In an ongoing collaboration between UniSA and Determined2, I have been lucky enough to have the opportunity to engage in exciting new research and begin a training internship with Determined2.

My name is Kelsey Livens and I am in my fourth and final year at UniSA studying a Bachelor of Clinical Exercise Physiology. I moved here in 2018 from Mildura, Victoria to study, after a year 12 trip to Adelaide to visit the universities first introduced me to the course. Immediately I knew exercise physiology was what I wanted to do, and I can honestly say I have loved every minute of it. Exercise is a massive passion of mine and to be able to share that joy and enthusiasm with others for the rest of my life and hopefully make a positive change in their lives is a dream come true.


Kelsey Livens working in collaboration with Determined2 on her UniSA Honours Project

A requirement of my bachelor’s degree is to complete an Honours project over the course of my third and fourth years of study. This is when I was first introduced to Pete and the team at Determined2 (D2).

The aim of my project is to look at the relationship between rating of perceived exertion (RPE), that is how hard the participant feels they are working, and other markers of physical activity such as heart rate and oxygen usage whilst underwater, for individuals living with disabilities.

The reason we want to investigate this is to determine if using an RPE scale is an effective and reliable tool to be able to prescribe a safe exercise session underwater through immersion therapy (IT). Specifically, we are interested in the benefits of using this for individuals living with disabilities who have limited capacity to exercise on land, therefore offering a greater opportunity for them to achieve the same benefits from exercising.

To collect the necessary data to do this, I have been working alongside hyperbaric medicine doctor, Dr Adrian Windsor, and assisting him with his research project. Adrian conducted similar research last year, however, to be able to publish this, data from additional D2 participants needed to be collected, which is where I assisted.

Adrian’s research will aim to explore the physical and psychosocial impact of IT on its participants, by testing RPE, oxygen consumption and heart rate of the participants whilst they complete activities similar to their normal IT session.

RPE scale being assessed in a safe exercise session underwater with D2. (Kelsey Livens)

Together, Adrian and I tested nine current D2 participants, collecting their expired gas, and recording their RPE and heart rate. These values were collected at rest on land, and whilst working at light and heavy intensity underwater. Expired gas during each stage was collected into a large aluminum bag, called a Douglas Bag. The gas samples from within the bag were then analysed to determine the percent of oxygen and carbon dioxide and the volume of air expired. The finished product of my research is due to be completed in September 2021.

In addition to my Honours project with D2, I completed a 75-hour placement at the pool in November last year that enabled me to become competent using the scuba gear both underwater and on land, skills that were vital throughout the data collection process.

I have also been offered the incredible opportunity to further develop these skills through an internship with D2 that will allow me to continue training to become an Immersion Therapy Specialist (ITS). This offers the potential for me to become an ITS and exercise physiologist at the beginning of next year, joining the three new UniSA graduate exercise physiologists currently working as ITS at D2.

Lastly, I would like to say a massive thank you to all the staff and participants at D2 that assisted with my Honours project.