Our Sport and Exercise Sciences, Leisure and Tourism submission to REF 2021 comprised 21 staff, nearly three times the number of staff that we submitted in REF 2014. Our increased critical mass, thematic research framework, unique facilities and targeted investments have helped grow our capability. This has enabled notable increases in our research outputs published in top-quartile journals and with international collaborators, a significant growth in our research income (from £1,008,587 to £2,416,079), and increased postgraduate research student completions.

Results in REF 2021

  • 95% of our overall research quality was rated as world-leading or internationally excellent in terms of originality, significance and rigour.
  • 100% of our impact case studies were rated as outstanding in terms of their reach and significance.
  • 91.5% of our research outputs were rated as world-leading or internationally excellent in terms of originality, significance and rigour.

Research areas

Our research takes place across three multidisciplinary thematic research groups: 

Our Extreme Environments group investigates the physiology, pathophysiology, psychology and psychophysiology of extreme terrestrial and aquatic environments, and the selection, preparation and protection of individuals required to operate in these environments.

Our Physical Activity, Health and Rehabilitation employs exercise and non-pharmacological approaches to understand and manage chronic disease conditions. They also examine barriers to exercise and approaches to overcoming them, including rehabilitation from conditions preventing physical activity.

Our Individual, Organisational and Occupational Performance group undertakes research integrating physiological, psychological and biomechanical aspects of human performance. The group also investigates the physical demands of arduous jobs. 

Impact case studies

We submitted three impact case studies demonstrating the reach and significance of our research in the following areas:

Triathlete running uphill

Athletes in extreme environments: changing policy and practice, improving safety and enhancing performance

Water-safety regulations used by the International Triathlon Union and Fédération Internationale de Natation are based on our research and are protecting athletes in over 200 countries, across two sports. Our research has also been used by the English Institute of Sport to support the preparation of Team GB athletes competing in extreme environments, contributing to Olympic and Paralympic successes.

Fireman are training for rescue

Protecting workers in arduous occupations

We helped to define the requirements and evaluation process for a new load-carriage and body-armour system that has increased the British Army’s fighting capability, and have improved the care of soldiers who have become injured operating in extreme hot or cold conditions. Our occupational research has changed the policies of groups including the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), the Royal Air Force (RAF) and Surf Lifesaving GB. It has also informed UK Government flood rescue guidance and underpinned international aviation-safety legislation for helicopter emergency breathing apparatus. 

Choppy waters with floating life ring buoy

Improving water safety: informing international and UK policies, changing behaviour and practice, and saving lives

Our research underpins ‘Respect the Water’ a national water-safety campaign that has changed water-safety behaviour and saved lives. It is used in children’s water-safety training and has been incorporated into the practice, policies and recommendations of national and international water-safety organisations. We have prevented the deaths of UK fishermen through changing lifejacket legislation and underpinned International Search and Rescue guidelines. 

Collaborations and partnerships

  • International Triathlon Union 
  • Fédération Internationale de Natation
  • Surf Lifesaving GB
  • RNLI’s ‘Respect the Water’ campaign
  • UK defence
  • English Institute of Sport
  • Various other industry partners

Facilities and resources

  • Extreme Environments Laboratory
  • Multi-purpose research laboratories
  • Sports hall and studio complex
  • Biomechanics and motor control laboratory
  • Psychology laboratory
  • Interview and transcription room
  • Olympic lifting suite
  • Clinical exercise testing facility in the Wessex Kidney Centre
  • Mobile field-data collection facilities