Module JXH-3039:
Environmental Physiology

Module Facts

Run by School of Sport, Health and Exercise Sciences

10 Credits or 5 ECTS Credits

Semester 1

Organiser: Dr Sam Oliver

Overall aims and purpose

Performing under environmental stress, such as high mountains and hot deserts, is common for many people including athletes, explorers, and the armed and emergency services. During this course, you will learn and experience first-hand (during practicals completed in our state-of the-art environmental chambers), how the human body responds to these extreme environments. Based on their experiences working with sports and industry (e.g., Sport Wales, the Army, Outlook Expeditions, Blizzard Survival), the course leaders will also share recommendations for practical strategies to help optimise performance and health of those working in extreme environments. Application of these strategies will help aid your own and others performance, health, and safeguarding when in an extreme environment.

Course content

Delivered by members of the Extremes Research Group ( ), you will develop in lectures and practical sessions, understanding of how extreme environments effect resting and exercising physiological responses, exercise performance, illness and injury. The course will focus particularly on how the human body adapts to extreme environments (hot, cold, altitude); the limitations to exercise in hot, cold and hypoxic environments; the relationship between extreme environments the immune system, illness and injury; strategies and methods to optimise health and performance in extreme environments; together with upskilling you on how to prepare a concise written report.

Assessment Criteria


Adequate response to the task brief. Knowledge of key areas and principles in chosen topic area as presented during lectures only. Rationale for report content is ok. A basic understanding of the report content is shown. Statements are largely descriptive and occasionally referenced but rely upon secondary sources (reviews and books). No real development of arguments. Some errors in physiological understanding. The assessor can interpret content but communication, structure and formatting is weak (e.g. lacks structure and some non-scientific language and few grammatical errors).


A good response to the task brief. Reasonably comprehensive coverage and understanding of the topic and report content is shown. Good understanding of the material and evidence of independent thought that extends beyond lecture materials. A good rationale for report content. Statements are referenced with pertinent literature. Minor errors only in physiological understanding. Well organised and structured. Communication, structure and formatting are good (e.g. report is well-structured, findings from sources are clearly presented and interpreted correctly, a scientific style is evident, and there are very few typographical or grammatical errors).


An excellent response to the task brief. Comprehensive knowledge of chosen topic area and report content that extends beyond lecture material. Detailed understanding, as evidenced by good critical analysis, clarity of argument. Original thought and/or ideas are evident. An excellent rationale for the report content. Statements are well referenced with primary and up-to-date sources. No factual errors in physiological understanding. Communication and formatting are excellent (e.g. report is very well-structured, findings from sources are clearly presented and interpreted, formatting of report viva is very professional (almost perfect/perfect).

Learning outcomes

  1. Apply knowledge of the human body to examine how it adapts to extreme environments

  2. Appraise physiological responses to exercise in extreme environments.

  3. Compare and contrast methods to optimise exercise or health in extreme environments.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
Written report 80
Online-MCQ exam 1 10
Online-MCQ exam 2 10

Teaching and Learning Strategy

Practical classes and workshops

You will have 2 practical labs in our environmental chambers. During these sessions you will experience first-hand some of the extreme environments and the physiological adaptations that we discuss in lectures.

In these practicals you will be exercising so bring suitable clothes.

Private study

You are expected to devote 78 hours to private study time. Opportunities for further support will be fully explained at the start of the module. Alongside your lecture notes please do complete the recommended reading.


You will receive 10 lectures that broadly review the health and performance effects of extreme environments. In addition, there will be 1 lecture devoted to helping you prepare for the written report, including the opportunity to receive feedback from peers and ask questions to staff.


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting

Subject specific skills

  • research and assess paradigms, theories, principles, concepts and factual information, and apply such skills in explaining and solving problems
  • describe, synthesise, interpret, analyse and evaluate information and data relevant to a professional or vocational context
  • apply knowledge to the solution of familiar and unfamiliar problems
  • demonstrate effective written and/or oral communication and presentation skills
  • take and demonstrate responsibility for their own learning and continuing personal and professional development
  • develop justifiable and/or evidence-based interventions


Resource implications for students

There is no additional financial requirement for this module. All core texts are available in the library.

Talis Reading list

Reading list

All reading is detailed on Talis:

o Armstrong, L.E. (2000). Performing in Extreme Environments. Champaign IL: Human Kinetics.# o West, J.B., Schoene, R.B., Luks, A.M. & Milledge, J.S. (2013). High Altitude Medicine & Physiology, 5th edition. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press. # o Wilber R. (2004). Altitude training and athletic performance. Human Kinetics. o Armstrong, L.E. (2003). Exertional Heat Illnesses. Champaign IL: Human Kinetics.* o Gleeson, M., Bishop, N.C. and Walsh, N.P. (2013). Exercise Immunology. London: Routledge. * Short loan in Library; # ebook searchable from Library catalogue

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: