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Free online course

Exercise Prescription for the Prevention and Treatment of Disease

Learn how physical exercise can help patients including those with cardiovascular disease, mental health problems and cancer.


  • Access to the course for its duration + 14 days, starting from when you join
  • No certificate


  • Unlimited access to the course for as long as it exists on FutureLearn
  • A Certificate of Achievement when you complete the course

Find out more

Exercise Prescription for the Prevention and Treatment of Disease

Why join the course?

In the last few decades physical exercise has become well established as a tool to prevent and treat disease. Perceptions within the healthcare sector of exercise and its prescription as a treatment have changed dramatically in recent years.

Understand the evolution of exercise prescription and its use today

In this free online course evidence of the role of exercise in the treatment of a variety of clinical populations including people with cardiovascular disease, mental health problems, paediatric conditions and cancer will be studied.

Over two weeks discover the benefits of exercise in both preventing and treating diseases and enhance your confidence in exercise prescription as a treatment.

  • Week 1: Explore research on the benefits of physical activity; the evidence that has informed exercise prescription guidelines and safety considerations.

  • Week 2: Learn how physiological adaptations to exercise translate to improved health outcomes and the evidence that supports exercise prescription in several common clinical populations.

Learn with physiology and physiotherapy experts

Throughout the course there will be an opportunity to engage with researchers, healthcare professionals and exercise prescription experts from the Discipline of Physiotherapy at Trinity College Dublin.

Download video: standard or HD

Skip to 0 minutes and 12 secondsIt is widely known today that exercise and fitness can help prevent and treat various diseases. But how strong is the evidence to support this? Not that long ago, bed rest was prescribed to patients with cardiovascular and respiratory disease. And exercise was considered by many health professionals as something dangerous to be avoided. Today, exercise is an integral part of patient treatment.

Skip to 0 minutes and 43 secondsIn this free, two-week course, we will examine the evidence that changed perceptions among many health care professionals towards exercise as a tool to prevent and treat disease. We will look back at how physical activity guidelines evolved for adults, older adults, and children. And the research supporting and informing these guidelines. Trinity College School of Medicine is an international leader in postgraduate education with a strong research focus. This course will be delivered by academic staff in the Department of Physiology and the discipline of physiotherapy. This course has a strong foundation in physiology.

Skip to 1 minute and 22 seconds To fully understand the effects of exercise as a treatment tool, we will describe the responses of the heart, vasculature, brain, and muscular skeletal system to exercise, and consider how physiological changes translate to meaningful health benefits. Considerations needed when prescribing exercises to specific clinical populations will be addressed, including those with cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, clinical paediatric conditions, those with mental health problems, and cancer. Appropriate exercise prescription can help specific conditions and symptoms. But despite this, physical activity levels in many clinical populations are very low. Of course, a better way to look at it would be that this is an area with room for improvement and improved physical activity levels and cardiorespiratory fitness can greatly enhance patient health.

Skip to 2 minutes and 18 seconds As part of this online course, we will discuss the safety of exercise and how to reduce the risks associated with exercise specific to clinical populations. Learn how physical activity guidelines have evolved, and how exercise can enhance the health of various patient populations, and be used to treat and prevent disease.

When would you like to start?

  • Date to be announced

What will you achieve?

  • Identify basic physical activity measurement tools e.g. Heart rate monitors, accelerometers, pedometers and questionnaires.
  • Reflect on experiences of exercise prescription, physical activity guidelines, and exercise prescription safety.
  • Summarise the history of exercise prescription guidelines.
  • Describe cardiovascular and respiratory responses to acute and chronic exercise.
  • Identify the benefits of exercise for brain health, the musculoskeletal system, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and COPD.
  • Critically appraise current physical activity guidelines.
  • Appreciate the complex interaction between exercise, physical activity and the immune system, specifically the anti-inflammatory effects of exercise.
  • Describe how to objectively measure fitness and strength e.g. the six minute walk test, and hand grip dynamometer use.
  • Describe how exercise prescription guidelines can be adapted for clinical pediatric populations.
  • Describe how exercise prescription guidelines can be adapted for older populations.
  • Demonstrate an awareness of the evidence to support exercise as a treatment tool for various clinical populations including those with osteoarthritis, type 2 diabetes, and other chronic diseases.

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for healthcare professionals who wish to broaden their understanding of exercise prescription and physical activity as a tool to prevent and treat disease. No previous experience or qualifications are required.

Who will you learn with?

Cuisle Forde

Dr Cuisle Forde has conducted research on physical activity and fitness in various patient populations. She helped develop and teaches on the Online Postgraduate Certificate in Clinical Exercise.

Aine Kelly

Dr. Aine Kelly is Head of Physiology, Trinity College Dublin, where she researches the effects of exercise on brain function. She teaches on the Online Postgraduate Certificate in Clinical Exercise.

Mikel Egaña

Associate Professor of Physiology at Trinity College Dublin

Who developed the course?

Founded in 1592, Trinity College Dublin is Ireland’s highest ranked university. It promotes a diverse, interdisciplinary environment to nurture ground-breaking research, innovation, and creativity.

Buy a personalised, digital and printed certificate and transcript

You can buy a Certificate of Achievement for this course — a personalised certificate and transcript in both digital and printed formats, to prove what you’ve learnt. A Statement of Participation is also available for this course.

Certificate of Achievement + transcript £49.00

Statement of Participation £34.00

Estimate prices in preferred currency

Charges to your account will be made in GBP. Prices in local currency are provided as a convenience and are only an estimate based on current exchange rates.