University of Wisconsin–Madison

Physical Activity Epidemiology

Graduate Advisor: Lisa Cadmus Bertram, Ph.D.

Synopsis: Physical activity epidemiology deals with the frequency and patterns of physical activity in the population and the relationship between physical activity and health and disease. The graduate program in physical activity epidemiology is intended to provide students with advanced study in physical activity measurement issues, study design, and relationships of physical activity with specific health and disease states. Graduate study in this area will cover both advanced exercise physiology for grounding in the biology of exercise, as well as epidemiologic and relevant statistical courses that provide background in population-level study design and analysis.

Purpose of Graduate Study: The MS degree with a specialization in Physical Activity Epidemiology is designed to:

  • Introduce the beginning graduate student to population-based studies of physical activity and health and disease outcomes.
  • Prepare students for advanced Ph.D. level work.

The Ph.D. degree is designed to prepare students for scholarly research and teaching in this area.   Students obtaining a Ph.D. will be expected to go on for post-doctoral work prior to establishing independent research programs. The flexible curriculum in this program area will be tailored to individual students, with courses selected from exercise physiology, exercise psychology, biostatistics, epidemiology and population health, biochemistry, nutrition, or other areas deemed to provide a solid grounding sufficient to understand and conduct research in this area.

Laboratory Facilities and Experimental Approaches: The Physical Activity Epidemiology Laboratory is housed in the Unit II Gymnasium. Research efforts in this laboratory are directed at validating the measurement of physical activity in populations, the associations between a physically active lifestyle and various biomarkers of aging and cancer, and the associations between activity and health outcomes such as incident cancer, cancer recurrence, functional status in the elderly, and various health behaviors. The laboratory houses space for the interviewing of study subjects as well as computers for the collection and storage of study data.

Graduate faculty sponsorship is necessary for admission to all MS and PhD research tracks in Kinesiology. Faculty reviewers and the chair of the Graduate Studies Committee consider the nature of previous college work, level of achievement, performance on standardized graduate exams, experience, congruence of the program with an applicant’s stated goals, and advising and teaching load of faculty in the identified emphasis area when making admission decisions.

Interested students should contact faculty in their desired track to determine their eligibility for the program.

In addition to the above, for admission to the Physical Activity Epidemiology PhD track:

A Master’s degree, with completion of a thesis or a published research paper in a refereed scientific journal, is required.


As part of the admissions process, prospective faculty advisors will look to insure that students’ previous coursework has prepared them for success in our graduate program. Students may be required to take specific prerequisite courses if there is a perceived gap in preparation. In some cases, with advisor approval, this prerequisite coursework can be completed after admission to the program.

Students lacking certain prerequisite courses may still be considered for admission to the Kinesiology graduate program. These students are said to be admitted with “deficiencies”, and these deficiencies must be made up as a part of the student’s graduate coursework. The admitting advisor or the chair of the Graduate Studies Committee will notify the student of a requirement to take specific prerequisite in the admission letter. Students admitted with deficiencies retain eligibility for financial aid consideration.

A. Required Courses Credits
KINES 791, Physical Activity Epidemiology 3
KINES 955, Seminar in Physical Activity Epidemiology 1
KINES 991, Research in Physical Activity – Theory and Design 3
KINES 990, Research or Thesis minimum of 2
KINES 900, Seminar in Kinesiology* 1

*All Kinesiology MS and PhD students in Physical Activity Epidemiology are required to register for Seminar in Kinesiology (KINES 900) each semester they are enrolled in the program.

B. Elective Courses (chosen from list below, or others in consultation with advisor)
PHYSIOL 435, Fundamentals of Human Physiology 5
KINES 521, Physical Activity and Health 3
KINES 600, Advanced Exercise Psychology 3
KINES 614, Biological Factors Influencing Human Performance 3
KINES 700, Psychological Effects of Exercise 3
KINES 773, Cardiorespiratory Adaptations to Environment and Exercise 3
KINES 774, Metabolic Responses to Exercise and Environmental Stress 2
KINES 779, Human Muscle Function in Health and Disease 3
CHEM 341, Introductory Organic Chemistry 3
BMOLCHEM 503, Human Biochemistry 3
STAT 541, Introduction to Biostatistics 3
STAT 642, Statistical Methods for Epidemiology 3
PHS 621, Introduction to Nutritional Epidemiology 1
PHS 750, Cancer Epidemiology 3
PHS 797, Introduction to Epidemiology 3
PHS 798, Epidemiologic Methodology 3
PHS 800, Quantitative Methods in Population Health 3
PHS 802, Advanced Epidemiology: Etiology and Prevention 3

Students will take advanced course work in various areas as described in the program area synopsis.  In accordance with Graduate School policy, a minimum of 30 credits is required for the MS degree, and a minimum of 51 credits for the PhD.  Completion of a thesis will be required for the MS degree.  The curriculum is intended to provide the student with a sound basis in the adaptations to physical activity and exercise as well as the statistical and methodological tools needed to evaluate relationships between physical activity and health outcomes at the population level.  There are three required courses in addition to the thesis or dissertation requirement, and the remaining credits can be chosen in consultation with the graduate advisor to meet the dree objectives.

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Course requirements for PhD

In addition to the required and elective courses above, Ph.D. candidates must also satisfy the following requirements:

Department Seminar

All Kinesiology MS and PhD*** students in PA Epidemiology are required to register for Seminar in Kinesiology (KINES 900) each semester they are enrolled in the program


*** Includes dissertators unless registered for specialization seminar, Kines 955; or unless expressly exempted via advisor request to Grad Studies Committee


Ph.D. General Field Requirement

at least 2 graduate level courses of at least 2 credits each in Kinesiology,

at UW-Madison, outside of Physical Activity Epidemiology area.

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The department has worked with the Graduate School and effective September 2015, Kinesiology PhD students are exempt from a Minor requirement.  This is based on the following principles: Disciplines within Kinesiology span the study of cells (e.g. physiology, neuroscience) to behavior (motor control, biomechanics, and exercise psychology) to populations (Exercise epidemiology). As such, students in our program are exposed to broad areas of inquiry.  Breadth in the Kinesiology program is achieved via the General Field Requirement, described above.

PhD students may choose, however, in consultation with their advisor, to pursue a minor.  Students wishing to obtain a Minor should reference the Graduate School Minor policy.

A minimum of nine credits of coursework are required for a minor.  The Graduate School policy includes two variants of the minor: one including two or more departments (a “distributed” minor) and the other a minor within a single department.  NOTE that some departments place limits on the format or content of their minor.  If you pursue a single-department minor, we urge you to seek specific guidance in advance from the minor-granting department about how to meet any requirements for its minor.