesity and diabetes epidemics resulting from sedentary living, poor dietary habits and high stress lifestyles, the need for Clinical Exercise Specialists (CES) is now greater than ever before.

This innovative course is, therefore, designed to inform you in the clinical aspects of exercise, providing a qualification that will enable you to apply theory to practice.

What will I experience?

On this course you can:

  • Develop lab and field-based skills alongside the ability to communicate with clients in a professional and approachable style
  • Become proficient in diagnostic techniques and the delivery of effective physical activity programmes to optimise the health-related fitness of clients
  • Use specialist facilities and benefit from our strong links with the School of Health Sciences and the National Health Service

What opportunities might it lead to?

The programme will provide opportunities for you to work toward the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Clinical Exercise Specialist certification and units aligned to Level Four National Occupation Standards for Health and Fitness.

Some of our graduates have pursued the following careers:

  • Health and Well-Being Physiologist
  • Clinical Exercise Physiologist
  • Exercise Referral Coordinator
  • PhD Research


Louisa Herring, MSc Clinical Exercise Science student 2012

This Master’s is a unique course and very practical throughout.

Louisa Herring, MSc Clinical Exercise Science student 2012

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Structure & Teaching

You can choose to take this course in either full-time or part-time mode. Our course draws on the strengths and thriving research expertise in the faculty.

Here are the units you will study:

  • Applied Research Methods: This prepares you for your Research Project by covering research design, discussing different investigation strategies and identifying appropriate statistical analyses.
  • Clinical Physiology: This unit develops a critical understanding of the pathophysiology of chronic lifestyle diseases and the application and interpretation of diagnostic procedures for these diseases.
  • Exercise Rehabilitation: On this unit you will develop knowledge and skills that can be applied to working in clinical exercise settings, such as bariatric service, cardiac rehabilitation, pulmonary rehabilitation, stroke rehabilitation, falls prevention and cancer rehabilitation. These will include risk stratification, how long term conditions affect physical function during exercise and how to safely adapt physical activities.
  • Psychology of Exercise and Physical Activity: This unit covers the emerging field of psychology in physical activity and exercise settings. You will study topics relevant to understanding how psychological theory can influence the promotion and prescription of exercise and physical activity to optimise health and wellbeing.
  • Research Project: The unit will also guide you through the submission of a research proposal and the submission of research in the form of a manuscript. Your project will enable you to carry out a research study in the area of clinical exercise.

We use the best and most current research and professional practice, alongside feedback from our students, to make sure course content is relevant to your future career or further studies.

Therefore, some course content may change over time to reflect changes in the discipline or industry and some optional units may not run every year. If a unit doesn’t run, we’ll let you know as soon as possible and help you choose an alternative unit.

Teaching and Assessment

Your learning experience will be research-informed, and will be delivered by enthusiastic, dedicated and knowledgeable staff who will encourage and assist you to achieve your full potential. Teaching is largely based around seminar, practical and workshop sessions.

How are you assessed?

You will be assessed in a variety of ways with a focus on self-assessment and problem-based assignments. Here’s how we assess you:

  • practical assessment
  • research reports
  • applied essays
  • case studies
  • project report
  • poster presentation

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Facilities & Features


We are one of the leading departments offering sports science-based programmes in the UK according to the National Student Survey (NSS), the Times Good University Guide, the Independent University Guide, and the Guardian University Guide league tables. You will learn in a several different environments including our biomechanics, physiology, psychology and kinanthropometry labs, home to some of the country’s finest facilities, including:

  • 3 climatic chambers for manipulating temperature, humidity and altitude
  • an immersion pool
  • a swimming flume
  • an automated tracking system
  • visual 3D software

Learning Environments

You will also benefit from plenty of indoor space for practical activities. Along with our many specialist labs, dedicated seminar spaces and interview rooms, the Department is located next to the University’s Nuffield Sports Centre and very near to the University’s St Paul’s Sports Centre. These two centres offer many facilities including sports halls, a 100-station gym, squash courts and fitness studios, all located at the heart of the University.

Research Groups

Our academic staff have a close affiliation with sport and are research active within their chosen specialism. We have three main research areas which include biomechanics, physiology and psychology, with BASES accredited and BPS chartered members of each area possessing prolific research profiles. Here are the areas of our current research:

  • Extreme Environmental Medicine and Science (co-ordinator: Dr Jim House)
  • Breast Health (co-ordinator: Dr Joanna Scurr)
  • Human Performance and Health (co-ordinator: Dr Jo Corbett)

University Library

Modern, comfortable and a great learning environment, our library offers a wealth of information including 400,000 books, DVDs, maps and thousands of online ejournals and newspapers. Many electronic resources are available anywhere, 24/7 and our friendly staff are always on hand to help.

Budgeting for your studies

There may be extra costs arising from your studies which you will need to consider when planning your expenditure.

Some are common costs to all courses of study. These may include the cost of study texts, reference books, photocopying and computer supplies. Others relate to specific courses and may include field trips, materials and specialist equipment.

Other costs to consider

Should you wish to take the additional vocational qualification, you will be expected to pay £200.

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Careers & Opportunities

Career prospects

The demand for qualified clinical exercise specialists (CES) is high. The duties performed by a CES are linked closely to treating patients with a chronic disease in which exercise has been shown to provide therapeutic benefit. The knowledge and skills you will gain from this course will be valued in a wide range of clinical settings.

Roles our graduates have taken on include:

  • GP exercise referral coordinator
  • NHS trainee clinical scientist
  • health advisor
  • cardiopulmonary exercise testing research technician
  • health and wellbeing physiologist
  • mental health exercise instructor
  • NHS physical activities adviser
  • private exercise physiologist

Career planning

One of the benefits of studying at Portsmouth is the support that we provide to our Master's and Research Degree students in career planning. Our careers and recruitment service can assist you in career research and finding employment opportunities. Help is also available if you wish to find a part-time job while studying your degree.

We offer our postgraduate students and alumni one-to-one appointments with a careers adviser, or an online service for those not able to travel back to the University. Our alumni can call on our career services for five years after graduation.

In addition, regular employability events offer you the chance to meet employers, find out about different career sectors and improve your applications or CV. The Graduate Summer Programme provides a range of guidance and employability seminars and workshops.

Benefits of Postgraduate Study

Regardless of whether you are seeking to build on your studies, further your career or pursue a career change, a postgraduate qualification adds to your achievement record.

  • Postgraduate study may greatly improve your chances of getting that first break.
  • Many graduate employers prefer the higher intellectual rigour displayed in postgraduate students.
  • Recruiters for roles requiring specialist knowledge or research particularly target those with higher level qualifications.
  • Postgraduate study shows you can take the challenge of in-depth study; acquiring transferable skills in team working and problem solving techniques.
  • If you have a passion for a particular subject, postgraduate study can also be something undertaken as part of your own development at an appropriate time in your life.

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Apply now or visit us

Online application form

Apply direct using our online form

Your application will be received by the University Admissions Centre for consideration.

Postgraduate Open Evenings

Our Postgraduate Open Evenings are taking place between February and April. Lecturers and support staff will be available to discuss your options. You'll also find out more about your chosen course and subjects that interest you.

Booking will open soon but in the meantime, watch our Postgrad Live series to hear from our staff and students about what it's like studying at Portsmouth. 

Other opportunities to visit

Download our free walking tour PDF for a self-guided tour of the University.

We have an open-door policy so you will be able to take a look in our buildings, speak to some of our support services and get a feel for the campus.

Find out more about our self-guided walking tours.

Can't get to Portsmouth?

If you can’t make it to Portsmouth, come and see us at one of the events we attend around the UK.

If you would like to speak with a member of staff about any courses you are interested in, please email and we will arrange this for you.

Staff from the University of Portsmouth Global office also regularly attend overseas exhibitions. To find out more about these and our visits to your region see our exhibitions page.

Fees and Funding

Find out more about fees and funding available to you at Portsmouth.

Admissions terms and conditions

When you accept an offer to study at the University of Portsmouth, you also agree to our terms and conditions as well as the University’s policies, rules and regulations. You should read and consider these before you apply.

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