Taught course

Physical Activity, Health and Society

Durham University · Sport

Entry requirements

Normally a minimum 2:1 Honours degree from a UK institution (or the overseas equivalent) in a relevant subject is required. As an accessible and inclusive programme, this requirement may be waived for applicants with particularly high levels of relevant practical or professional experience.

Months of entry


Course content

Regular physical activity provides significant benefits to health, both mentally and physically, as well as improving fitness and wellbeing. However, currently in the UK around 34% of males and 42% of females are not active enough to maintain good health*.

The MSc explores the vital role of physical activity in society, from policy and public health to the spaces and places that enhance, shape and curtail movement. It is suitable for those with a background in traditional sport and exercise sciences, as well as those with a social sciences, anthropological, natural sciences, humanities or a broader disciplinary background.

The course is delivered by a multidisciplinary team of experts in the Department of Sport and Exercise Sciences in conjunction with the Department of Anthropology. The team delivers a cutting-edge curriculum built on our expertise in physical activity and sport inequalities and associated research methods.

You will undertake three core modules which critically examine key challenges associated with physical activity to improve health and wellbeing, tackle health inequalities and social injustice.

Learning is further developed by five additional optional modules which you can tailor to your interests. Two or three of these are based on aspects of health as influenced by physical activity and wider social, anthropological and life sciences, with the remaining modules focused on advanced quantitative and qualitative research methods. You will also complete an MSc dissertation in a related subject, under the guidance of a supervisor.

Durham University offers an outstanding sporting environment with exceptional opportunities for participation in sport as well as related activities within the University and the local community. During your time with us we encourage you to be proactive members of our community and to develop wider interests alongside your studies.

*Office for Health Improvement and Disparities

Course structure

Core modules:

Physical Activity, Health and Inequalities draws on the latest research and policy, such as interventions, evaluations and systems approaches, to critically explore a number of questions. What is implied and understood by health inequalities as they relate to physical (in)activity? Who is impacted by physical activity inequalities across the life course? Focusing on health and wellbeing, how are physical activity inequalities experienced by different groups or communities, and why? How might we reduce or prevent the widening of physical activity inequalities with a view to optimising health and wellbeing, and where does this responsibility lie?

Exercise as Medicine: Critical Perspectives takes a multidisciplinary approach to addressing the strengths and challenges of treating exercise as medicine in a professional setting. You will study a number of areas around the topics of: exercise prescription; barriers and facilitators to participation in exercise programmes; designing and developing effective exercise interventions; and programme implementation and evaluation.

Ethics in Sporting Policy and Practice provides a grounding in ethnographies of sporting practice and the athlete experience. You will explore a range of ethical and social justice issues associated with contemporary sport and learn how these issues are experienced by different audiences including athletes from recreational to elite level, governance and regulatory bodies, and sporting businesses. The module also examines ways in which diversity, social justice and political philosophy can be effectively incorporated into the development of new sporting policies. Areas of study may include; trans inclusion; violence; financialisation; doping; migration and mobility; and sport-for-development.

The Dissertation is an opportunity to research and write a substantive research study into a specialist topic in the field of physical activity, health and society. The dissertation is based on a topic of your choice, decided in agreement with the department and completed under the guidance of a dissertation supervisor.

Examples of optional modules:

The remainder of the course is made up of five modules from the following options, which, at the time of writing, should include a minimum of two from each list.

List A

  • Fieldwork and Interpretation
  • Field Study
  • Quantitative Methods and Analysis
  • Systematic Review
  • Multilevel Modelling
  • Simulating Data in R
  • Advanced Statistics for Psychology and the Behavioural Sciences

List B

  • Sport, Exercise and Health: Future Perspectives
  • Advanced Studies in the Anthropology of Sport
  • Advanced Studies in Physical Activity and Health: Anthropological and Critical Perspectives
  • Anthropology of Global Health
  • Society, Health and Wellbeing
  • Planetary Health in Social Context
  • Advanced Studies in the Anthropology of the Body
  • A language module offered by the Centre for Foreign Language Study

Information for international students

We welcome international students to this programme of study and support for non-home students is well established at Durham University. English language requirements stipulate Band C, IELTS of at least 7.0 overall and with no component under 6.0 or equivalent scores in an alternative accepted English language test. Pre-sessional programmes are open to students who hold an offer for a Durham University degree programme. Programmes are suitable for both those who have narrowly missed their language condition and those with unconditional offers for their main programme. The Durham Centre for Academic Development currently offers both online and on-campus options for postgraduate taught students.

Fees and funding

UK students
International students

Qualification, course duration and attendance options

  • MSc
    part time
    24 months
    • Campus-based learningis available for this qualification
    full time
    12 months
    • Campus-based learningis available for this qualification

Course contact details

Recruitment and Admissions