Professor Neil Armstrong
Emeritus Professor of Paediatric Physiology
Baring Court, University of Exeter St Luke's Campus, Heavitree Road, Exeter, EX1 2LU, UK
Neil graduated from Loughborough with BEd and MSc degrees and earned his PhD and Higher Doctorate (DSc) at Exeter. He has been awarded Honorary Doctorates by Universities in Europe and North America. Neil was appointed to Exeter in 1984 and was promoted to the first UK University Personal Chair in Sport and Health Sciences in 1992. He initiated the study of sport science in Exeter, founded the Children’s Health and Exercise Research Centre in 1987 and established the Department of Sport Science in 1998. He served as Head of the School of Postgraduate Medicine before founding the School of Sport and Health Sciences in 2002. He was appointed Deputy Vice-Chancellor in 2005 and served as Senior DVC and then as the University’s Inaugural Provost until 2014 when he decided to return to his research and writing.
Neil chaired the Sport Science Panel in the first two HEFCE Research Assessment Exercises (now REF). He was the first scientist to be awarded Fellowship of the British (FBASES), European (FECSS) and American (FACSM) Colleges of Sports Medicine/Science and he is the only person to have chaired both BASES and the Physical Education Association of the UK. He has chaired the Board of European Pediatric Work Physiology (PWP) since 2005. He served two terms as Chair of South West Sport (Ministerial appointment) and he chaired the South West 2012 Olympics Legacy Project. Neil led the physiology team in the development of the International Olympic Committee (IOC)’s guidelines for training elite young athletes. Over the last 20 years he has been a chair or member of numerous International Expert Committees (including those of IOC, WHO, FIMS, PWP, EUPEA and FIG) focused on the promotion of children’s sport, fitness, health and well-being.
Neil’s research won the first (and to date only) Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher Education to be awarded for research in sport and exercise medicine. The Queen’s Anniversary Prize, awarded for ‘world class work which is of outstanding quality and importance to the nation’, was presented by HM the Queen at Buckingham Palace.
An active sportsman in his youth, Neil represented England at under15, under18 and University level and played professional football for 10 years. He remains a dedicated and optimistic supporter of Newcastle United despite the fact that they have not won a domestic trophy since 1955.
Bachelor of Education
Master of Science
Doctor of Philosophy
Doctor of Science
Doctor of Laws (honoris causa)
Docor of Sciences (honoris causa)
Research group links
Neil established the Children's Health and Exercise Research Centre (CHERC) in 1987 and supported it for 25 years with over £4 million of funding from research councils (e.g. MRC, ESRC, EPSRC), major charities (e.g. BHF, Royal Society), governmental bodies (e.g. EU, Sports Council) and industry (e.g. IBM, Reebok, Masterfoods). He has supervised 34 postgraduate students to successful completion of research degrees and externally examined 40 PhDs in 12 countries. 10 former PhD students are full professors 2 other former PhD students are National Teaching Fellows. 25 former CHERC students are teaching and researching in British universities and others are currently in academic posts in France, Portugal, Mexico, USA, Canada, Singapore, Hong Kong, Israel, and Malaysia
Neil’s research in the 1980s was the first to identify UK children’s low levels of physical activity and to link it to a potential obesity epidemic. The media coined the phrase ‘couch potatoes’ to describe his data. His subsequent research focuses on paediatric physiology and encompasses the continuum from elite young athletes through normal healthy children to young people with health problems.
Neil has authored/edited 17 books, contributed over 100 invited book chapters, and published over 300 scientific, peer-reviewed papers on paediatric physiology and children’s health and well-being. He has been invited to make keynote presentations to conferences in 45 countries and he has co-authored over 600 papers to international and national conferences. Neil’s research has been featured internationally in over 300 television and radio programmes some of which have been repeated 15-20 times. The data have generated questions in both Houses of Parliament. Neil has been invited to address Members of Parliament at the House of Commons on several occasions, and Ministers of Education and of Sport have invited him to private audiences in the Palace of Westminster and visited the Research Centre to discuss the implications of his findings for children’s sport, health, and well-being. He was invited to a private audience with Prince Philip at Buckingham Palace and HM the Queen has visited the Research Centre to see his research team in action. Neil’s research won the first (and to date only) Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher Education to be awarded for research in sport and exercise medicine. The Queen’s Anniversary Prize, awarded for ‘world class work which is of outstanding quality and importance to the nation’, was presented by HM the Queen at Buckingham Palace with the citation:
"The Children's Health and Exercise Research Centre has established Paediatric Exercise Science as an academic field of study in this country and is now a leading world centre. The promotion of more active lifestyles, and understanding the benefits of healthy living have become part of the agenda for many young people as a direct result of its work"
Neil has acted as a consultant to numerous national and international sports bodies, to national and international research councils from 15 countries and to industry and businesses. He has been a chair or member of numerous national and international working parties on children’s physical activity, sport and health and well-being (e.g. WHO, IOC, FIMS, PWP, FIG, HEA, PEA, BASES). He has externally advised universities all over the world on over 50 professorial appointments.
Armstrong N. Development of the Youth Athlete. London, Routledge; 2019: 1-250.
Armstrong N, Welsman J. Development of peak oxygen uptake from 11-16 years determined using both treadmill and cycle ergometry. European Journal of Applied Physiology. 2019; 119: 801-812.
Eliakim A, Falk B, Armstrong N, et al. Expert’s Choice: 2018’s Most Exciting Research in the Field of Pediatric Exercise Science. Pediatric Exercise Science. 2019; 31; 1-27
Armstrong N. Youth Aerobic Fitness. Pediatric Exercise Science. 2019; 31: to be published in May issue (in press).
Armstrong N, Welsman J. Sex-Specific Longitudinal Modeling of Short-Term Power in 11-18 year-olds. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 2019; to be published in May (in press).
Welsman J. and Armstrong N. Interpreting Youth Aerobic Fitness: The Fallacy of Ratio Scaling. Pediatric Exercise Science. 2019; 31: to be published in May issue (in press).
Welsman J, Armstrong N. Interpreting Youth Aerobic Fitness: Alternatives to Ratio Scaling. Pediatric Exercise Science. 2019; 31: to be published in May issue (in press).
Armstrong N, Welsman J. Sex-specific Longitudinal Modeling of Youth Peak Oxygen Uptake. Pediatric Exercise Science. 2019; 31; to be published in May issue (in press).
Armstrong N, Welsman J. (Mis)Representation, (Mis)Interpretation and Mis)Use. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 2019: publication data unknown (in press).
Armstrong N, Welsman J. Myths, Misconceptions and the Twenty-Metre Shuttle Run. Physical Education Matters. 2019: to be published in June issue (in press).
Welsman J, Armstrong N. Interpreting Cardiorespiratory Fitness in Young Clinical Populations: Folklore and Fallacy. Journal of the American Medical Association 2019: publication date unknown (in press).
Armstrong N. Paediatric Physical Activity and Aerobic Fitness. In Draper N. and Stratton, G. (Eds). Physical Activity: A Multi-Disciplinary Approach. London: Routledge, 2019: 186-204.
Key publications | Publications by category | Publications by year
No publications found
External Engagement and Impact
Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher Education in Medicine and Health for ‘world class work which is of outstanding quality and importance to the nation’
The Ling Prize for ‘a lifetime distinguished contribution to the physical education profession’
Doctor of Sciences (ScD), University of Coimbra, Portugal for an oustanding contribution to the international development of sport science and physical education
Doctor of Laws (LLD), Brock University, Canada for an outstanding international contribution to the promotion of children's health and well-being
Chartered Scientist (CSci)
Chartered Biologist (CBiol)
British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (Honorary Fellow) (FBASES)
American College of Sport Medicine (FACSM)
European College of Sport Science (Inaugural Fellow) (FECSS)
American Academy of Kinesiology (International Fellow) (FAAK)
Royal Society of Biology (FRSB)
Royal Society of Arts (Life Fellow) (FRSA)
Royal Society of Health (FRSH)
Physical Education Association of the UK FPEA)
Higher Education Academy (FHEA)
Chair of the Higher Education Authority Research Excellence Assessment Sports-Related Panel
Chair of the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences
President of the Physical Education Association of the United Kingdom
Chair of the Board of European Pediatric Physiology (PWP)
Core member of IOC Expert Committees on Children’s Sport and Health
Chair of South West Sport
Chair of South West Olympic 2012 Legacy
President of Regional United Nations Association
Books and Journal Editorship
Neil has authored 17 books and contributed over 100 invited book chapters. His book 'The Oxford Textbook off Sport and Exercise Medicine (3rd Edition)' edited with Willem van Mechelen was highly commended and shortlisted for the British Medical Association Book of the Year. He edited the European Journal of Physical Education for 5 years and he is currently Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Sport and Health Sciences. He has served on the Editorial Boards of 12 journals, acted as an expert reviewer for over 60 journals and edited 7 Special Issues of Journals. He edited the Book Series ‘New Directions in Physical Education’.
Neil has presented over 600 lectures in 45 countries including numerous 'Named Lectures' such as the Prince Philip Lecture; the Legends of Paediatric Physiology Lecture; the Astrand Lecture; the Rutenfranz Lecture; the A.D. Munrow Lecture; the Silvio Lima Lecture.
Over a 25 year period Neil’s research has been regularly and prominently featured in the national press and on over 300 national television and radio programmes such as Panorama, BBC and ITN National News, Medicine Now, the Education Programme, PM, Clean Slate, On the Line and TVAM etc. A Dispatches programme, "Sick at Heart", focused on the Coronary Prevention in Children Project which is based in the Centre and has become the most widely internationally distributed and repeated Dispatches programme. Other television programmes have been broadcast world –wide and some have been repeated 15-20 times. This intensive coverage increased public awareness of children's current lifestyle and the need for change.
Supervision / Group
- Dr Alan Barker (2007-2010)