Humanities & Social Sciences placements

Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences' students share their placement and year abroad experiences.

Tagged: Physiology

Working Hard or Hardly Working?


📥  Health

Although our last two posts may suggest otherwise, in between all the sightseeing and eating we have actually managed to fit in some work!

We have progressed to starting tests alone and have been given free rein in testing each other and colleagues, which also meant we unfortunately didn’t manage to put off doing our own CPET any longer.

A CPET assess an individual’s heart, lung and muscle function during exercise to identify possible weaknesses within the system. Every client at BeLife undertakes a CPET before their programme, and again at halfway and the end of their programme, which allows us to monitor progress.

The test usually only lasts around 15 minutes during which the client cycles at the same speed as the resistance on the bike increases.

The wires, stickers and tubes are excessive to say the least (there are 21, see below) but serve important functions in allowing us to monitor the function of the heart and lungs during stress.


The data is used to calculate VO2, a measure of the ability of the body to take in and use oxygen during exercise and heart, lung and muscle function collectively. Independent measures of heart and lung function are used to determine possible limiting factors during exercise. These, alongside blood samples allows us to build a better picture of how an individual functions during exercise and create an effective treatment programme.

Kate: Don’t get me wrong, I am more than happy to put someone else through a CPET but doing it myself is a whole other ball game. The worst part is there is nowhere to hide, all your data is right there on the screen. So far, I have done two CPETs, and both have been equally stressful. You might think that knowing exactly what is going to happen would help with nerves, apparently, I am an exception to that rule.

Kate, are you nervous?

-       No not too bad

Your heart rate is 135 at rest?

Okay, so maybe I was, just a little bit.

Despite my apparent fear, you can learn a lot about yourself and your health. I started the year relatively healthy, and now have a mildly obstructive lung condition ... and doesn’t everyone know!

Olivia: For anybody who knows me will know that the thought of me doing a CPET is quite laughable, so to say I actually enjoyed (?) the experience is a surprise, even to myself. I do feel like maybe because my results highlighted that I am (surprisingly) quite efficient and all of my graphs looked so beautiful (only something myself and Kate appreciate) the experience was of value. I have done two more CPETs since just to make sure that the results were accurate, and it seems to be the case. But, I’m sure there are plenty more to come …

Testing on ourselves has been an invaluable experience! Comparing our own tests with each other and our first test to the second has been helpful in improving our understanding of the data output and translating this into real life outcomes for the client.

Numbers often don’t really mean much in terms of day to day life, and for some clients the numbers don’t really mean much at all. We have to be able filter the data to select only relevant information and differs depending on whom we are reporting to. This has however, got easier with practice and we now understand 'normal' results and can suggest possible limitations for each individual.

We are also more self-sufficient and proactive in the lab. We know what needs to be done before, during and after a test and take an active role in giving feedback to both clients and colleagues.

Alongside CPET’s we have also started to get to grips with MuscleSound software. This ultrasound technology is a relatively new concept that allows us to gain an insight into muscle condition. A transducer probe creates an ultrasound image to determine glycogen stores and highlight possible muscular imbalances or nutritional deficits. Images can also be used to determine muscle and fat boundaries for body composition, alongside muscle size and catabolism. Although still in development, we have had to opportunity to see this utilised across elite sport, health and critical care environments.


Olivia: Understanding how to use MuscleSound has been interesting to say the least. Firstly, trying to work with the software in Dutch was a challenge in itself before getting technical. We did however realise (after nearly 2 whole days) that we could just change the tablet language settings to English…

We have a basic understanding of the histology of the muscle, however translating this into the image we see on the screen is a different story. It’s a lot of trial and error, every image looks invariably identical to the last, and working out what is what is taking us a little time. But persistence is key and I am sure we will get the hang of it soon.


Scarily, we have reached the halfway mark of our placement this week.

Looking back, we have both gained knowledge, confidence and self-awareness over the last four months which we hope will serve us well beyond both BeLife and Bath.

It is strange to think how much we have changed (for the better we hope) in the past 4 months. You don’t quite realise that there is a huge difference between being an adult at uni and being an adult in the workplace until you become an adult in the workplace.


This new year brings new challenges for the pair of us, but we’re ready as we’ll ever be.


Kate and Liv x


Just a Couple of Brits Abroad

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📥  Health, Uncategorized

Wow, what a crazy crazy 4 months it has been!!! We have a bit of a backlog of our trials and tribulations so here goes…


So I will get you started with attempts to broaden my horizons whilst in the Netherlands outside of work. Since netball is not played out here, I have found the next closest thing. Korfball

Similar in many ways, but different in many more. In brief, it is played with a team of 8 players, 4 guys and 4 girls, the aim is to score more goals than the opposition. Seems simple right? Wrong

You change ends after every 2 goals, so the attackers become the defenders and visa versa, you can shoot from anywhere and 'achter' and 'voor' are important, although what they mean I am honestly not sure?

As the only English member (ever), I feel a responsibility to make an effort as everyone has with me, so I unwittingly agreed to attend the tournament that was to be held in Wageningen – a small town with little going for it other than the large specialist ‘farming’ University and a multi-storey cinema complex. A rather rash decision that I later regretted when I discovered that the overnight stay involved airbeds, sleeping bags and a gymnasium floor. An experience if nothing else!


Whilst we are here we have decided we should be making the most of what’s around us and take in as much culture as us Brits abroad can manage.

Until now we had managed to avoid the (mainly irritatingly British) tourist capital that is Amsterdam. Our loyalty to Rotterdam had thus far kept us away from the pretty but narrow suitcase filled streets and stag dos. But we could only be kept away for so long …

Arriving in Amsterdam is a culture shock. Locals don't greet you in Dutch instead everything is in English, from the menus to the information signs and leaflets.

Once we had figured out what we wanted to do, we decided that we would make the most of the canal network and used the hop on hop off boat to get around to all of the sites (with the added bonus of not having to walk around in the rain).

1.        Anne Frank House

The Anne Frank House offered an incredible insight into the life of Anne Frank and those that she had been in hiding with for just over 2 years.

Throughout the exhibit you heard of the tales Anne's father, family and friends. I found it a sobering exhibit and would highly recommend if you are in Amsterdam.


2.    I Amsterdam Sign

I mean, obviously we had to visit the sign purely for the insta opportunity! With more people than letters a photo-bomber is inevitable with absolutely no chance of getting the whole sign free. For us to have even three letters is nothing short of a miracle.

See below for our attempts.


3.     Chocolate Crepe

Shock, once again we are eating!

Or 'embracing the culture'. An eye-wateringly overpriced chocolate crepe at €10 a piece.


4. Ice skating

So when a festive ice rink is around OF COURSE we just had to give it a try!! I had actually forgotten that I was ok at ice skating so for the first 10 minutes I was pushing a green plastic chair around like Bambi on ice and then once I had found my feet, I was off! I even managed to not fall over. I think there’s a figure skating career for me if all else fails …


All in all, we enjoyed Amsterdam!! And despite the fact that these 2 cities are just a 30minute train journey from one another, they really are worlds apart!


Seeing as we are so experienced with Dutch culture, we decided it would be a great idea to take on some more and hop over to our neighbour Belgium for the weekend! Also to visit a friend who is currently on placement over there (s/o to Megan for putting us up for the weekend).

Okay so this trip started with a 7am coach journey i.e 6:15am wake up call on a Saturday!!!!! This went along the lines of: ‘KATE HUN ARE YOU FOR REAL? WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME?????’.  However, as much as I may have moaned, it was a good idea as we got into Brussels at around 10:30 had a coffee, met with Meg and then had the rest of the day to explore.

-       Arcade du Cinquantaire: situated in a small area of parkland the impressive arch is topped with a sculpture of a woman holding the national flag. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t on our side, but had it been less cloudy we would have gone to the the viewing bridge at the top of the building which gives a fab view of Brussels!


-       Grande Place: the name says it all! This absolutely stunning, grand square formed from beautiful gold buildings has a Gothic appeal. Another must see if in Brussels.


-       Belgian Waffles: embracing culture again, all I have to say about this is that I endorse this aspect of Belgian culture greatly. They are delicious!!

-       Chocolate: it would be rude not to sample some of the finest Belgian Chocolates when in Belgium. They passed the test, officially delicious.

-       Manneken Pis: the Pissing Boy. I am not sure quite what we were expecting, but it definitely wasn’t what we got! We needed binoculars to see the statue, through the sea of iPads and iPhones. Quite a strange and SMALL exhibit, however he was dressed up for the occasion although what occasion that was we aren’t really sure…


-       Delirium: Beer! MORE CULTURE! Authentic Belgian beers only though.

-       Maison Antoine: chips certified by Angela Merkel, branded the best in Brussels. If they are good enough for Angela, they are good enough for us. Again, extremely delicious and not good for the waistline!


So, the official Sinterklass event is not until 5th December, but Sinterklass and Zwarte Piet arrive in the Netherlands in the middle of November.

An event predominantly for children (and English students) this is a national celebration like you wouldn’t believe. Whole towns show up on the riverside for the arrival, and the bid to host the official televised Sinterklass rivals that of the Olympics.

As someone who until last month had never heard of Sinterklass let alone celebrated it, the whole concept can only be described as bizarre.

In short, Sinterklass or Saint Nicholas and his helpers Zwarte (black) Piet’s deliver presents to the children in the Netherlands in the run up to Christmas. Children place their shoe under the chimney for the presents. Usually this is sweets, commonly a chocolate letter in the first letter of their name and kruidnoten which are small cinnamon cookies. The sentiment was nice, albeit questionable hygienically.


Sinterklass arrives on a large steam boat, with many Zwarte Piet in tow including Elvis, circus and musical renditions. They arrive onshore all in costume, with a large brassband playing traditional Dutch songs that everyone knows word for word apart from the bumbling British tourist’s.

Despite the controversy associated with the event, I could appreciate the importance of the tradition in Dutch history and its unrivalled ability to bring people together!



Of course being in Europe the Christmas markets are spectacular and we just had way too many to choose from! Hearing many people’s recommendations, we opted to stay semi-local by heading south to Maastricht. A short 3 hour train ride (it would have been quicker to go to Belgium) we arrived at Magical Maastricht. A day filled by wandering the markets, sampling the glühwein and churros and a (slightly traumatic) ferris wheel ride. I can think of worse ways to ring in the Christmas break!



Kate and Liv x



Ellie & Roisin's year at SHPI

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📥  2015-16, Health, Uncategorized

The London Bike Show

We recently spent 4 days at the ExCel for the London Bike Show. SHPI set up a Performance Hub where we tested a stream of cyclists and triathletes. The testing included body composition analysis, lactate threshold tests on the bike, treadmill and in the endless pool. Cyclists also had a strength and conditioning session along with a nutrition consultation.


On the Saturday we also had the opportunity to monitor the performance of GB Triathlete Harry Wiltshire as he attempted to cycle 100 miles in a fasted state. We took measures of his heart rate, blood lactate, blood glucose and a rating of perceived exertion every 30 mins. We were interested to see how these would change over the 100 miles.


Finally after 3 hours of cycling we started to see some changes and Harry's blood glucose levels had dropped. After another gruelling hour he was finally allowed to break his fast when his blood sugar dropped to 3.9 mmol/L with some coke and half a flap jack. After a post exercise weigh in Harry had lost 5.5 kg in sweat!

Trishow Harry Wiltshire

The highlight of the weekend was by far the abundance of free samples consumed by all, granted they were reasonably healthy energy bars, but we went for the ones coated in chocolate for good measure! How better to spend a Valentines weekend <3