UCT Research Centre for Health through Physical Activity, Lifestyle and Sport (HPALS) aims to optimize human performance and promote health and well-being, addressing the growing pandemics of obesity and inactivity, reducing the burden of disease and injury, through promoting physical activity and sports participation, healthy eating and sleep hygiene.


At present, there is no other research entity in Africa, the specific aims of which address the nexus between physical activity and sports performance, nutrition and sleep health, across the life course, from the level of the cell to the individual, the community, and the environment, and ultimately, to apply the lens of health equity and environmental justice.

We interrogate the co-determinants and correlates of these behaviours, explore, co-develop and evaluate appropriate and targeted interventions, and gather evidence that informs policy and programmes and supports equitable scale-up of effective strategies.  Finally, we test these interventions and programmes, policy and strategy approaches, against economic models, to estimate societal impact.

Embedded within our research centre is the FIMS (International Federation of Sports Medicine) International Collaborating Centre on Sports Medicine (ICCSM). Our status as a FIMS ICCSM ensures that our work in sport and exercise medicine research is strengthened and aligned to our overall research centre mandate.


The HPALS Research Centre is hosted by the Department of Human Biology in the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town. The research agenda is based on a multi-disciplinary approach, which is presented in the conceptual model presented in the figure below.

Conceptual model

The targets of our research agenda are found at the centre of the model, with our objectives written as action statements on the perimeter. The multidisciplinary approaches that we use to achieve these objectives are presented within the middle ring. 

The outer ring represents our research translation to change practices and norms, and through advocacy to influence national and local policy or strategies.  One of our core values is to produce research that is internationally competitive, while ensuring that it is locally relevant.  This is evidenced by our 2021 Shanghai ranking, placing our sports science-related research at 41st in the world, out of more than 300 universities, with only 4 universities in the USA and 3 in the UK, ranking higher.


Sport and Exercise Medicine Services are offered through the Sport and Exercise Medicine & Orthopaedic Surgery Clinic and Research Center housed on the ground floor of the Sports Science Institute of South Africa. This center hosts 10 full time Sports & Exercise Medicine Specialists and 7 Sports Orthopaedic Surgeons. The Center offers services to a wide range of leading international sports teams and bodies, including; UAE Team Emirates Cycling, Western Province Rugby, Cape Town Spurs Football Team, The Two Oceans Marathon and many others and is a global leader in terms of the clinical footprint of this unit.


Sleep solutions for individuals

  • Sleep Check: Everyone's sleep is unique. Understanding your specific sleep habits and challenges is key to finding the best possible solutions and strategies to help you sleep better. The Sleep Check comprises an initial 60min one-on-one consultation, monitoring of your sleep patterns for seven days using a specialised wrist-worn sleep monitor and diary, and a 30min follow-up session. You will receive a detailed report about your sleep habits, patterns and challenges, as well as recommendations and strategies to help you improve your sleep.
  • Sleep Coaching: Once you have had a Sleep Check to assess your personal sleep challenges and needs, we will develop a personalized sleep program to help optimise your sleep habits and routines. Over the course of four weeks we will help you implement your sleep program, check in with you weekly and make adjustments as needed. The end goal is for you to be in a position to manage and sustain your own healthy sleep habits and routines!
  • Jetlag Toolkit: Travellers often experience jetlag when crossing time zones, arriving at their new destination exhausted, disoriented and out of sync. This is particularly bothersome to business people and athletes who need to be on their A-game as soon as possible. Our jetlag toolkit is tailored specifically to your personal travel plan and natural body clock, to minimise the adverse effects of jetlag and sleep deprivation and to fast-track your resynchronisation to the new time zone.

Sleep solutions for organisation:

  • Sleep Health Screen: Employee sleep health impacts your bottom line. Under slept employees are less productive and more prone to absenteeism and accidents. Our novel Sleep Health algorithm allows us to flag employees at risk for poor sleep. Each employee will receive her/his own results with recommendations as to next steps. We will also aggregate this information to profile your organization's overall sleep health and provide you with organizational level strategies to reduce workplace fatigue.
  • Talks and Workshops: Sleep health is a new hot topic and the detrimental effects of poor sleep on physical, mental and emotional health are surfacing. The purpose of these offerings is to raise and spark conversation around sleep health, to ultimately improve employee productivity and workplace performance and protect their long term health. We tailor our talks, webinars and workshops to your organization's needs. Talks and webinars are great for lunch-and-learn sessions while workshops provide more in-depth engagement for smaller groups around their sleep health.
  • Sleep Health Promotion: Understanding what sleep is, how important it is and how to sleep better will enable your employees to be on their A-game. Our Sleep Health Promotion Content has been designed and curated by our Sleep Scientists and is based on the latest scientific evidence relating to sleep health. The purpose of this content is to raise awareness around the importance of sleep, to educate, engage and empower your employees to optimize their own sleep health and promote a healthy sleep culture within an organisation.
  • Sleep data analysis and contract research: Advances in technology mean that globally many people use sleep trackers to monitor their sleep. Understanding the information generated by these trackers can be overwhelming. We work with companies to analyze and interpret these sleep data to provide consumers with meaningful sleep-related feedback and to estimate associations between sleep and health. We also do contract research for companies wanting to test or validate their sleep-related products or services.

The HPALS Research Centre holds a weekly research symposium, using a hybrid format, and regularly hosts international speakers.  These meetings are open to anyone, at no charge, and have been in existence for over 25 years.  We record the symposia, and the most recent lectures may be downloaded from our website.