Sport is big business. It has a value of more than 15bn to the UK economy and employs over half a million people. Its influence spreads beyond the simple playing of the game. It was a broad sporting, political and cultural momentum that led the UK to glory in the award of the 2012 Olympic Games, with confidence that the immediate and long-term benefits of the Games would outweigh costs of over 8bn.
Integral to the Games' legacy vision is the recognition that good health requires an active lifestyle. Making more people more active, more often, is a critical component of the Government's strategy to tackle obesity and heart disease. Add to this the continued rise in commercial fitness facilities, sport nutrition products and equipment development, and it is easy to see why sports-related career opportunities continue to grow.
The application of science in sport is now widespread. The specialist sport and exercise scientist would take a BSc in sport and exercise science, often followed by a Masters. A career might involve working for a sports organisation and helping athletes achieve peak performance through a rational, scientific approach to training and competition.
But it is not just sport that requires the scientist. Health authorities, local authorities, and fitness companies commonly employ exercise scientists because their knowledge of physical fitness, health and the psychology of motivation and behavioural change make them ideal people to lead initiatives aimed at making citizens more active.
While Sport England proudly proclaimed that in 2008 more adults than ever before were taking part in "physical activity at least three times a week" - according to the 2008 Active People Survey - the 11.7 million who take regular exercise still reflect less than 20 per cent of the UK population. Much remains to be done if the rise in obesity and other hypokinetic diseases is to be stemmed.
The final main route for the specialist sport and exercise scientist is lecturing and researching. Colleges and universities employ hundreds of staff to teach this popular subject. And in the recent Research Assessment Exercise, the Government recognised the international quality of hundreds of sport and exercise researchers in the UK. …