MSc Clinical Exercise Science

Postgraduate, Full-Time

This unique practical and applied course will develop specialised knowledge of clinical exercise science using an evidence-based approach to enhance your career prospects.

  • Napier code:

    74731MM

  • Course type:

    Full-Time

  • Duration:

    1 year

  • Award:

    MSc

  • Location:

    Sighthill campus

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Course introduction

This novel programme is designed for those wishing to gain and develop expert knowledge in the science of exercise assessment and prescription and learn applied techniques which will enable you to develop a career in clinical exercise science, academic research, teaching and other science based professions. The evidence demonstrating that physical activity reduces the risk of developing chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, obesity and type 2 diabetes highlights the need for clinical exercise practitioners with high level knowledge of physical activity and health who can work within community and healthcare settings.

This programme offers a well-balanced blend between practice and theory. The course is multi-disciplinary in nature covering aspects of exercise physiology, exercise and health psychology as well as clinical skills.



During your studies you will develop an advanced understanding of the research evidence in the context of clinical exercise science. You will learn to apply theoretical concepts and professional skills in practical situations likely to be encountered by a clinical exercise scientist. You will employ advanced investigative, analytical and practical techniques to advance knowledge in clinical exercise science. You will present evidence based clinical exercise prescription appropriate for a range of pathologies and in seemingly healthy populations and be able to effectively communicate (evidence and treatment goals) with a variety of populations.

You will gain enhanced knowledge and learn skills in clinical exercise science to increase employability in an academic or applied setting. 

This is a one year full-time MSc course (180 credits) and is split up into three trimesters. Although there are also opportunities to complete a PgDip (120 credits) or a PgCert (60 credits). Alternatively you may wish to complete specific module/modules as part of your own continuous professional development.

Subjects include:

Trimester 1:

  • Exercise, wellbeing and psychological health (20 credits)
  • Exercise Physiology & Health (20 credits)
  • Research Methods in Sport and Exercise Science (20 credits)

Trimester 2 (option of 3 out of 4):

  • Physical Activity and Cardio-metabolic Conditions (20 credits)
  • Physical Activity and Cancer Survivorship (20 credits)
  • Physical Activity for Neurological Conditions (20 credits)
  • Independent Study (20 credits)

Trimester 3:

  • Research Project (60 credits)

Study modules mentioned above are indicative only. Some changes may occur between now and the time that you study.

Full information on this is available in our disclaimer.

Within the taught option modules, you may have the option of gaining accredited Level 4 occupational qualifications. For example you may choose to sit the Skills Active Validated Level 4 Cancer and Exercise examinations following on from successful completion of the Physical Activity and Cancer Survivorship module in trimester 2 (please note there will be an additional cost to sit the examinations).

On successful completion of this programme you will have the knowledge, understanding and skills to gain postgraduate-level employment within the NHS, private healthcare sector, third sector, local government and leisure services. You will be equipped to deliver high level exercise testing, assessment and prescription for health impaired individuals and groups both individually as an autonomous practitioner; or within multi-disciplinary teams in clinical or community settings. This programme will prepare you for occupations such as a:

  • GP exercise referral coordinator
  • trainee clinical scientist
  • health advisor
  • exercise science research technician
  • health and wellbeing physiologist
  • physical activities adviser
  • private exercise physiologist

You may also to progress to a research degree up to PhD level. Alternatively you may wish to complete specific module/modules as part of your continuous professional development.


A Bachelor (Honours) degree at 2:2 or above. We look for candidates who have a background in Physical Activity & Health, Sport and Exercise Science, Physiotherapy or other Allied Health Professionals (AHPs) qualifications.

We may also consider other qualifications/experience which demonstrate through our recognition of prior learning process that you have appropriate knowledge and skills at SCQF level 10.

English language requirements

If your first language isn't English, you'll normally need to undertake an approved English language test and our minimum English language requirements will apply.

This may not apply if you have completed all your school qualifications in English. Check our country pages to find out if this applies to you.


Our entry requirements indicate the minimum qualifications with which we normally accept students. Competition for places varies from year to year and you aren't guaranteed a place if you meet the minimum qualifications.

International students

If your qualifications aren't listed above, visit our country pages to get entry requirements for your country.

Please note that non-EU international students are unable to enrol onto the following courses:

BN Nursing/MN Nursing (Adult, Child, Mental Health or Learning Disability)

BM Midwifery/MM Midwifery

Admissions policies

We are committed to being as accessible as possible to anyone who wants to achieve higher education.

Our admissions policies will help you understand our admissions procedures and how decisions are made.


Tuition fees
Students from 2017/18 2018/19
Home/EU £3,750 £5,850
Overseas £12,620 £13,000

Frequently Asked Questions about Fees.

Information of Bursaries and Scholarships.

Modules that you will study as part of this course*

Exercise Physiology & Health ( SES11113 )

This module will focus on the effects of exercise and physical activity on the human organism. This module explores the concepts and principles, which underpin the interactions of the physiological systems and mechanisms that lead to development of non-communicable diseases. You will gain a comprehensive understanding of the current physical activity guidelines for healthy populations and the role of exercise in the prevention and treatment of long-term conditions. In addition, you will learn how to critically evaluate relevant literature and understand the evidence concerning the major health outcomes relating to physical activity/exercise. During this module you will analyse methodology to estimate body composition and learn to estimate energy expenditure during a number of physical activities. Furthermore, you will learn to carry out a number of laboratory based exercise tests suitable for assessing cardiorespiratory capacity in healthy populations, including older adults and children. The module will cover: sedentary behaviour and physical inactivity physiology, metabolic, cardiovascular and respiratory responses to exercise; acute responses to physical activity; hormonal responses to regular physical activity; skeletal muscle adaptions to physical activity; exercise testing; exercise metabolism; physical activity and children’s health; physical activity and healthy ageing; energy balance and body weight regulation; measurement of body composition; graded exercise testing.

Further information

Exercise, wellbeing and psychological health ( SES11114 )

The relationship between physical activity, exercise and health has been long established. However, it is comparatively recently that the emphasis has moved from physical activity in the prevention and treatment of physical conditions towards the role of physical activity in the maintenance of psychological wellbeing and mental health. In this module we will examine and critique the theoretical basis of this development and establish a platform for the applied work which is undertaken as part of the module. Specifically you will learn about the contemporary research explaining why people chose to become physically active and also why some people chose to remain sedentary. You will learn about the acute responses and chronic adaptations to physical activity. You will learn about the psycho-social dimension of exercise in relation to self- referent cognitions such as self-esteem. You will examine the processes of behavioural change in relation to the adoption of physical activity. This module conforms to the QAA benchmark (Unit 25: Benchmark statements for Hospitality, Leisure, Sport and Tourism, QAA, 2008) statement in that it develops knowledge, intellectual and applied skills in relation to health enhancing physical activities. The core learning experience of this module is to examine and critique the processes underpinning behavioural change. This is achieved through individual behavioural change projects with a client not currently adhering to the recommended guideline levels of physical activity. The project work is supported by a lecture programme examining key lines of theory: the trans-theoretical model, self-determination theory, modern approaches to self-referent thought, the relationship between physical activity, affect, emotion and mood. We will also look at the role of physical activity in enhancing quality of life.

Further information

Independent Study (20 credits) ( SES11106 )

The independent study module is a personalised study package tailored to suit your individual learning requirements. The syllabus entails a flexible approach to learning comprising of a negotiated programme of study designed by you in conjunction with a member of academic staff. The module takes place over the course of a single trimester. The flexible approach to learning enables a ‘made to measure’ course which will engage you in areas of academic interest that encourage you to reflect on your professional knowledge and the practical application of underpinning/relevant theory with the aim of developing the knowledge, skills and attitudes which promote professional development You cannot undertake both Independent study modules (20 credits/40 credits). The content can include a learning agreement, exploration of the concept of reflection, a variety of different frameworks and models; activities to facilitate a deeper understanding of the processes involved in thinking more critically. With your academic tutor you will be required to negotiate a learning agreement equivalent to 200 hours of study.

Further information

Physical Activity and Cancer Survivorship ( SES11115 )

This module is designed to give students a comprehensive understanding into a new area of research: cancer and exercise - from prevention to survivorship. You will develop a comprehensive understanding of the role that physical activity plays in primary and secondary prevention of cancer. As well as providing in-depth knowledge of the physical and psychological effects of exercise during and after cancer treatment, you will gain an insight into the most recent evidence -based benefits of exercise on many chronic and late appearing cancer treatment side effects. You will learn to assess, consult and prescribe individualised exercise programmes for cancer survivors – based on the most current research and guidelines within this area. This module’s content will include: Cancer biology, epidemiology, pathophysiology and treatment of cancer; the current literature on the physiological, and psychological benefits of exercise during the cancer journey from diagnosis to survivorship or palliative care; assessment and screening of cancer survivors prior to exercise prescription; and training in exercise prescription and behaviour change for cancer survivors.

Further information

Physical Activity and Cardiometabolic Conditions ( SES11112 )

During this module you will develop a comprehensive understanding of the underpinning influencing physiological factors that can lead to the development of a number of metabolic and cardiovascular conditions. As well as gaining an in-depth knowledge regarding the pathophysiology of cardiometabolic disease, this module will evaluate the reported health benefits of exercise/increased physical activity in populations with long term conditions including cardiovascular disease, metabolic dysfunction and diabetes, obesity, renal disease and dyslipidaemia. You will develop an understanding of the concept ‘Exercise is Medicine’ and devise and develop exercise programmes for individuals at risk of developing metabolic and cardiovascular conditions. During this module you will evaluate exercise as a vital prescription tool for specific populations in relation to the current physical activity guidelines and research within this area. This module will cover: The pathophysiology, clinical considerations, exercise prescription and training for clinical populations with cardiovascular and/or metabolic conditions including; type I and type II diabetes; obesity; hypertension; dyslipidaemia; metabolic syndrome; renal disease; acute myocardial infarction; chronic heart failure and peripheral artery disease. Measurement of physical activity. Health screening and exercise testing in cardiometabolic populations.

Further information

Physical Activity for Neurological Conditions ( SES11111 )

Physical activity and exercise are very important for the general population but can be invaluable for the management and prevention of neurological conditions. The current module aims to explore the role of clinical exercise for the management and prevention of common neurological conditions. Apart from the in depth knowledge regarding the pathophysiological basis of common chronic diseases, with this module you will understand key concepts such as: clinical exercise and prescription, evidence based practice, clinical reasoning and risk evaluation for exercise prescription. In addition, in this module you will develop your critical thinking and practical skills in using appropriate evidence and practical methods required for effective clinical exercise prescription. In this module you will study the pathophysiology, clinical implications and reasoning, clinical exercise and prescription for common neurological diseases such as: stroke, multiple sclerosis, Parkinsons, celebral palsy. Also, you will acquire some clinical experience through clinical placement sessions. Clinical placements will be in the form of shadowing health professionals in: acute neurology, downstream in-patient rehab, community rehab, exercise interventions delivered within Edinburgh Leisure by REPS Level 4 instructors etc.

Further information

Research Methods in Sport and Exercise Science ( SES11116 )

12. Module Content In this module you will learn about the process of knowledge construction and evaluation in contemporary sport and exercise science. You will examine a range of epistemological approaches and explore the philosophical implications of adopting different methods of constructing knowledge. You will look at issues around research design, including an examination of ethical and governance issues. You will critically examine the methods by which research is conducted, looking at the internationally accepted guidelines for randomised controlled trials and other prominent methodologies in the sport and exercise science literature. You will examine the contemporary debates around null-hypothesis significance testing (NHST) and magnitude based statistics and also examine the anticipated development of data synthesis techniques. Sport and exercise science is also an applied endeavour and students need to be capable of effectively disseminating complex technical data to a lay audience. At the successful completion of this module you will be comfortable with the Statistical Package for Social Scientists (SPSS) and learn how to make decisions about the use of appropriate statistical tests and interpret the analysis outputs. The module has two strands, one strand is a lecture / workshop programme covering the conceptual basis of scientific knowledge construction. The second strand is practical and will give students an opportunity to work through the design of studies, discuss ethical and practical issues in research and work through increasingly complex data sets using SPSS. In strand one, the content will cover, the philosophical basis of scientific knowledge construction, the debates around NHST and magnitude based statistics. Mid-module, there will be scope to give the module more specific depth, with the exercise and health students looking at epidemiology in more depth whilst the sport performance students will focus more on the research in the specific disciplines of physiology, biomechanics and sport psychology. The final theme common to both route ways will focus on applied research and the dissemination of research and assessment data to the lay audience. In the practical workshops students will use SPSS to describe data and conduct inferential tests common in the discipline areas. This will cover tests of difference and association, using univariate, multivariate data sets. There will also be opportunities to examine data synthesis techniques.

Further information

Research Project [60 credit] ( SES11107 )

In this module you will conduct an independent piece of research, either as a practical laboratory-based project, or a piece of qualitative research (e.g. interviews, focus groups, surveys). This involves design, development and implementation of a programme of research in a particular field of study relevant to your programme of study. You will critically analyse data/information generated, and communicate the outcomes in a written report, which will develop your skills in scientific writing. This will give you experience in summarising information and presentation skills. This module includes: Structured on-line literature searches. Literature review. Project formulation. Hypothesis generation. Experimental design. Development of practical skills/research technique. Data generation/collection and analysis. Use of appropriate statistical analysis. Evaluation of findings, critical analysis, synthesis and conclusions, with reference to supporting literature. Communication of original research results in a report written in the style of a scientific paper.

Further information

* These are indicative only and reflect the course structure in the current academic year. Some changes may occur between now and the time that you study.

Everybody can move more

We work with cancer survivors to encourage them to get active and stay active. Our Associate Professor Anna Campbell MBE applies the results of her research to the real world. Anna works with Macmillan to provide exercise classes specifically for cancer survivors throughout Scotland.

After hearing she had been awarded an MBE, Anna explains her research and the importance of staying active after a cancer diagnosis.