Heart rate monitor tracking student on exercise bike

Understanding how the body responds to the challenge of elite physical activity

  • 23 December 2021
  • 3 min read

Sport and Exercise Science involves an complete understanding of physiology – the science of life.

Depending on what Sport and Exercise Science course you study, you'll explore the psychological and biomechanical principles to help improve athletic performance.

Why study Sport and Exercise Science?

To break records, push boundaries and help people perform at their best.

You'll learn how to optimise factors in sport and then apply it to things like physiology, psychology, biochemistry, biomechanics and nutrition. Get ready to investigate how we can boost health and wellbeing through physical activity.

Careers and opportunities in Sport and Exercise Science

In today's health-conscious world, the sports and health industries continue to expand. And job opportunities are vast in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors. Prepare to follow our students into careers like:

  • Health and fitness training
  • Professional sports clubs, including UK Sport
  • Schools and higher education institutions
  • The health sector, including the NHS
  • Private health and fitness clubs, spas and public sports
  • Setting up your own business or consultancy

An introduction to Sport and Exercise Science using Biomechanics

Biomechanics explores how exercise can help us understand how our bodies work – from what the limits of human endurance are, to how they're affected by chronic health conditions. It's used to improve performance and reduce injury risk. Take a look at this through the biomechanical principle of balance.

How do we balance?

What is balance? Why do we need it, both in sport and in everyday life, and how do we maintain and improve it for sporting performance?

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 images below, 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.

cartoon image highlighting how we use our core and feet to balance

Measuring balance

Balance is measured to help athletes identify areas for improving their sporting performance.

To do this we use a piece of equipment called a force plate.

This 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.

Why is studying balance important?

By understanding how we achieve balance and the conditions that affect it, you'll contribute to improvements in many aspects of both sporting performance and everyday life, including:

  • Reducing fall risk
  • Improving sporting performance
  • Reduce the likelihood of injury 
  • Enhancing injury rehabilitation
Sport and Exercise Psychology
Interested in the psychology of sport?

Sport and exercise psychologists help athletes manage the mental demands of their sport. Ciara graduated in 2021 with a BSc and MSc in Sport and Exercise Psychology from the University of Portsmouth. She's now a Wellbeing Access Worker for Herts Mind Network. See what Ciara’s role entails and how she’s applying the skills she learnt during her time at Portsmouth.


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