student on exercise bike with heart rate monitor attached

Sport & Exercise

Use your skills to help improve human sporting performance

Sport and Exercise Science focuses on applying physiological, psychological and biomechanical principles to help improve human sporting performance. One biomechanical principle is Balance. What is balance? Why do we need it, both in sport and in everyday life, and how we maintain and improve it for sporting performance?

On this page:

  • Understand how we balance and why it’s so important for top athletes
  • Have a go at testing some conditions of balance
  • Learn about studying Biomechanics and the careers it can lead to

Understanding the principle of balance

The images below show two scenarios that both require balance despite being very different. What do the two activities have in common, and what does this tell us about “balance”?

How do we balance?

Our centre of mass, stability and our own senses can all impact our ability to balance - both in everyday life and in sport. 

In the image, the centre of mass is represented by the blue circle, and the red area represents the size of the base the person is standing on. Although the centre of mass of the person’s body hasn’t moved, the size of the base they are standing on has. In the first image, the centre of mass has a larger area over which to keep the person stable. In the second image the person has to raise her arms to achieve a similar level of stability or balance. This is why you feel less balanced standing on one leg compared to standing on two.

Balance testing

There are many conditions that can affect our balance. Some of the easiest conditions to test are our own senses - our eyes, ears and touch all play a significant part in our ability to balance.

Experiment with some of these sensory conditions in this activity and see what you learn about your own balance.

Measuring balance in Sport and Exercise Science

Within Sport and Exercise Science it is important to be able to measure the performance of balance to help athletes identify areas for improving their sporting performance. To do this we use a piece of equipment called a Force Plate that measures the forces we apply to the ground in different positions. By measuring where this force acts we can determine the areas for improvement and provide strategies to help, such as strength training for supporting muscle groups.

line graph of balance being measured

Why studying balance is important & career opportunities

Balance is one area of Biomechanics that Sport and Exercise Science students might study at University. By understanding how we achieve balance and the conditions that affect it, students can contribute to improvements in many aspects of both sporting performance, and everyday life. These include:

  • Reducing fall risk
  • Improving sporting performance
  • Reduce the likelihood of injury
  • Enhancing injury rehabilitation

If you’re excited by biomechanics and sport, there are lots of places that a Sport and Exercise Science degree can take you that focus on biomechanics. Some of our graduates have gone on to work in these areas:

  • Strength and conditioning
  • Health and fitness training
  • Sport Science support (UK Sport, professional clubs)
  • Teaching and education
  • The NHS

Find out more about Sport Science courses at university