Zoe Saynor

Zoe Saynor


Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

I am happy to discuss projects that fit within the areas of;
- Clinical exercise physiology
- Physical activity and exercise for health

Particular groups of interest to me are as follows:
- Cystic fibrosis and non-cystic fibrosis bronchiectasis
- Kidney disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- COVID-19
- Diabetes
- Arthritis
- Asthma
- Joint hypermobility
- Chronic heart failure

Personal profile


I am an Associate Professor in Clinical Exercise Physiology and lead for both the Physical Activity, Health and Rehabilitation Thematic Research Group and Clinical, Health and Rehabilitation research Team (CHaRT) within the School of Sport, Health and Exercise Science at the University of Portsmouth. I am an honorary researcher at several NHS Trusts (Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust; University Hospitals Southampton NHS Foundation Trust) and Registration Council for Clinical Physiologists (RCCP) Accredited Clinical Exercise Physiologist. I enjoy teaching allied health professionals globally and have been a Guest Lecturer on the MSc Physiotherapy course at University College London the past 9 years and have been a visiting academic at several national and international institutions. At the heart of everything I do it promoting safe and appropriate physical activity and exercise for all.

My current research interests focus on exercise testing, training and nutrition in the treatment and prevention of chronic disease(s). I also have an interest in using exercise evaluations to assess the mechanisms of action of pharmacological treatments, as well as investigating how exposure to extreme environments (e.g. heat, hypoxia) may be used to treat chronic health conditions such as diabetes. Current and previous research has spanned the lifespan, from pre-pubertal children to the elderly, and has involved working with people with the following health conditions: cystic fibrosis (CF), non-CF bronchiectasis, asthma, CF-related diabetes, type II diabetes mellitus, chronic and end-stage renal disease, arthritis, joint hypermobility, cancer, Raynaud's, inflammatory bowel disease and Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19).

I regularly deliver invited talks at national and international external organisations and sit on a number of expert groups, such as the European Cystic Fibrosis Society Exercise Working Group; UK Exercise and Lifestyle Clinical Studies Group (part of the UK Kidney Research Consortium); Global Renal Exercise Network, as well as being an NIHR ARC Wessex faculty member.

I am an Associate Editor (Sport and Exercise Medicine and Health) at the European Journal of Sport Science (official journal of the European College of Sport Science), Editorial Board member at Physical Activity and Health, and peer-reviewer for 61 internationally recognised scientific journals, and an invited reviewer for several national and international funding bodies. I was awarded Membership of Cochrane in May 2022, achieved by contributing to Cochrane’s work in a sustained and substantive way. I  provided invited external expert review for a UoA24 Mock Ref Panel in 2019, due to my recognised expertise in the areas of physical activity, exercise and health and clinical exercise physiology. 

Prior to this I graduated from Bangor University in 2009 with a BSc in Sports Science (1st Class Hons.) and in 2010 with an MSc in Exercise Rehabilitation (Distinction). I then undertook a PhD within the Children's Health and Exercise Research Centre at the University of Exeter, focused on exercise limitation in cystic fibrosis, before joining the department in Portsmouth in 2014.

I practice what I preach and have competed nationally and internationally as an elite athlete (rugby union) and am passionate about the application of skills and knowledge from the field of sport and exercise science and elite sport to the clinical arena. I am an invited member of the Rugby Players’ Association (RPA) Welfare Advisory Board, and Chair of the Women’s Welfare sub-committee. This board aims to provide guidance, advice and proposals to the RPA Players’ Board, Management Board, and Executive Management Team on player-related welfare matters, in order to meet the challenges to and advancement of current and former professional player welfare - at all times, working towards the RPA’s mission statement of making England the best place to play rugby in the world.

Research Interests

Broad research specialisms:

  • The benefits and risks of physical activity and structured exercise training in individuals with chronic health conditions
  • Standardised and appropriate exercise testing for people with chronic health conditions
  • Physical activity and exercise for healthy ageing
  • That factors limiting exercise function in people with long-term conditions
  • The benefits of extreme environmental conditions as an exercise mimetric

My primary research interests are focused on the benefits of exercise testing and training in clinical populations. Cardiopulmonary exercise testing is a valuable tool which can provide important clinical information regarding function and longevity and quality of life. Exercise training provides a powerful therapeutic intervention against the negative effects brought about by a chronically diseased state and I am interested in pursuing the most effective training modalities and the implementation of these into clinical practice. I am also particularly interested in the mechanism(s) by which disease pathophysiology affects an individual's cardiopulmonary and muscular function during exercise, in addition to other issues such as cardiovascular, metabolic and bone health. 

Teaching Responsibilities

  • Clinical Exercise Physiology – MSc Level (module coordinator)
  • Clinical Strength & Conditioning - MSc level 
  • Pathophysiology & Medical Management - MSc level 
  • Introduction to Sport & Exercise Physiology - Level 4
  • Undergraduate and MSc level research projects
  • MPhil and PhD Research Supervisor

In addition to my teaching responsibilities, I have mentored new staff within SHES and the School of Health and Care Professions, as well as being a mentor for the University of Portsmouth Early Career Researcher (ECR) to Mid-Career Academic (MCA) Cohort Programme, University Sports Scholars, and the Department for Curriculum and Quality Enhancement, for APEX Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy applicants. I am also a mentor for early career female academic staff from other institutions through the Women in Sport and Exercise Academic Network; a network formed for the purpose of growing, strengthening and promoting research on women in sport and exercise, with the ultimate goal of optimising women’s athletic success and their participation – currently mentoring an overseas early career researcher.  


Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being

Education/Academic qualification

Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, Higher Education Academy

… → 2016

Award Date: 1 Aug 2016

Ph.D., Thesis: Assessment and interpretation of aerobic exercise (dys)function in paediatric patients with cystic fibrosis, University of Exeter


Award Date: 1 Jun 2016

Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, Higher Education Academy

… → 2013

Award Date: 1 Aug 2013

Master of Science, MSc with Distinction in Exercise Rehabilitation. Thesis: The acute effects of high-intensity aerobic and resistance exercise on synovial inflammation in the rheumatoid arthritis knee joint., Bangor University

Sept 2009Oct 2010

Award Date: 30 Sept 2010

BSc (Hons), BSc with 1st Class Honours in Sports Science., Bangor University

Sept 2006Sept 2009

Award Date: 30 Sept 2009

External positions

Honorary Researcher, University Hospitals Southampton NHS Foundation Trust (Children’s Hospital - Paediatric Gastroenterology), University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust

Jul 2021 → …

Honorary Researcher, Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust (Colorectal Surgery), Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust

Oct 2020 → …

Panel Member for Mock Research Evaluation Framework (REF) UoA24 Review, University of Leicester, UK, University of Leicester

Jan 2019Dec 2019

External Subject Expert REF Assessor, University of Leicester, UK, University of Leicester


Visiting Researcher, Université de Toulon

May 2017 → …

Honorary Researcher, Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust (Diabetes and Endocrinology), Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust

2017 → …

Honorary Researcher, Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust (Wessex Kidney Centre), Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust

2017 → …

Honorary Researcher, University Hospitals Southampton NHS Foundation Trust (Adult Respiratory Department), University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust

2017 → …

Honorary Researcher, University Hospitals Southampton NHS Foundation Trust (Paediatric Respiratory Department), University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust

2015 → …

Associate Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Physiology, University of Exeter

Jan 2014Aug 2014

Invited Lecturer (MSc Physiotherapy), University College London

2014 → …

Part-time Physiology Laboratory Technician, University of Exeter


PhD Graduate Teaching Assistant, University of Exeter


MSc Graduate Teaching Assistant, Bangor University



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