Skip to content


Sport, Health and Performance Enhancement Research Centre

Unit(s) of assessment: Sport and Exercise Sciences, Leisure and Tourism

School: School of Science and Technology


The Centre is well known for its strong research base in its core areas of sport, health and performance enhancement. The Centre is comprised of four operational Research Groups: namely Musculoskeletal Physiology, Sport in Society, Exercise and Health and Sports Performance that work to deliver upon SHAPE’s strategic aims for the current REF period:

(1) To further develop and grow (with a specific target of doubling the number of active research staff in SHAPE) an inclusive and sustainable research environment in sport and exercise sciences at NTU, with a specific aim of establishing a strong national and international reputation;
(2) To increase the average quality of our research outputs during this time of expansion;
(3) To impact positively upon performance and health through the delivery of high-quality services and consultancy that is underpinned by our excellent research.

The achievement of these strategic aims has been realised through the identification of the following key enabling drivers:

(1) The creation of a high-calibre physical environment to enable world-leading sport-related research;
(2) Investment in both research and researcher, with a focus on promoting equality and diversity;
(3) A dissemination strategy to raise the profile of SHAPE emphasising its placement, prominence and eminence in its areas of expertise.

Related Groups

The Musculoskeletal Physiology Research Group

Sport and Society

Sport and Society comprises early-career researchers publishing high quality scholarship relating to the socio-cultural dimensions of sport, health and exercise. Our eclectic research programmes are unified by a commitment to socially relevant scholarship that impacts significant issues and debates across sociology, psychology, and related fields. Research undertaken by Group members has been supported by national funding bodies (British Academy, Economic and Social Research Council, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada) as well as leading institutions (NHS Clinical Commissions Group, UNESCO) and organisations (Premier League, England Boxing, Rethink Mental Illness) in sport, health and exercise. Through these relationships the Group connects published research pertaining to diverse issues of violence, pollution, mental health, and gender discrimination, into real-world community initiatives, media communications, and policy. Our commitment to interdisciplinarity beyond the social sciences informs projects analysing sex difference in professional golf, biological discourse in men’s health, and the environmental implications of protein powder consumption. Doctoral students studying sport medicine provisions and the commercialisation of genetic testing further underscore the interdisciplinary focus and intellectual culture valued by the Group. The impact of this research in shaping governing policy, press briefings, and community initiatives, evidences our commitment to world-leading, socially relevant scholarship.

Exercise and Health

Exercise and Health is dedicated to exploring strategies and interventions which aim to improve peoples’ lives. The group is highly collaborative, welcoming and passionate about producing work of the highest possible quality and rigour. This is reflected in the group’s outstanding research outputs and vibrant national and international collaborations.  The group has three main areas of activity; Dr. Barnett’s team focuses on understanding gait, balance and postural control with a particular focus on lower limb amputation. Dr Barnett’s work explores how well amputees adapt to and tolerate prosthetic devices, vital to restoring mobility and he is part of a multi-site NIHR project (£248,894.00) exploring patient acceptability of a novel prosthetic device.  Prof Nevil and Dr Cooper’s work examines the interplay of exercise and nutrition and how they affect cognitive function (a key determinant of academic achievement) and cardio-metabolic disease risk in young people. The rising level of childhood obesity underlines the importance of this work. Dr Cooper was recently awarded £35,462 by the Waterloo Foundation to explore the effect of exercise on cognitive performance, self-control and resilience in adolescents with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.  Dr Sharpe’s team focuses on respiratory physiology, with a particular emphasis on whether the work of breathing affects exercise tolerance and whether nutritional interventions can reduce symptom severity and improve quality of life in those with asthma. The impact of this work is demonstrated by the ongoing work within English Premiership Rugby.

Sports Performance

Sports Performance completes multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research across the ages with the aim to understand and then improve both cognitive and sporting performance. In children and young people, we investigate the impact of different modes, durations and types of exercise on cognitive performance (and health) (Cooper, Nevill, Morris, Sunderland). Within the psychology domain, Dr Johnston examines different aspects of the social environment in sport and physical activity to understand how those around us (coaches, parents, peers) can best support the child athlete and help them fulfil their potential. This involves understanding what characteristics the coaches, parents and peers need to have in addition to understanding the mechanisms through which support is best provided. Within, elite youth sport populations, multidisciplinary research is also completed to understand and make recommendations related to talent identification and development in team sports (Saward, Morris, Nevill, Sunderland). Current team sport research focuses on identifying the optimal method of workload quantification to minimise time-loss incidence risk in elite Rugby Union players (Cooper, Morris, Sunderland). Research also examines the effect of team sports on cognitive function and intermittent exercise in the heat on neuromuscular and cognitive function (Malcolm, Cooper, Sunderland). Dr Felton investigates through biomechanical assessment and modelling how cricket and athletic technique can be optimised to improve performance and reduce injury. Dr Apps completes biomechanical research that focuses on footwear in terms of both agility performance of team sport players as well as plantar pressure and foot kinematics. Dr Boat’s research focuses on the effects of self-control exertion on subsequent exercise performance, as well as the psychological and physiological mechanisms that may explain this effect. In addition, her research explores intervention techniques to reduce the impact of self-control exertion on subsequent physical performance. Dr Sarkar’s research focuses individual, team, and organisational resilience.

PhD Studentships

We’re offering fully-funded PhD studentships aligned with our research centres for UK, EU or International students. Find out more about our PhD studentships


We collaborate with academics at over twenty institutions across the UK and with eight other departments (Biosciences, van Geest Cancer Research Centre, Law, Psychology, Physics & Maths, Animal, Equine and Veterinary Sciences, Engineering, Sociology) across NTU.

In addition to our local collaborations, we also have active collaborations in countries in all five continents, but we also collaborate locally and nationally. Our collaborations extend to over twenty countries worldwide, including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Egypt, Germany, Hong-Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Netherlands, Portugal, Qatar, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom and the United States.

Some examples include:


The SHAPE Research Centre is ably supported by a comprehensive research infrastructure.

Our two biomechanics laboratories house multiple motion capture systems and both ground embedded and portable force plates. These systems also have mobile EMG, accelerometery and insole pressure measurement systems. These set-ups are complemented by a host of software packages for musculoskeletal modelling, simulation and statistical analysis.

Our multifunctional sport and exercise psychology laboratory, allows both quantitative and qualitative research to be conducted. The new laboratory provides a space for interviews and focus groups and also provides the equipment for effective transcription and data analysis. Cognitive booths enable participants to complete a number of cognitive tasks requiring self-control in a controlled setting with no external distractions.

Our scanning laboratory encompasses dual x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) and peripheral quatitative computed tomography (pQCT) machines for the determination of body composition and bone mass and strength.  These machines are used extensively for our exercise, diet and bone health research. When combined with our internal collaborative capabilities in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), we have a powerful core capability for musculoskeletal imagery relating to the effects of exercise and diet on the musculoskeletal system.

Our four exercise physiology research laboratories are fully equipped with ergometers (rowing, cycling, treadmills), expired air analysis systems and blood analysers and all of the major equipment required to determine the physiological responses to exercise and diet.

The Nutrition lounge and associated kitchen provides a purpose-built area for our nutrition research, providing a relaxing environment for participants of all ages. It also encompasses cognitive function booths for the assessment of the impacts of nutrition and exercise on cognitive function.

Two environmental chambers, one of which is British Olympic Association accredited allow the manipulation of temperature, humidity and altitude for physiological, nutritional, psychological and health research.

In addition to these facilities we have access to core capabilities across the School of Science and Technology, including biosciences laboratories (including the capability for cell culture and sophisticated OMICS analyses).

All of these facilities are overseen by a team of capable and dedicated technicians who can provide valuable advice and support to our research students.