Since graduating in 1981, alumnus Mike Tipton has spent 40 years studying the body’s responses to adverse environments, publishing over 600 research papers and books as well as contributing to drowning prevention campaigns that have been seen by over 50 million people.


Mike has also received an MBE for services to physiological research in extreme environments, and lifetime achievement awards from the prestigious Higgins and Langley swift water rescue group in the USA and the International Association for Safety and Survival Training. He spoke about how his time at Keele and his love of swimming paved the way for his successful career.‌

“I think back to my time at Keele extremely fondly. My whole experience was really positive and transforming, not least because it was my introduction to human physiology. Studying the physiology of exercise not only helped me find my passion for research in this area but also how I could build my expertise and a career.

“During the early parts of my career, our research tended to be focused on understanding and avoiding the hazards of cold-water immersion, rather than the benefits. Now, as open cold-water swimming is becoming more popular, our research is able to underpin education and best practice for those engaging in this pastime.

“As the benefits of cold-water immersion are being appreciated activities such as wild swimming have seen a surge in popularity. However, as we continue to map both the risks and benefits to health, it is important that we use research to help educate the wider population. That’s why it has been a real honour that our research has been used as part of UK-wide campaigns such the Respect the Water and Float First campaigns of the RNLI. We know these campaigns continue to save lives.

“My research and studies have taken me all over the world, and are used around the globe. I have worked at King’s College in London, Surrey University and now Portsmouth University, as well as with organisations such as the Royal Air Force, UK Sport and numerous industries.

“I was also able to come back to Keele in 2015 to deliver the Physiological Society’s GL Brown prize lecture. It was a proud moment to be able to talk about my research in the place where it all started for me – I definitely would not be doing what I am doing now if it wasn’t for Keele.”


Mike’s 5 top tips on if you would like to try cold water swimming:

1. Have a medical check-up from GP

2. Swim with a recognised group in a safe place, in good conditions

3. Enter the water slowly

4. Stay in your depth

5. Don’t stay in the water for longer than 10 minutes