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School of Sport, Health and Exercise

Discover the teaching and research activities taking place within our School of Sport, Health and Exercise


The School of Sport, Health and Exercise Science is a vibrant interdisciplinary School within the Faculty of Science and Health. We study the physiology, psychology and biomechanics of the human body during exercise and its application to sports performance and health as well as development and management of sport and the role of sport in society. 

We examine the role of physical activity in health and disease, strategies for increasing participation in sport and physical activity, and approaches to optimising human performance. Our discipline covers the entire lifespan, from childhood to master athletes and we study individuals across the performance spectrum, from Olympic athletes to those undertaking physically demanding occupations, or individuals with chronic diseases where exercise is medicine. 

Our outstanding educational, research and innovation activities are supported by our laboratories – such as the Extreme Environments Laboratory – and our unique testing facilities including the sports and human performance testing unit and sports bra testing unit. The School has received funding for its excellent research from many notable organisations, including charities, governing bodies, health groups, industry, defence and research funding bodies.


We offer a wide range of professionally accredited and research informed courses in the sport, health and Exercise science domain. Both our undergraduate and postgraduate degree pathways reflect the thematic strengths of the school providing an educational platform that bridges the gap between science and application, creating a diverse and comprehensive educational experience for our students.

A degree through our School is more than just a stepping stone – we offer experience in the field of applied science, sports management and collaborative research in the commercial industry and the international community.

Our teaching areas

Sport science courses

A career in the sport and exercise industry – in whatever field you are aiming for – starts with one of our courses in sport and exercise science.

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Sport and Exercise Science Short Courses

Explore the short courses and continuing professional development (CPD) programmes we offer in sport and exercise science.

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In our submission to the Research Excellence Framework 2021 (REF 2021), 95% of our overall research quality was rated as world-leading or internationally excellent in terms of originality, significance and rigour (REF 2021) and 100% of our research impact case studies were rated as outstanding in terms of their reach and significance. This included research in improving water safety, protecting workers in arduous conditions, and research improving athlete safety and enhancing sports performance in extreme environments.

Explore the work we're doing within our research group and related areas of expertise. 

Extreme Environments & Occupational Performance Research Group

Extreme Environments & Occupational Performance Research Group investigates the physiological and psychological responses to adverse environments (e.g. heat, cold, and hypoxia) and the preparation and protection of those who enter such environments.

Extreme Environments
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Culture, Behaviour, Inclusivity and Governance

We investigate innovative social science methodologies, laboratory techniques, and longitudinal interventions that provide insights towards performance enhancement and psychosocial development through sport.

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Physical Activity, Health and Rehabilitation Group

We're investigating ways to increase physical activity, how to rehabilitate individuals from conditions that prevent them from being active, and exploring the positive benefits of physical activity in a variety of clinical and non-clinical contexts.

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Research in the School of Sport, Health and Exercise Science

Learn more about the groundbreaking research in several key areas and themes being carried out at the School of Sport, Health and Exercise Science.

Dr Joe Costello:

Our research spans the broader area of sport, health and exercise. We have three research themes. The first is Extreme Environments focuses on the selection, preparation and protection of those who enter extreme environments. The second is physical activity, health and rehabilitation. So we focus on clinical and also non-clinical conditions and also how physical activity can help improve the lives of people. Our third and final theme, Individual, occupational and organisational performance looks to see how we can improve the performance of individuals, organisations and teams. 

The facilities that I use at the university is our biomechanics lab. The types of equipment that we use is a 3D-camera system. Which allows us to put markers on an individual and track their movement in 3D so we can really look at their movement in detail. We also use force platforms to have a look at the ground reaction forces and also EMG as well, which is Electromyography, which allows us to look at muscle activity and we can track that through different rehabilitation processes.

So the outcomes that I've seen from my research has been improvements in walking speed, for example, which we know is one of the high outcomes of quality of life for individuals who live with stroke. In sort of the preliminary research that we've had a look at, it's looking positive in terms of using different robotic rehabilitations to improve functional outcomes of individuals with stroke.

I'm based with the Extreme Environments Group and they've built a reputation over many years of looking at the physiological responses to all of our different extreme environments. So our heat, our cold and our hypoxia, we can effectively recreate any environment that you would come across on Earth. So we've got a heat chamber that can go up to around about 50 degrees. We've got a cold chamber that can go down to about -20. And then we also have another environmental chamber that contains a flume. And then, all three of those chambers can create a hypoxic environment or simulate altitude so we can go anywhere from sea level to around about 8000 metres. So, we could effectively put someone in a rainforest, in a desert, up the top of Mount Everest.

The facilities and expertise that we have in Portsmouth are among the best in the world. With the heating, we can increase the temperature in the flume and use the mechanism to move people into the flume and control how hot they get by adjusting their position. We have a plunge pool as well in one of the other environmental chambers, and then also we can simply just use normal hot tubs.

In terms of career opportunities, the great thing about the extreme environments work in particular is that often exposure to these extreme environments often mimics clinical conditions. So as well as continuing to be able to offer guidance and work in the areas specific to extreme environments, it also opens up a really nice avenue for you to then go in to work in hospitals, in more clinical populations.

I'm really proud of the research that I do. There's been some particular individuals who wouldn't leave their house at all, even if a member of their family went with them. And now, at the end of their intervention, are happy to walk to the corner shop, even on their own and that has a massive impact on their quality of life, and that's really amazing.

Some of the research that's come out of this school has heavily informed the 'RNLI: Respect the Water Campaign' over the last couple of years, and that's something that makes me passionate to continue working at the University of Portsmouth.

Our staff

We’re an ambitious, collegiate, innovative and caring School. We trust, empower and support individuals to work effectively, either independently or collaboratively.

We strive for a gender balance in our staff, and for professional excellence in all that we do within a community that endorses equality, diversity and an authentic sense of belonging.


Richard Charles Thelwell Portrait

Professor Richard Thelwell

Head of Department

School of Sport, Health, and Exercise Science

Faculty of Science and Health

PhD Supervisor

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Jennifer Louise Burbage Portrait

Dr Jenny Burbage

Associate Head (Students)

School of Sport, Health, and Exercise Science

Faculty of Science and Health

PhD Supervisor

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Chris Mills Portrait

Dr Chris Mills

Associate Head (Academic)

School of Sport, Health, and Exercise Science

Faculty of Science and Health

PhD Supervisor

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Timothy Exell Portrait

Dr Timothy Exell

Associate Head (Employability and Placements)

School of Sport, Health, and Exercise Science

Faculty of Science and Health

PhD Supervisor

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Michael Rayner Portrait

Dr Mike Rayner

Associate Head (Global Engagement and Education Partnerships)

School of Sport, Health, and Exercise Science

Faculty of Science and Health

PhD Supervisor

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Joseph Costello Portrait

Dr Joe Costello

Associate Head (Research and Innovation)

School of Sport, Health, and Exercise Science

Faculty of Science and Health

PhD Supervisor

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Gender equality commitment

At the School of Sport, Health and Exercise Science we hold the Athena SWAN Bronze Award. This represents our commitment to advancing the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) in higher education and research.

Athena SWAN principles are central to the development of our School. They encourage, support and reinforce our evaluation process. This helps us identify areas of equality and inclusivity to work on. We perform annual culture surveys of our staff and research students to monitor how our gender equality aims impact them.

Our aims for gender equality

  • Investigate the factors that influence females’ choice of degree and university to increase our recruitment of female students to our undergraduate courses
  • Give part-time PhD students a better work-life balance through online support
  • Consult our staff on committee membership and career development
  • Implement transparent allocation of committee membership
  • Make sure, where possible, there's an even gender split for invited speakers at events hosted by our School
  • Develop and maintain a school-based Athena SWAN e-learning site to inform our staff of Athena SWAN issues
  • Increase the support we give staff returning from parental leave

Explore our faculty

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School of Health and Care Professions

The School of Health and Care Professions offers exceptional health and social care education to meet the current and future needs of the health and social care sectors.

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School of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences

Through our teaching and research, the School of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences strives to find new ways to help those with debilitating illnesses and diseases.

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Department of Psychology

Explore the Department of Psychology at the University of Portsmouth, and learn more about the teaching and research activities happening within the department.

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Faculty of Science and Health

Explore the Faculty of Science and Health at the University of Portsmouth, and learn more about the teaching and research activities that take place within the Faculty's different departments and schools.

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Contact us

To get in touch, please contact our Faculty office.

+44 (0)23 9284 2994


Email Faculty office