Clinical Exercise Physiology launches at Edinburgh Napier

Programme leader Dr Amanda Pitkethly discusses the need for Clinical Exercise Physiologists in today’s workforce, what the subject is all about and what careers you can go into if you choose to study this masters course at Edinburgh Napier University.

What is Clinical Exercise Physiology?

CEPs specialises in the prescription and delivery of evidence-based exercise interventions to optimise the prevention, treatment and long term management of acute, sub-acute, chronic and complex conditions.

As a graduate Clinical Exercise Physiologist, you may work in a range of primary, secondary and tertiary care settings as part of a multidisciplinary team of health care and rehabilitation providers.

CEP services aim to optimise physical function and health and promote long-term wellness through lifestyle modification and behaviour change across the lifespan.

Why should people study this as a post-graduate degree?

Our MSc programme develops the skills that graduates need to meet the Academy for Healthcare Sciences (AHCS) Standards of Proficiency which are in line with the Health Care Professions Council (HCPC) Standards of Proficiency.

We teach the curriculum framework developed by Clinical Exercise Physiology-UK (CEP-UK), delivering the required knowledge and skills to be a competent Clinical Exercise Physiologist in the UK. Completing this MSc forms part of the requirement for eligibility to register with the AHCS.

What kind of career can I go into when I graduate from this programme?

The role of CEP is to work as part of healthcare teams across healthcare settings from hospital to community. For example, within:

  • Secondary care pre/rehabilitation settings
  • Primary Care
  • Private hospital settings
  • Public and private multidisciplinary clinics and leisure services
  • Defence Medical Services n Population/Public health/ Policy advisors
  • Workplace health and rehabilitation
  • Research/Academia

What will a clinical exercise physiologist do?

CEPs specialise in exercise testing and assessment, alongside the design, delivery and evaluation of evidence-based exercise interventions. CEP scope of practice encompasses apparently healthy individuals to those with chronic and complex conditions, along the care pathway from primary prevention, through acute management, to rehabilitation and maintenance. Interventions are exercise or physical activity-based and also include health and physical activity education, advice and support for lifestyle modification and behaviour change. CEPs work in a range of primary, secondary and tertiary care settings as part of a multidisciplinary team of health care and rehabilitation providers and in community settings.

Do I need any previous experience in this area to apply to the course?

The usual entry requirements for the courses are an undergraduate degree in a sport and exercise science (or related area i.e. your undergraduate degree must include the common elements of a sport and exercise science degree i.e. physiology, psychology and biomechanics). Additional vocational training (e.g. CIMSPA Gym Instructor etc) and experience working in health and fitness is not necessary but would support your studies well.

What do you look forward to most about teaching this course?

As a programme team, we are proud to be part of this brand new registered profession in the UK, we are all passionate about developing truly empathic, reflective and professional scientist-practitioners who enjoy helping individuals with health conditions, and who can also make an important impact in our healthcare systems in the same way that other countries, e.g. Australia, have been doing for 20+ years.

Why should I choose to study Clinical Exercise Physiology at Edinburgh Napier?

Since 2016, we have a track record in Edinburgh, and Scotland more widely, for developing clinical exercise scientists. Many of our previous graduates have gone on to valuable work in healthcare systems and research. Our team of excellent academics have so much to offer including: international reach and esteem, involvement in the recognition of the profession of CEP in the UK and its promotion, involvement in developing the national curriculum, applied clinical experience and much more.

To learn more about the course and apply, visit

Exercise Prescription should be offered as part of cancer treatment

A global panel of exercise oncology experts published new guidance recommending the systematic use of an “exercise prescription” to help cancer patients cope with treatment side effects and lower the risk of developing certain cancers.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) convened the group, including Professor Anna Campbell from Edinburgh Napier’s School of Applied Sciences, from 17 international partner organisations. The group reviewed the latest scientific evidence and offered recommendations about the benefits of exercise for prevention, treatment, recovery and improved survival.

ACSM Immediate Past President Katie Schmitz, who co-chaired the panel, said: “With more than 43 million cancer survivors worldwide, we have a growing need to address the unique health issues facing people living with and beyond cancer and better understand how exercise may help prevent and control cancer. This multidisciplinary group of leaders at the forefront of exercise oncology aimed to translate the latest scientific evidence into practical recommendations for clinicians and the public and to create global impact through a unified voice.”

Edinburgh Napier’s Professor Campbell has been working in the area of exercise and cancer survivorship for 20 years – particularly in the area of implementation of exercise programmes after a cancer diagnosis.

She said: “These updated recommendations are designed to convince clinicians to refer and to help cancer patients to incorporate physical activity into their recuperation.  These papers demonstrate how much the area of exercise oncology has developed over the past five years in terms of the strength of evidence of the benefits of staying active after a cancer diagnosis, more clarity on specific guidelines and finally how to put a referral pathway and implementation of programmes into practice.”

Turning their theory into practice, Gary MacDougall, a 48-year-old man from Edinburgh who had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer joined Professor Campbell and her team’s exercise-focused programme in April 2018. He claims that during his first six chemotherapy sessions he “became stronger and fitter.” Remarkably his tumour had shrunk to the point where he was eligible for surgery. He said “Whether it was chemotherapy, fitness, diet or just ‘hope’ – I believe they all played a part – the doctors were exceptionally surprised my tumour shrunk enough in those first six chemotherapy sessions and gave me the chance to have surgery. That operation was a year ago and after six further chemotherapy sessions I am still here, and my cancer markers are looking good.”

The new guidance and recommendations, for use by health care and fitness professionals when creating exercise programmes for cancer patients and survivors, include:

  • For all adults, exercise is important for cancer prevention and specifically lowers risk of seven common types of cancer: colon, breast, endometrial, kidney, bladder, esophagus and stomach.
  • For cancer survivors, incorporate exercise to help improve survival after a diagnosis of breast, colon and prostate cancer.
  • Exercising during and after cancer treatment improves fatigue, anxiety, depression, physical function, quality of life and does not exacerbate lymphedema.
  • Continue research that will drive the integration of exercise into the standard of care for cancer.
  • Translate into practice the increasingly robust evidence base about the positive effects of exercise for cancer patients.

Organisations represented on the international panel include the American Cancer Society, the US-based National Cancer Institute, the Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology, Macmillan Cancer Support and the German Union for Health Exercise.

Full details of the review and recommendations are outlined in three academic papers published in two scientific journals.  Edinburgh Napier’s Professor Campbell co-authored “Exercise Is Medicine in Oncology: Engaging Clinicians to Help Patients Move Through Cancer,” which was published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, a flagship journal of the American Cancer Society.

Make a positive difference to peoples’ lives through Clinical Exercise Science

Due to the prevalence of long-term health conditions in our modern society, and our developing understanding of the health benefits of exercise and physical activity, there is an important need to develop highly skilled postgraduates in Clinical Exercise Science.

To enhance your career prospects, Edinburgh Napier has developed a unique course that will provide you with specialised, evidence-based, clinical exercise science knowledge, as well as plenty of hands on experience and the applied skills required to work with both healthy and clinical populations.

On this course you can expect to learn about many long-term conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, neurological conditions and different types of cancer and the role that physical activity and exercise can play in both the prevention and treatment of such conditions.

We want our students to have as much hands on experience as possible. With that in mind the Clinical Exercise Science MSc includes a large practical component where you will learn to run exercise tests, screen patients, prescribe exercise programmes and learn motivational interviewing techniques. We think it is important that our graduates not only know the physiology of exercise and physical activity, but also have an excellent understanding of what motivates people and how you can help people to incorporate physical activity and exercise into their lives. Clearly we are very concerned with research, but more importantly we are concerned with the impact that research has in the real world and what this does for the health of both general and clinical populations. The most important thing that a clinical exercise scientist does is make a positive difference to peoples’ lives. This course will give you the knowledge and skills required to go out and do this confidently.

This course is designed to allow our students to gain the professional skills and knowledge that are required to work in the area of Clinical Exercise Science.

Whether your background is sport/exercise science, psychology, physical activity and health or perhaps you work as a healthcare professional we want to hear from you. Our students come from a very wide variety of backgrounds. In addition to your academic qualifications you will also be given the opportunity to sit the REPS and CIMSPA Validated Level 4 Cancer and Exercise examinations. We want to offer you learning experiences which will enable you to be in the best possible position to exploit the increasing career opportunities as an exercise professional, whether as a physical activity coordinator, a health and well-being physiologist; a clinical exercise physiologist or an exercise referral coordinator.

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