Dr Mike Stembridge


Senior Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Physiology

Email address: mstembridge@cardiffmet.ac.uk



Mike is a Reader in Cardiovascular and Environmental Physiology within the Cardiff School of Sport and Health Sciences. His research focuses on the integration of physiological systems during acute and chronic adaptation to exercise and environmental stimuli, and how these interactions change during natural periods of development such as adolescence. These research interests are explored by utilising a wide range of techniques in the assessment of cardiac, cerebrovascular, haematological and neurological physiology. Mike’s experimental approach often utilises intricate exercise and pharmacological interventions to isolate and manipulate specific mechanisms to help understand adaptive mechanisms and population differences.

Mike currently supervises seven PhD candidates exploring various aspects of the research theme outlined above (names and titles below), and has thus far acquired in excess of £250k of support for his research programme for a range of charitable, knowledge transfer and innovation funding sources including the FIFA Research Scholarship, The Physiological Society, European Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarships, the Wilderness Medical Society and the Mount Everest Foundation. Mike is also a member of the European College of Sport Science Annual Congress Reviewing Panel, and has performed multiple external examinations of research degrees at MPhil and PhD level. He is the ‘Person Designated’ for the Human Tissue Act in the Cardiff School of Sport and a member of the Cardiff School of Sport and Health Sciences Research Ethics Committee and the Athena Swan Strategic Action Team, as well as being the Laboratory Director for Physiology and Health.

Research / Publications

    Mike’s research has two primary areas that investigate how the cardiovascular system adapts to both (i) exercise training and (ii) hypoxic exposure. The interaction between these primary areas is also of specific interest, given the importance of exercise capacity in adapting to an environmental stressor such as high altitude hypoxia.

    In relation to high altitude, Mike is especially interested in the divergent pathways of adaptation taken by high altitude native populations, and the mechanisms underpinning their remarkable adaptation to one of Earth’s most inhospitable environments. Recent work in Nepal (2016) and Peru (2018) has aimed to investigate the role of the cardiovascular system in the superior exercise capacity of Sherpa at high altitude. Subsequent expeditions planned for 2019 and 2020 will examine whether Ethiopian populations exhibit the same physiological adaptations as Himalayan Sherpa and Peruvian Andeans.

    The second arm of Mike’s work investigates the role of exercise training in shaping the cardiovascular system to promote life-long health and well-being. Of specific interest is the potential for ‘windows of opportunity’ during childhood that may represent a time in development that is most likely to bring about significant physiological adaptation to the heart and brain. If periods of accelerated cardiac adaptation exist in line with surges in growth hormones (e.g. puberty), these time periods would represent a unique opportunity to shape cardiovascular heath for the remainder of life. This work aims to determine whether cardiac and cerebrovascular structure and function show greater adaptation to exercise training during pre-, circa- or post-adolescence


    Refereed Academic Journal Articles

    I have a total of 62 publications that can be vied on Pubmed here. A selection of the most recent are provided below.

    Stembridge M, Williams AM, Gasho C, Dawkins TG, Drane A, Villafuerte FC, Levine BD, Shave R and Ainslie PN (2019). The overlooked significance of plasma volume for successful adaoptation to high altitude in Sherpa and Andean natives. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

    Williams AM, Ainslie PN, Anholm JD, Gasho C, Subedi P and Stembridge M. Left ventricular twist is augmented in hypoxia by ß1-adrenergic-dependent and -independent factors, without evidence of endocardial dysfunction. Circulation: Cardiovascular Imaging.

    Simpson LL, Busch SA, Oliver SJ, Ainslie PN, Stembridge M, Steinback CD and Moore JP (2019). Baroreflex control of sympathetic vasomotor activity and resting arterial pressure at high altitude: insight from Lowlanders and Sherpa. J Physiol. 597(9): 2379-2390.

    Rieger MG, Nowak-Fluck D, Morris LE, Niroula S, Sherpa KT, Tallon CM, Stembridge M, Ainslie PN, and McManus AM. UBC-Nepal Expedition: Cerebrovascular Responses to Exercise in Sherpa Children Residing at High Altitude. High Alt Med Biol 20: 45-55, 2019.

    Rieger MG, Nowak-Flück D, Morris LE, Niroula S, Sherpa KT, Tallon CM, Stembridge M, Ainslie PN, McManus A (2018). UBC-Nepal Expedition: Intra-cranial hemodynamic response to exercise in Sherpa children residing at high altitude. High Alt Med Bio [In press].

    Stembridge M, Ainslie PN, Boulet LM, Anholm J, Subedi P, Tymko MM, Willie CK and Shave R (2018). The independent and combined effects of hypovolemia and pulmonary vasoconstriction on left ventricular function and exercise capacity at high altitude. J Physiol. 597(4): 1059-1072.

    Bain AR, Ainslie PN, Hoiland RL, Barak OF, Drvis I, Stembridge M, MacLeod DM, McEneny J, Stacey BS, Tuaillon E, Marchi N, Fayd’Herbe De Maudave A, Dujic Z, MacLeod DB, and Bailey DM (2017). Competitive apnea and its effect on the human brain: focus on the redox-regulation of blood–brain barrier permeability and neuronal–parenchymal integrity. FASEB. doi: 10.1096/fj.201701031R

    Fluck D, Morris L, Niroula S, Tallon C, Sherpa K, Stembridge M, Ainslie PN and McManus A (2017). UBC-Nepal Expedition: Markedly lower cerebral blood flow in high altitude Sherpa children compared to children residing at sea-level. J Appl Physiol (1985), Jun 1:  doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00292.2017.

    Stembridge M, Ainslie PN, Donnelly J, McLeod NT, Joshi S, Hughes MG, Sherpa K & Shave RE. (2016). Cardiac structure and function in adolescent Sherpa; effect of habitual altitude and developmental stage. Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol, ajpheart 00938 02015

    Bain AR, Ainslie PN, Hoiland RL, Barak OF, Cavar M, Drvis I, Stembridge M, MacLeod DM, Bailey DM, Dujic Z & Macleod DB (2016). Cerebral oxidative metabolism is decreased with extreme apnoea in humans; impact of hypercapnia. J Physiology Sep 15;594(18):5317-28.


    Conference Presentations

    Mike has presented as part of symposia and submitted over 45 conference abstracts to both national and international conferences. An example of the most recent invited talks are provided below:

    Conference participation and presentations

    • Cardiac, vascular and cerebrovascular adaptation to hypoxia at rest and during exercise; lessons from high altitude natives. Invited Symposia at the European College of Sport Science, Prague.
    • Cardiac Performance in the Mountains: mechanisms of adaptation to acute and life-long hypoxia. The Alpine Club, London.
    • Cardiovascular Responses to High Altitude; Lessons from Lowland Adaptation. Okanagan Cardiorespiratory Conference, Silverstar.
    • Impaired myocardial function does not explain reduced left ventricular filling and stroke volume at rest or during exercise at high altitude. Japanese Society of Physical Fitness and Sports Medicine.
    • Short-term adaptation and chronic cardiac remodelling to high altitude in lowlanders and native highland populations. Symposium at The Physiological Society Annual Meeting.


    Teaching and Supervision


    PhD Supervision

    • Dean Perkins (PhD; Director of Studies)- Cardiovascular adaptation to exercise training during adolescence
    • Lydia Simpson (PhD; Co-supervisor)- The role of sympathetic activation in the control of blood pressure in hypoxia in lowlanders and high altitude natives
    • Tony Dawkins (PhD; Director of Studies)- Interactions between right ventricular function and pulmonary vascular resistance at rest and during exercise.
    • Aimee Drane (PhD; Director of Studies)- Cardiovascular disease in great apes; developing normative echocardiographic ranges.
    • Thomas Griffiths (PhD; co-supervisor)- Work-based interventions to improve cardiovascular and cerebrovascular health.
    • Bryony Curry (Mphil; Director of Studies)- Cardiac function in human and non-human primates.
    • Megan Harper (PhD at University of British Columbia Okanagan; co-supervisor)- Heart-lung interaction in a health model of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.



    I currently contribute to physiology and health modules and supervision at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels that span a number of programmes.

    Qualifications and Awards

    Education and Qualifications


    • FHEA Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy (2018)
    • PhD Short-term adaptation and chronic remodelling of cardiac structure and function in response to high altitude exposure. Director of Studies: Prof. Rob Shave (2015)
    • MSc Sport and Exercise Science (physiology)- University of Wales Institute, Cardiff (2008)
    • BSc Science in Health, Exercise and Sport- University of Wales Institute, Cardiff (2006)

    Personal Honours and awards

    • Cardiff Metropolitan University Dean’s Contribution to Research Award (2016)
    • Hypoxia Symposium (2015) - 1st place Early Career Researcher
    • European College of Sport Science (2014) 1st place Young Investigator Award


    Awards for students under my supervision

    • Michael J Rennie Best Oral Communication, Physiological Society Meeting (Extreme Environmental Physiology 2019) by Ms Lydia Simpson.


    External Links


    I collaborate with a number of institutions based in the UK and around the world. The most notable of these are with the Centre for Heart, Lung and Vascular Health at the University of British Columbia in Canada, School of Sport, Health and Exercise Sciences at Bangor University and the Institute for Sport Science at University of Innsbruck.


    Research Active Staff

    • Cardiovascular Physiology Research Group
    • Youth Performance Development Research Group
    • Cardiovascular Health and Ageing Research Group