The four pillars
The course aims to develop you as an applied physiology practitioner, with the necessary skills to work across a range of clients, from those who are exercising for health benefits or who have clinical complications, through to athletes in sport and performance settings.
We'll help you develop the hard skills needed to assess physiological function, but also the softer skills essential when working with people. Practitioners need to have emotional intelligence, where they are self-aware and able to manage themselves, but also able to read the needs of clients and different situations.
We recognise that our students come with a variety of skills and experiences and we'll draw upon these as we develop you into a well-rounded and effective applied exercise physiology practitioner.
Physiology is central to every module of our course with most sessions taking place in one of our six sport and exercise science laboratories, or our teaching focussed strength and conditioning gym.
During your MSc, you will learn how to use sophisticated equipment and techniques (12-lead ECG, spirometery, breath-by-breath gas systems, cardio-pulmonary exercise testing, neuromuscular fatigue, tolerance to environmental extremes) and advance your practice with equipment you have already used. You'll develop your laboratory skills during the two-week intensive Skills for Physiological Assessment module that sees you profiling a client of your choice within six weeks of commencing the degree. This module is 90% practical and fully immerses you into the course, postgraduate study and university life.
Subsequent modules deepen your understanding of integrative exercise physiology through advanced laboratory practicals and you collecting data of real-life case scenarios you could encounter as an applied physiology practitioner.
The core Clinical Exercise Physiology module will reinforce key physiological concepts covered in the first part of the course, with an added layer of complexity and application to different disease states. Being able to implement different exercise protocols such as cardio-pulmonary exercise testing, spirometry exercise challenge test and hypoxic fit-to-fly challenge test, across different populations, will be a strong feature.
Science in practice
Science is at the heart of our MSc and embedded in a manner to enhance your applied practice. We'll develop your scientific rigour to assess, interpret and disseminate physiological data and information, and we see this as another tool to add to your practitioner toolbox.
Of great importance is the confidence you will gain in your ability to critique your own scientific work and that of others, so that you become a life-long, independent and critical thinker.
Our Science in Practice module will help you learn how to best to manage and work with your data so you can interpret it across sport and exercise populations.
Personal and professional development
You will gain 100 hours of real-world experience in areas relevant to your interests by working alongside experienced practitioners. Some placements take place within the university and others with external partners.
Past exercise and clinical-based projects within the university have included working with participants in cardiac rehabilitation, falls prevention and those recovering from cancer. Students have also helped to develop university guidance and policy for a heatwave health plan, while others worked with altitude awareness charity, Para-Monte to develop altitude illness guidance. Health-based placements external to the university have included working with respiratory healthcare NHS Trusts, long-COVID specific NHS Trusts, cancer rehabilitation and prehabilitation, cardiology wards, as well as charities focussed around mental health.
Projects for students wanting to keep a blend of sport and exercise have included working with our satellite British Triathlon programme, Brighton & Hove Albion FCs Albion in the Community, hypoxic training to mountaineers linked to Para-Monte, leading our annual Marathon des Sables Heat Acclimation Programme, and the International Paralympic Committee ahead of the Paralympic Games preparing heat mitigation resources.
Many of our students choose to take opportunities across multiple placement experiences and outside of the university, working across the public, private and charitable sectors.
A key feature of how we develop you personally and professionally is encouraging introspection, so you can learn more about yourself in terms of learning styles, roles in a team and how you approach being a leader.
All your modules can have an exercise physiology focus. You will take four 20-credit core modules, each finding their root in at least one of the course’s pillars. In addition, you will take two 20-credit option modules and complete a 60-credit final research project. Modules are delivered in different ways to enhance your learning.
You will learn through a mixture of taught sessions, tutorials, group work, independent study and through work-related activities. There is a strong practical element where we have a mindset of 'learn in the doing', as most classes take place in either our exercise physiology laboratories, research and performance gym, or a computer class with a ratio of 2:20, staff to students.
Our course is taught on two days, normally on a Tuesday and a Wednesday - see the part-time and full-time tabs for more details. Most modules are delivered across one semester.
The research project module is delivered over five, two-day blocks as you prepare to carry out your own research study later in the academic year.
Module assessment will aim to provide opportunities for you to show your understanding through informed, reflective, critical and analytical application of ideas. Depending on the approach judged most suitable to test the learning outcomes, assessments could include written assignments such as essays, critiques, laboratory reports, presentations, practical laboratory technique exams and reflective documents.
Each module will be assessed separately and have formative assessments that aim to provide you with feedback on your progress as you prepare for summative assessments.
You are able to book individual tutorials with every lecturer. Group tutorials are also scheduled into our teaching programmes.
In addition to the course leader, who is responsible for your education and development, you will be assigned an academic tutor to support your academic progress and your employability.
The course is flexible in that it allows you to exit with a postgraduate certificate at the end of one semester (three 20-credit modules) or a postgraduate diploma at the end of two semesters (six 20-credit modules). You must complete the 60-credit research project to qualify for the MSc.
Areas of study
A core value of our course is ‘learn in the doing’ and we bring an explicit, practitioner-focused learning approach to developing your craft knowledge as you journey towards being an effective practitioner
We want you to gain confidence in your ability to interact with clients, design and conduct exercise testing, explain physiological responses to exercise and training, and prescribe effective exercise interventions.
In taught physiology modules, you'll experience and discuss the responses of the human body to various stimuli, including acute and chronic bouts of exercise, effect of environmental changes (using our thermal and hypoxic chambers) or of ergogenic aids which can be used to simulate peculiar clinical conditions and help you better understand human physiological responses and ultimately the benefits of exercise in healthy and clinical populations.
Our commonly used ‘solution to the problem’ approach to learning and teaching integrative physiology will help you to develop a host of laboratory skills while providing guiding principles to apply to any exercise physiology situation you encounter in the future.
Most of our modules are taught in our sport and exercise science laboratories where you’ll learn to be a practitioner of tomorrow.
With Personal and Professional Development, you'll also gain vocational skills to give you a competitive edge in the job market. Placement opportunities and chances to network in the world of exercise physiology, will ensure you graduate with a foot firmly in the industry. You will spend around 100 hours with one or more an organisations related to the practice of exercise physiology, which will allow you to apply your academic knowledge in an applied setting. We use lectures to introduce themes around emotional intelligence and ethical and moral dilemmas in the workplace and seminars as a teaching vehicle for you to reflect on your experiences, and hear the experiences of others, as you develop to being a practitioner.
To complement the physiology you'll learn, the client and your safety as a practitioner are discussed from a health and safety and risk stratification perspective, but also with awareness towards the ethical implications. This is an important feature as you move towards your own research project, where you'll embark upon a project that links to your chosen employment route.
You will be able to choose to write a dissertation, a research paper or a case study report - some of our past students have published their own work. Your ability to work with data and illuminate the meaning by using different statistical approaches is another important feature of the course and we will guide you to be able to use a range of concepts and techniques on physiology data you collect.
- Skills for Physiological Assessment (20 credits)
- Science in Practice (20 credits)
- Personal and Professional Development (20 credits)
- Clinical Exercise Physiology (20 credits)
- Final Research Project (60 credits)
The Skills for Physiological Assessment module is delivered intensively in the first two weeks of the course.
Option modules* (20 credits each)
- Exercise Tolerance (Integrative Physiology)
- Applied Environmental Physiology
- Science of Physical Performance and Training
- Professional-based Learning
*Option modules are indicative and may change, depending on timetabling and staff availability.
While there is an expectation for you to share the position of physiologist and exerciser during laboratory practicals, this is not compulsory, making the course suitable for those with a disability or health condition.
Find out how we support students with disabilities.
Our course is taught over two days, usually Tuesdays and Wednesdays, however days are subject to timetabling and may change from one year to the next. In addition you are expected to practice skills and carry out exercise testing outside of the taught element of the course.
Example timetable for full-time study:
- First two weeks of the course: Skills for Physiological Assessment module
- Throughout the 10 weeks: Science in Practice module and option module
- Throughout the 10 weeks: Clinical Exercise Physiology module and option module
Throughout the year
- Final Research Project
- Personal and Professional Development module
Our course is taught over two days a week; usually Tuesdays and Wednesdays. In addition, you are expected to practice skills and carry out exercise testing outside of the taught element of the course.
As a part-time student you will discuss your personal circumstances and progress on a regular basis with the course leader. Most part-time students complete their course in two years and some in three years. Some select a part-time mode of study if they want to spend longer gathering relevant experience to improve their employability.
Our approach is to accommodate you in the best way we can and optimise your learning throughout your study. The choice of modules taken each year may therefore depend on your own unique circumstances.
We can adapt your timetable to fit with your other commitments. Some students have attended taught sessions just one day a week for the majority of their time with us.
Example timetable for part-time study over two years.
- First two weeks of course: Skills for Physiological Assessment module
- Tuesdays throughout Semester 1: Science in Practice module
- Tuesdays throughout Semester 2: Clinical Exercise Physiology module
- Wednesdays throughout Semester 1: Personal and Professional Development module and Option module 1
- Wednesdays throughout Semester 2: Personal and Professional Development module and Option module 2
- Throughout the year: Final Research Project
From September 2024 this course will be taught at our Brighton, Falmer campus. The Falmer campus is being redesigned, renovated and upgraded and will have lots of new facilities for sport and health science students.
As a Brighton student you'll use our sport science facilities which include:
- biochemistry lab
- biomechanical lab with running track and 3D motion analysis
- blood analysis lab
- data Analysis room
- exercise rehabilitation gym
- kinanthropometry lab housing our DEXA Scanner
- neuromuscular lab housing our isokinetic dynamometers
- psychology lab
- physiology lab
- research lab
- strength and conditioning suite
- two environmental labs which will house our dual environment chamber
- VR screen room which will house the Igloo 210.
You may also use our extensive Falmer campus sport facilities as part of your studies. These include outdoor grass football pitches, floodlit synthetic pitches and courts, indoor swimming pool, large fitness suite and sports hall with netball, volleyball, basketball and badminton courts, and cricket nets.
You won't be able to view the new facilities until autumn 2024 but you can get a feel for them by watching the short video, and checking out our current facilities and Falmer 2024 information.
Dr Neil Maxwell, course leader
Dr Neil Maxwell is a Reader of Applied Environmental Physiology within the School of Sport and Health Sciences at the University of Brighton.
Neil aims for his research and innovation to translate into advocacy globally, on how to live and engage in effective physical activity safely in inhospitable environments, prioritising risk stratification and mitigation / therapeutic strategies to benefit at-risk populations (eg athletes, occupational and clinically symptomatic). He leads the Environmental Extremes Laboratory, where his research focus is towards heat reactions during exercise and evaluating practical heat mitigation methods (eg heat acclimation, pre and per cooling and hydration manoeuvres) across sport, health and clinical populations. He also investigates how to determine altitude tolerance while working with altitude awareness charity, Para-Monte.
He believes that his experience in education has engendered an empathy when working with the different needs of students and he is prepared to try unorthodox teaching methods in the context of sport and exercise science, and particularly physiology, to stimulate their interest and make learning enjoyable.
As course leader for the MSc in Applied Exercise Physiology and Applied Sport Physiology degrees, Neil believes his primary role is to facilitate student development of those hard, technical and soft interpersonal skills that are essential to being an effective applied physiology practitioner.
Other key members of the teaching team
Sport at Brighton
Sport Brighton brings together our sport and recreation services. As a Brighton student you’ll have use of sport and fitness facilities across all our campuses and there are opportunities to play for fun, fitness or take part in serious competition.
Find out more about Sport Brighton.
Our sports scholarship scheme is designed to help students develop their full sporting potential to train and compete at the highest level. We offer scholarships for elite athletes, elite disabled athletes and talented sports performers.
Find out more about Sport Scholarships.