The Research Centre in Sports Sciences, Health Sciences and Human Development, Health and Human Development at the University of Beira Interior, Portugal, explores sport sciences research and development.
The Research Centre in Sports Sciences, Health Sciences and Human Development (CIDESD) was founded in 2007 and works as a cross-institutional unity of applied research under a consortium agreement between ten higher education institutions, co-hosted by the University of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro, and the University of Beira Interior (UBI), both Portugal.
A triadic approach
The goals of CIDESD are articulated in three major domains:
- Research; the research projects and activities of the CIDESD are articulated in three research communities:
- STRONG – focused on describing and predicting the human movement and their relationship to sports performance, using the analysis of physiological and biomechanical models able to describe and predict the human movement and their relationship to sports performance. Also, there is an emphasis on computational fluid dynamics applied to water activities and special populations;
- CreativeLab – focused on developing performance indicators related to human collective behaviour and creativity in sports, helping to explain the mechanisms that regulate the decision-making process and contribute to understanding the complexity of human mind; and
- GERON – this programme is focused on the relationship between physical activity, exercise and health across the lifespan, with particular emphasis on ageing and chronic diseases.
- Community intervention; providing services to the community and developing effective interventions, specifically in the domains of sports performance and health promotion, under the scope of physical activity and exercise programmes related to health promotion.
- Continuous education; CIDESD members are involved in several educational activities in undergraduate , master’s and PhD courses, under the scope of sport and health sciences. Moreover, CIDESD members participate in several educational activities on a regular basis under different levels of intervention.
In the UBI, CIDESD members are mainly involved with STRONG community research projects.
A STRONG approach to sports science R&D
This research group aims to develop and fine tune models of sports performance based on physiological, biomechanical, motor control and strength and conditioning factors, that are able to predict human movement and sports performance. Also, there is an emphasis on computational fluid dynamics (CFD) applied to water sports and to special populations.
STRONG aims to understand the biphasic dose-response patterns to exercise challenges and to find strategies to enhance human performance, for example, warm-up designs, post-activation potentiation strategies and recovery techniques. The focus on human performance extends beyond sports training and our researchers are also applying their knowledge to promote evidence-based practice in the scope of exercise and health.
Beyond the field of sports performance, there has been an increasing interest describing the physical fitness levels of different subjects and its relationships with health benefits and wellness. One could point out the projects in strength and conditioning, aiming at the development of reasonable and reproducible exercise prescriptions for different populations. Nevertheless, a more detailed look is needed about the dose-response effects for different populations and how to design effective and efficient exercise programmes for health and sports enhancements.
STRONG has also given special focus to CFD. Our research centre is an international leading R&D unit on CFD in water sports. Recently, the STRONG research group has started to apply CFD techniques to para-athletes. This project has, with stakeholders from the Portuguese Paralympic Committee and associated teams, analysed elite wheelchair sprinters racing at major international competitions.
Since 2007, STRONG has generated significant R&D activities and the findings of the research projects were translated into the daily practice of our stakeholders and used to develop sports equipment.
Vital contributions from STRONG to CIDESD-UBI
Enhancing sports performance
Enhancements to sports performance was conducted both through scientific research output and at an evidence-based practice level. There was strong co-operation with the Portuguese Olympic Committee and several national sports federations to support academies, clubs and national teams.
The CIDESD team carried out research on the effects of different warm-up designs in individual and team sports. Main findings showed that warm-ups appear to induce performance improvements in swimming and athletics, caused by the biomechanical and physiological responses to changes in volume, intensities and activation strategies used. Our research team is now designing research projects which focus on warm-ups for team sports after the preliminary findings observed in football.
There was an attempt to narrow the gap between theory and practice by conducting a seasonal training control and evaluation. Battery tests were designed using reliable and validated testing procedures to provide an holistic assessment of the athlete or the team. STRONG was specifically requested to provide sports science services, monitoring elite athletes participating in main international events.
Strength and conditioning
Our lab team has contributed to the progress and novelty of strength and conditioning programme prescription for elite athletes. More than 30 articles in lead journals highlighted that high velocity, low volume strength training programmes are effective in significantly improving high-level athlete performance. We also used these findings to implement the strategy in designing research projects for young competitive children and for different populations and contexts, for example, exercise and health.
Furthermore, there is close co-operation between STRONG and the Portuguese Swimming Federation and international labs from University Pablo de Olavide, Seville, and the Public University of Navarra, both Spain. In addition, STRONG works with multiple local sports and fitness clubs, and social institutions, in order to monitor strength training programmes in different contexts and with the implementation of different exercise community programmes.
Applying CFD to sports
There has been a concerted effort to continue exploring the benefits of numerical simulations on human movement and the development of sports equipment; new findings were obtained relating to human performance in swimming and other aquatic sports. There was an extension of the application of CFD to para-athletes, with the support of the Portuguese Paralympic Committee and associated teams as main stakeholders.
There was also the opportunity to establish and strengthen partnerships within the sports industry for the development of sports equipment and apparatus. For instance, services on the design and development of kayak and canoeing vessels by one of the world’s leading companies, NELO® Vessels Company, were conducted. A similar partnership was established to assess the swimsuits of the French sports retailer Decathlon® by CFD.
The Research Centre in Sports Sciences, Health Sciences and Human Development is supported by national funds, through the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) (UID/DTP/04045/2013), and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), allocated by the European Union through the COMPETE 2020 Programme (POCI-01-0145-FEDER-006969).
Daniel Almeida Marinho, PhD
Research Centre in Sports Sciences, Health Sciences and Human Development
University of Beira Interior (CIDESD – UBI)