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Exercise Science and Sports Medicine Research Unit


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Director: Prof Tim Noakes

Prof. Tim NoakesProfessor Tim Noakes began his exercise research in a small laboratory in the basement of the Department of Physiology at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in 1981. With only one laboratory assistant and a single bicycle, Prof. Noakes forged ahead with unbridled enthusiasm and initiative.

By 1989, the research had grown to such an extent that the Medical Research Council (MRC) and UCT agreed to fund a UCT/MRC Bioenergetics of Exercise Research Unit (BERU)..

In 2000, the name of the unit was changed to the UCT/MRC Research Unit for Exercise Science and Sports Medicine. It is now located in the Sports Science Institute of South Africa (SSISA), Newlands, and boasts state-of-the-art equipment, extensive facilities and internationally renowned research staff.

Although it is located in SSISA, the unit remains part of the Department of Human Biology within the Faculty of Health Sciences at UCT. The primary functions of its staff are still teaching and research.

At any given time, there are about 60 research projects underway, with current areas of research including:

  • Effectiveness of sports-specific training protocols, and predictability of athletic ability or performance;
  • Exercise metabolism and fluid balance during endurance and ultra-endurance exercise;
  • Energy balance, sports nutrition and physical activity throughout the life cycle;
  • Physical activity and health in communities undergoing epidemiological transition;
  • Genetic determination of athletic ability and susceptibility to exercise-induced injuries;
  • Neurophysiology and the control mechanisms of fatigue;
  • Muscle structure, recruitment and function and the causes of muscle damage;
  • Sports injuries and biomechanics;
  • Physical exercise in the prevention and rehabilitation of chronic disease states.
  • Molecular mechanisms by which exercise training increases the capacity to expend energy and improve endurance capacity

Research funding is derived from UCT, the MRC, the National Research Foundation (NRF), the Training Human Resources Industry Programme (THRIP) and contract research conducted for various companies. Additional support also comes from long-term, committed donors, such as Discovery Health, Bromor Foods and the Sports Science Institute of South Africa. Discovery Health also funds Professor Noakes' Chair of Exercise and Sports Science.

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Last updated:
16 April, 2015
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