Professor Craig Williams
Professor of Paediatric Physiology and Health/Director of Research


Research interests

My research work focuses on the physiological responses of exercise testing and training in both clinical and sporting paediatric groups. I work on establishing the physiological responses to the imposition of exercise stress in order to apply better prescription of exercise during testing and training of young people. In particular, I am interested in the determining factors of exercise tolerance (fatigue) and how these factors vary according to growth, maturation and sex.

Research projects

1. Cardiopulmonary and oxidative exercise responses of young cystic fibrosis patients

In the last eight years I have been using my expertise to translate research findings to clinical practice by working with young people who have cystic fibrosis.
Collaborators: Dr Alan Barker; Dr Patrick Oades (RD&E Foundation NHS Trust)
Funding body: RD&E Foundation NHS Trust

2. Helping Little Hearts Project

The helping Little Hearts project investigates the use of physical activity participation and exercise training in children with congenital heart defects. Most children with a surgically corrected heart defect have near normal exercise tolerance and could safely participate in competitive sport. Individuals with more complex structural defects may have significantly reduced exercise tolerance and functioning, but would still benefit from participating in physical activity in a recreational environment. However, evidence suggests that many children are underactive due to self-perceptions and parental anxiety.

This project is funded by the Leeds-based charity Heart Research UK, with the main objective of developing a comprehensive set of advice and recommendations to enable children with a heart defect to safely engage in sports and other physical activities. An exercise ‘prescription‘ toolkit has been successfully piloted in six UK cardiac centres, and is now being rolled out nationwide to all UK paediatric cardiac centres, such as Great Ormond Street and Belfast hospitals.

This ‘Toolkit‘ includes interactive resources for youngsters, their parents/carers and schools. Importantly, each youngster receives their own bespoke ‘exercise prescription‘ form; detailing what level and type of activities are suitable for them. This provides their parents, school and themselves with the confidence to participate and enjoy regular physical activity; greatly improving their long-term health and well-being.

In addition to the Toolkit, we are holding conferences for health professionals and parents, such as our recent January 2016 conference for clinicians on ‘Exercise Prescription in Congenital Heart Disease’. These aim to involve all parties and make sure they have access to the knowledge and information necessary to drive exercise prescription in congenital heart disease forward.

Media link: Yorkshire Evening Post
Research Fellow: Lucy Gowing (CHERC)
Collaborators: Dr Graham Stuart and Dr Guido Pieles (Bristol Royal Institute, Children’s Hospital); Barbara Harpham (Heart Research UK)
Funding body: Heart Research UK

Additional Media Links:

Twitter: Help Little Hearts @CHDToolkit


2014, British Council Researcher Links – collaboration with early career Researchers in the UK and Qatar

2014, Assessment of Ventricular Dysfunction in Congenital Heart Disease using Exercise Echocardiography Tissue Doppler and Strain Analysis – David Telling grant.

2013, RD&E Foundation NHS Trust – An Integrated Approach to Exercise Prescription ad Management in Young Cystic Fibrosis Patients -  A feasibility study.

2012, RD&E Foundation NHS Trust – The influence of disease status and priming exercise on pulmonary oxygen uptake and muscle deoxygenation kinetics during moderate and high-intensity cycling exercise in paediatric patients with cystic fibrosis.

2012, Kellogg’s – Functional magnetic resonance imaging and physical and cognitive performance in high protein and carbohydrate feeding.

2011, Manchester United Soccer Schools – Evaluation of temporal patterns of exercise during soccer coaching.

2010, RD&E Foundation NHS Trust – Exercise testing and Cystic Fibrosis.

2010, Manchester United Soccer Schools – Analysis of physical exercise patterns during soccer schools coaching courses.

2010, MRC– determination of school based factors and their association with the prevalence of overweight and obese children.

2010, ESRC - Encouraging sustainable patterns of physical activity and health in children.

2009, Regional, Educational, Leisure, Arts and Youth Sport (RELAYS).

2008, Kellogg’s Ltd  - Energy Balance: comparison of energy intake of a low versus a high physically active group of children 11 to 13 years old.

2008, Kellogg’s Ltd - Energy intake and expenditure in children and adolescents.

2007, GlaxoSmithKline - Fluid balance and electrolyte concentration in young adolescent footballers.

2006, The Physiological Society - Muscle perfusion in children using magnetic resonance imaging.

2005, RD&E Foundation NHS Trust - The influence of chronic chest disease in children and adolescents, on oxygen uptake kinetics, lung and respiratory function, following exercise.

2005, GlaxoSmithKline - Taste perceptions and involuntary dehydration in children.

2004, Gatorade Sports Science Institute - Gastric emptying of fluids in trained youth cyclists.

2003, The Northcott Devon Medical Foundation - Fat patterning and MRI.

1996, The Nuffield Foundation - Muscle power in adolescents and adults.

1993, The Northcott Devon Medical Foundation - Aerobic and anaerobic training study.

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