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Department of Kinesiology

Research interests

Within the different research groups, physical activity, health- and performance-related fitness and sports are approached from both a biomedical and a human sciences perspective. These spearhead research lines focus on translational research that addresses a wide range of target groups (from sedentary people to elite athletes, from youth to elderly, from disabled to healthy persons).


About the Department

The department consists of five research groups with a different focus, but each contributing to the optimization of health, well-being and quality of life in society through physical activity, and to performance improvement in a wide range of physical activities and sports. Currently, 26 academic staff members, around 10 post-docs, 40 PhD students and 18 part-time teaching assistants are involved in the department. The departmental staff is strongly involved in the bachelor’s and master’s programmes in Physical Education and Kinesiology, as well as the bachelor’s programme in Rehabilitation Sciences and Physiotherapy. 


Major Areas of Research

  • Movement Control & Neuroplasticity: includes coordination of reaching and grasping, postural control, non-invasive brain stimulation, training-induced motor plasticity, feedback mechanisms, aging, motor performance and expertise, functional and structural neuro-imaging.
  • Human Movement Biomechanics: includes musculoskeletal coordination and loading - integrated 3D motion capture - Movement simulation and modeling - sports biomechanics - orthopedic biomechanics.
  • Exercise Physiology:  includes muscle metabolism and cell signaling - muscle contractility - training adaptation - sports nutrition - exercise in extreme environments - exercise performance testing.
  • Physical Activity, Sports & Health: includes epidemiology of physical activity and fitness - genetics of physical activity and fitness - psychology of physical activity and sports - coaching.
  • Policy in Sports & Physical Activity: includes sport economics - sport history - sport law - sport management - sport marketing - sport policy - sport sociology.



Movement Control & Neuroplasticity Research Group

Stephan Swinnen

Our team makes use of a multidisciplinary approach, spanning the behavioral sciences, neurosciences and movement sciences, to investigate the control of human movement under normal and disordered conditions. Brain function, structure and connectivity is studied by means of medical imaging techniques and neuronavigated brain stimulation techniques to better understand brain-behavior and structure-function relationships

Our primary focus is to understand the principles underlying the control of human movement with special emphasis on upper and lower limb function. Furthermore, we have developed a long-standing interest in skill acquisition and the neuro-behavioral changes that occur as a result of practice. Without doubt, neuroplasticity across the lifespan lies at the heart of our development into unique individuals. Our multidisciplinary approach, in collaboration with local as well as international teams, attracts junior and senior research fellows to join us in our scientific endeavors.


Human Movement Biomechanics Research Group 

Ilse Jonkers

Our main research focus is the improvement of human movement performance through the biomechanical analysis of human movement during physical activity and sports. Using this approach, we analyse the behavior of the healthy and diseased musculo- skeletal system during functional activities as well as during sport performance. We concentrate on the analysis of the association between musculoskeletal loading and load-bearing capacity of musculoskeletal tissue and the analysis of the influence of neural and musculoskeletal constraints on muscle coordination and segmental coupling.

Essential methodologies are (1) integrated three-dimensional motion capture (2) advanced biomechanical analysis tools (inverse and forward dynamic movement simulations) (3) medical imaging for the creation of personalized musculoskeletal models and musculo- skeletal characterization (4) ambulatory systems for outdoor measurements of human movement.

Using this knowledge, we aim to prevent and remediate movement dysfunction, musculoskeletal injuries and deformity.


Excercise Physiology Research Group

Peter Hespel

Our research focuses on the study of exercise and training effects on muscle metabolism and contractility, including cellular mechanisms and signaling pathways involved in muscle cell responses to exercise. Metabolic and functional responses are investigated both in the context of health and fitness improvement in different populations, as well as in the context of performance improvement in elite endurance athletes. Furthermore, the role of nutrition and environmental factors such as altitude/hypoxia, or heat/humidity, in modulating physiological responses to exercise are investigated. Research questions are addressed via both in vitro approaches (muscle cell cultures, incubated muscles) and in vivo experiments in either rodents or human subjects.


Physical Activity, Sports & Health Research Group 

Filip Boen

Research focuses on the relation between physical activity and sports on the one hand, and health and performance outcomes on the other hand. Specific research topics include: the develop- ment of objective measurement techniques for physical (in-)activity and physical fitness; the design, implementation and evaluation of intervention studies to promote physical activity in several targeted (sedentary) subgroups (e.g., among the elderly, children, employees); the identification of the determinants of physical activity, as well as the genetic and environmental sources of inter- individual variation in physical fitness; the effects of (mental) coaching on performance in top level individual athletes and/or teams.



Policy in Sports & Physical Activity Research Group

Jeroen Scheerder

The research group studies policy interventions in sport and physical activity from a local to a global level. A model of interactions between citizens, public authorities and markets is the conceptual framework for different applied research projects. Concepts, theories and both quantitative and qualitative methods are based on input from political and social sciences, economics, management and marketing, history and law.

The research group aims to realize an impact by publications and by direct contact with policy levels in sport and physical activity.



Contact Information

Department of Kinesiology
Tervuursevest 101 box 1501
BE-3001 Heverlee, Belgium

Head of the Department

Filip Boen





tel. +32-16-329179

Department Manager

Stijn De Baere

tel. +32 16 3 76467