Sport, Exercise and Physical Activity for Special Populations MSc | Middlesex University London
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Sport, Exercise and Physical Activity for Special Populations MSc

Learn about the course below
October 2018
September 2018 (EU/INT induction)
1 year full-time
2 years part-time
£8,800 (UK/EU)
£13,500 (INT)
Course leader
Anne Elliott

The only masters in the country to focus purely on how to prescribe safe and effective physical activity, exercise and sporting participation to those living with the 18 most common chronic diseases in the UK.

Why study MSc Sport, Exercise and Physical Activity for Special Populations at Middlesex University?

The health and fitness industry has witnessed an explosion in recent years as more and more people realise the importance of exercise. With this comes new challenges for professionals who must consider the wide range of long-term medical conditions which could impact their clients or patients.

Our postgraduate degree promotes cutting edge professional practice, giving students the opportunity to undertake leading research and acquire the latest knowledge of effective practice prescription for special populations, under the supervision of highly experienced experts.

The course has been designed specifically for qualified graduates and health and fitness professionals, so understands that you will bring experience and working knowledge with you. We help you put this into context and develop it. During the course you will learn how to justify your professional decisions with evidence-based practice, and develop your professional understanding and accountability.

You might already have a Level 3 GP referral qualification, a Level 4 individual condition qualification or a BSc degree, but this Level 7 degree takes that knowledge to the highest level. At the end of the degree you will have a comprehensive understanding of 18 of the most commonly presented conditions and how to manage them singly or as comorbidities through exercise prescription.

Course highlights

  • This is the only masters degree in the UK to focus purely on the prescription of safe and effective physical activity across the most common chronic diseases
  • You will consider the most effective way to work in a range of working environments, from fully equipped gyms to clients' own homes
  • Learn to understand the underlying pathologies of the most common chronic diseases
  • Look in great depth at a specific condition that interests you through an individual research project
  • Once you complete the course you will be one of the highest qualified specialist trainers in the health and fitness industry
  • You learn using state-of-the-art facilities and equipment, at a university recognised as one of the best in the country for sport and exercise science and rehabilitation
  • The course allows you to build a sound foundation of individual research interests which can then be taken to PhD level.
  • As a student of this course you'll receive a free electronic textbook for every module.

What will you study on the MSc Sport, Exercise and Physical Activity for Special Populations?

This programme has been designed to give sports scientists, health and fitness practitioners the expertise and qualifications to prescribe exercise regimes to the 18 most common special populations in the UK.

The course examines the baseline prescription for a healthy population, and specific approaches to: depression, eating disorders, obesity, pregnancy, elderly, remedial exercise, cognitive dysfunction (Alzheimers/Parkinsons), injury and inflammation, CVD, arthritis, osteoporosis, asthma, diabetes, hypertension, stroke/thrombosis and cancer.

Students will also consider epidemiology and lifestyle factors of special population conditions. You will also explore applied psychological models such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Motivational Interviewing (MI) and Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP).

The first three modules see you study the pathology of chronic diseases and the best practice in exercise prescription, developing an understanding of your professional practice and applying your newly acquired knowledge in a work-based project. In the following two modules you will study research methods and then undertake a research project on a topic that particularly interests you.

Full-time students

Full-time students will complete all five modules in one year.

Part-time students

Part-time students will complete the first three modules in their first year before undertaking the Research Methods and Dissertation modules in the second year.

  • Modules

    • Clinical Sciences for Special Populations (30 credits) - Compulsory

      During this module you will explore the normal anatomy, physiology and pathological changes for each condition and how this relates to exercise prescription for special populations. The module aims to equip students with knowledge and understanding of the abnormalities seen in function and provides the opportunity to study the general pathological mechanisms seen in diseases. This includes aspects of systemic disease with respect to aetiology, epidemiology, pathogenesis, and pharmacology.

    • Exercise Prescription and Management in Special Populations (30 credits) - Compulsory

      This module focuses on the design, management and implementation of exercise programmes across all conditions, as well as common comorbidities including: contraindications and useful exercises. It aims to provide the opportunity to develop knowledge, inquiry and work-based activities that improve and inform therapeutic areas of your own practice. You will explore both academic and practical applications of specialist knowledge and demonstrate the learning gained.

    • Research Methods (30 credits) - Compulsory

      This module is designed to provide a critical overview of the main methods and approaches used for research at masters level, and to equip you to apply this knowledge in planning a research proposal. The module affords students opportunities to appraise the strengths and weaknesses of published work in their specialist area, or in health care in general. You will learn in groups and will explore philosophical, ethical and methodological differences which underpin various approaches to knowledge generation that can inform health care work. Workshops allow you to develop a research proposal for your dissertation, consider its adequacy and limitations, and justify the approach taken.

    • Dissertation (60 credits) - Compulsory

      Throughout the dissertation module you will be supported while undertaking research with a focus appropriate to your area of interest, potentially building upon the research proposal formulated in the Research Methods module. The module creates a peer learning community for students, enabling you to provide guidance and critically support one another on matters of ethical application, research methods, data collection, analysis and writing-up in the research process in addition to that provided by your supervisor.

    • Work Placement (30 credits) - Compulsory

      This module provides students with the opportunity to reflect on existing practice and put new knowledge gained from other modules into application in a real work scenario. You will be required to adopt a reflective and critical approach to your working practice and to promote a problem-solving approach in a work environment.

You can find more information about this course in the programme specification. Module and programme information is indicative and may be subject to change.

How will the MSc Sport, Exercise and Physical Activity for Special Populations be taught?

The course is taught through seminars and tutorials with occasional practical sessions to explore concepts discussed. Reading and preparatory work for the following week's topic is put up on unihub together with a wide range of resources to aid learning. You are expected to come to class each week fully prepared with opinions and observations based on their preparatory reading and work experience to explore ideas fully in class. You will also give regular presentations to your class based on your personal and group research into topics.

The course is very focused on the application of knowledge into practice and work placement allows for classroom knowledge to be applied, and a reflective process of professionalism and efficacy is integrated through discussion in class and the production of a learning journal. This again illuminates areas of their practice that the student might then use for their own research project for the dissertation.


You will be assessed by a variety of means, including:

  • Presentations
  • exercise programme design
  • Essay
  • Unseen examinations
  • Journal
  • A dissertation (4,000 word research paper).
  1. UK & EU
  2. International
  3. How to apply
  1. UK & EU
  2. International

How can the MSc Sport, Exercise and Physical Activity for Special Populations support your career?

The course has been designed specifically for qualified health and fitness practitioners, providing a Level 7 degree which is the highest level of qualification in the industry.

Whether you are a personal trainer, physiotherapist, clinic rehabilitator, nurse, home visitor or other health professional; this Masters equips you to be one of the highest qualified specialists in the field and enables you to help people achieve their fitness, health and lifestyle goals safely and effectively.

Students with an undergraduate degree in a relevant area who wish to continue their education before pursuing one of the above careers would find this masters valuable.

The degree is also suitable for individuals working in specialist clinical units such as stroke or heart units, or those with an interest in research at doctoral level, who need a thorough baseline knowledge and require research experience with special populations.

  • Tija Hubej

    MSc Sport, Exercise and Physical Activity for Special Populations graduate

    Applying for the MSc was one of the best decisions in my life. The course provides you with a deep knowledge of the most common chronic and long-term conditions, and teaches you how to design suitable programmes to address them. You learn how to observe and evaluate, how to extract valid information and sharpen your critical eye. One of the most important things for me was that the course also teaches you how to be professional in your practice.

Other courses

Sport and Exercise Science MSc

Start: October 2019

Duration: 1 year full-time, Usually 2 years part-time

Code: PG1C602

Sport and Exercise Nutrition MSc

Start: October 2018, September 2018 (EU/INT induction)

Duration: 1 year full-time, 2-3 years part-time

Code: PGC611

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