Portrait of Professor Vybarr Cregan-Reid

Professor Vybarr Cregan-Reid

Professor of English and Environmental Humanities
Director of Curriculum Strategy


Vybarr Cregan-Reid is Professor of English & Environmental Humanities. His most recent book is Primate Change: How the World We Made is Remaking Us about how the way we live now is changing our bodies. He is currently making a series for the BBC World Service in Singapore, Boston and Nairobi called Changing World, Changing Bodies (based on the book). His previous book, Footnotes: How Running Makes Us Human (Ebury 2016) reviewers called ‘impassioned and energetic’, and ‘a blazing achievement’ – both are available as audiobooks. He has written widely on the subjects of literature, health, nature and the environment for the BBC, The Guardian, The Independent, the Telegraph, The Sunday Times, Countryfile, the Mail, The Washington Post and numerous others. He has appeared on BBC Radios 3 and 4 a number of times, as well as on Sky News.

Research interests

Literature, the environment, evolution, the Victorians (esp. Hardy & Dickens), biomechanics, sports science, bodies, Babylonian literature.


Prof Cregan-Reid has supervised about ten PhDs mainly in the area of Victorian literature.  


Showing 50 of 68 total publications in the Kent Academic Repository. View all publications.


  • Cregan-Reid, V. (2018). Ecologies of Labour: the Anthropocene body as a body of work. 19: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century [Online] 26. Available at: http://doi.org/10.16995/ntn.815.
    This article is a whistle-stop tour of the Anthropocene body and its emergence and expression (particularly in the Victorian period) as a response to sudden changes to ecologies of labour that took place as a result of the Industrial Revolution. Using aspects of the body (such as height) and parts of the body (the spine and knees), the article examines the ways in which the nineteenth-century work experience might be seen as a turning point for the development of many pathologies in the modern body.
  • Cregan-Reid, V. (2017). We Evolved to Run—But We’re Doing It All Wrong. National Geographic [Online]. Available at: https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/07/running-books-jogging-health-science/.
    Thinking about running as a slow, meditative practice provides more benefits than viewing it as a sport, author says.
  • Cregan-Reid, V. (2017). Taking up Running? Here’s what you need to know to make it to February. The Conversation [Online]. Available at: https://theconversation.com/taking-up-running-heres-what-you-need-to-know-to-make-it-to-february-70497.
    A summary of how the body goes about responding to the demands of exercise in new runners.
  • Cregan-Reid, V. (2017). A Healing Walk in the Woods. Sunday Telegraph.
    A short article about research into the efficacy of forests for human wellbeing.
  • Cregan-Reid, V. (2017). The Treadmill is 200 this year - high time it got a makeover. The Guardian [Online]. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/the-running-blog/2017/jan/10/the-treadmill-is-200-this-year-high-time-it-got-a-makeover.
    A history of the treadmill with an assessment of its efficacy for fitness and wellbeing
  • Cregan-Reid, V. (2016). Pages for the Ages. The Literary Review [Online] 2016:1-1. Available at: https://literaryreview.co.uk/pages-for-the-ages.
    This is a pice about the impact and effects of reading different books and how their meanings change as we age.
  • Cregan-Reid, V. (2016). Five Ways to Reboot Your Brain this summer. The Conversation [Online]. Available at: https://theconversation.com/five-ways-to-reboot-your-brain-this-summer-62989.
    A short article explaining and ranking different leisure activities for their efficacy at restoring cognitive function
  • Cregan-Reid, V. (2016). Our success as a species is 5% inspiration and 95% perspiration. The Conversation [Online]. Available at: https://theconversation.com/from-perspiration-to-world-domination-the-extraordinary-science-of-sweat-62753.
    An short piece about why perspiration was of such key importance to our evolution
  • Cregan-Reid, V. (2016). Pause Column. ’How to Reap the Rewards of Running in Nature’. The Big Issue.
  • Cregan-Reid, V. (2016). Why treadmills are torture (and how they were used as a Victorian punishment). The Independent [Online]:30-31. Available at: https://inews.co.uk/explainers/iq/treadmill-gym-history-prisoners/.
    A piece for the Independent on the peculiar history of the treadmill
  • Cregan-Reid, V. (2016). Running Numbers Continue to Rise, Here’s Why. The Conversation, The Independent, The New Zealand Herald, The Open University, Newsflash Nigeria, [Online]. Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/why-running-is-fast-becoming-the-most-popular-way-to-exercise-a7056481.html.
    This articles examines why running is fast becoming the most popular form of exercise on the planet.
  • Cregan-Reid, V. (2016). How Running Went from Victorian Pastime to the most Popular Activity on Earth. Washington Post [Online]:0-1. Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/.
  • Cregan-Reid, V. (2016). Run, Writer, Run. Literary Review [Newspaper / Internet]:2-2. Available at: https://literaryreview.co.uk/run-writer-run.
    This is a 'Pulpit' essay on the opening page of the Literary Review. It is about the renaissance in writing about running.
  • Cregan-Reid, V. (2015). How to become a happy runner. The Telegraph [Newspaper / Internet]. Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/lifestyle/wellbeing/fitness/11589612/How-to-become-a-happy-runner.html.
    This is a short article that can be found on the Telegraph's website, it is seasoned advice from a variety of experts for people that are thinking about taking up running after having been inactive for a while.
  • Cregan-Reid, V. (2015). What can the world’s most advanced running lab teach us about movement. The Telegraph [Newspaper / Internet]. Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/lifestyle/wellbeing/fitness/11589612/How-to-become-a-happy-runner.html.
    This is a short article that can be found on the Telegraph's website, it recounts what i learned from experts in biomechanics at the Spaulding National Running Centre connected to Harvard University.
  • Cregan-Reid, V. (2014). Running: the Top Five Reasons to Keep Going. The Guardian [Online]. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/the-running-blog/2014/jan/16/running-top-five-reasons-keep-going.
    As those New Year's resolutions begin to tarnish, we offer beginners five great, and sometimes unexpected reasons to stay on the road - including the welcome news that running makes you smarter.


  • Cregan-Reid, V. (2018). 5Live - ’Afternoon Edition’ with Guest Editor Vybarr Cregan-Reid. [radio]. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p06q6h8z?fbclid=IwAR0Pn4EDvxZo-yJig1Y1lknTspI26BiIMcAvGEanFA9feHbhBP2bEVKCDto.
    Is modern life bad for our bodies? The writer Vybarr Cregan-Reid argues modern life is bad for our health – making us short-sighted, unhappy and fat.
  • Cregan-Reid, V. (2018). Footnotes: how running makes us human. [audiobook]. Available at: https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/Footnotes-Audiobook/B07H7P45M2?qid=1545238583&sr=sr_1_3&ref=a_search_c3_lProduct_1_3&pf_rd_p=c6e316b8-14da-418d-8f91-b3cad83c5183&pf_rd_r=2CMEVFESHQR92BEWYX76&.
    Audiobook, recorded by Daniel Weyman
  • Cregan-Reid, V. (2018). Vybarr Cregan-Reid - Audible Sessions. [audiobook]. Available at: https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/Vybarr-Cregan-Reid-Audiobook/B07H3D7SPG?qid=1545238583&sr=sr_1_2&ref=a_search_c3_lProduct_1_2&pf_rd_p=c6e316b8-14da-418d-8f91-b3cad83c5183&pf_rd_r=2CMEVFESHQR92BEWYX76&.
    Joining us in the Audible Studios to talk about his latest book, Primate Change, is writer and lecturer at the University of Kent Vybarr Cregan-Reid.

    A senior lecturer in English and Environmental Humanities, Cregan-Reid is also the author behind Footnotes - How Running Makes Us Human. He has a popular blog and has written widely on the subjects of health, literature, nature and the environment for publications such as the Guardian, Telegraph, and Literary Review and the BBC as well as numerous essays and articles for academic journals. His third book, Primate Change, was published in September 2018.

    Vybarr Cregan-Reid talks to us about his new book, how the human body is changing and why we need to be aware of it.
  • Cregan-Reid, V. (2018). ’Talking Books’ Profile on Newstalk radio. [radio]. Available at: https://www.newstalk.com/Footnotes:-How-Running-Makes-Us-Human.
  • Cregan-Reid, V. (2017). How Running Makes Us Human by Trevor Spencer on September 2, 2017 in Interview, Podcasts, Running Physiology. [podcast, video interview]. Available at: http://bit.ly/2z3dCTW.
    In this episode we interview Vybarr Cregan-Reid, author of the fascinating new book ‘Footnotes: How Running Makes Us Human’. In this conversation you will learn how humans are uniquely built for running, the wonders of the foot, how exercise makes us smarter, where running and English Literature intersect, the concept of green exercise, and the notorious history of the treadmill! Be sure to subscribe to the podcast in iTunes or Google Play so you can get all our new episodes!
  • Cregan-Reid, V. (2017). Interview Leonard Lopate Show WNYC NPR radio in New York. [Radio]. Available at: http://bit.ly/2B9BJBP.
  • Cregan-Reid, V. (2017). Interview on BBC Radio Scotland’s Out for the Weekend. [Radio]. Available at: http://bbc.in/2Aw8xG3.
    28/07/2017: Out for the Weekend Have you ever wondered why so many people love running? Author Vybarr Cregan-Reid did and decided to find out why running divides opinion. He chats to Fiona about his new book "How Running Makes Us Human". One of the biggest re-enactment festivals takes place in Pitlochry this weekend. James Rattray from The Soldiers of Killicrankie tells us more. Reporter Claire White recently took part in a Gaelic song walking tour of Glasgow with producer Rona MacDonald. If orienteering is your thing then don't miss Jon Musgrave telling Fiona all about the Scottish Six Days of Orienteering which is taking place in Deeside this year. Kirsty Nutt from the RSPB took some time out recently to chat to Claire White about the 10 year anniversary of Red Kite re-introduction in Aberdeen. This weekend marks the official start of the Aberdeen International Youth Festival and CEO Stuart Aitken is in the studio to tell us what not to miss. We hear about a community gardening initiative in the south of Glasgow that encourages people to grow and cook together. Ann Philbrow from Urban Roots tells us more. And gardening guru Carole Baxter is back in the studio to answer your gardening questions. So if you have a problem with your parsnips or an issue with your iris then get in touch.
  • Cregan-Reid, V. (2017). Interview on RunRun Live Podcast - iTunes. [iTunes podcast]. Available at: http://apple.co/2AxnmYO.
  • Cregan-Reid, V. (2017). The Disruptors - Hate the gym? History explains why the treadmill can feel like torture. [Radio]. Available at: http://bit.ly/2lQocrn.
    Interview on Canadian national radio about the strange history of the treadmill
  • Cregan-Reid, V. (2017). BBC Radio 3 - Free Thinking - Running. [Live radio discussion programme]. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b087yrll?ns_mchannel=social&.
    We've been running for two million years give or take. Shahidha Bari and Laurence Scott explore contemporary running as solitary inspiration and communal activity with the Geographer and 1999 Scottish Hill Running Champion, Hayden Lorimer, the artists Kai Syng Tan and Angus Farquhar, and the literary scholar and bare-foot artiste, Vybarr Cregan-Reid. Conversation ranges from feeling empowered on city streets to teaming up with the wind to the horrid history of the treadmill and explore whether Running deserves better representation in the arts.

    Guests: Vybarr Cregan-Reid - author of Footnotes How Running Makes Us Human
    Angus Farquhar, Creative Director of NVA Public Art, author of a blog 'The Grim Runner'
    Hayden Lorimer Running Geographer
    Kai Syng Tan, Artist and curator of a biennial festival Run Run Run

    Producer: Jacqueline Smith.
  • Cregan-Reid, V. (2016). Does Running Make you More Intelligent?. [Radio / internet]. Available at: http://www.newstalk.com/podcasts/Moncrieff/Highlights_from_Moncrieff/148432/Does_running_make_you_more_intelligent.
    Interview on Irish national radio - 'Moncrieff' on Newstalk
  • Cregan-Reid, V. (2016). How to get into running. [Radio / internet / BBC iplayer]. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03rw51l.
    Interview on BBC Radio 4's You and Yours programme about my running, the runner's high, and the history of the running shoe
  • Cregan-Reid, V. (2015). ‘Where is the literature of running?’. [Radio / internet / BBC iplayer]. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06gtn4x.
    An essay broadcast on BBC Radio Four's Open Book that asks why novelists are not inspired by running, especially given that so many do it.


  • Cregan-Reid, V. (2018). Primate Change: How the World We Made Is Remaking Us. [Online]. London, New York: Cassell, Hachette. Available at: https://www.octopusbooks.co.uk/books/detail.page?isbn=9781788401081.
    PRIMATE CHANGE is a wide-ranging, polemical look at how and why the human body has changed since humankind first got up on two feet. Spanning the entirety of human history - from primate to transhuman - Vybarr Cregan-Reid's book investigates where we came from, who we are today and how modern technology will change us beyond recognition.

    In the last two hundred years, humans have made such a tremendous impact on the world that our geological epoch is about to be declared the 'Anthropocene', or the Age of Man. But while we have been busy changing the shape of the world we inhabit, the ways of living that we have been building have, as if under the cover of darkness, been transforming our bodies and altering the expression of our DNA, too.

    Primate Change beautifully unscrambles the complex architecture of our modern human bodies, built over millions of years and only starting to give up on us now.

    'Our bodies are in a shock. Modern living is as bracing to the human body as jumping through a hole in the ice. Our bodies do not know what century they were born into and they are defending and deforming themselves in response.'
  • Cregan-Reid, V. (2017). Footnotes: How Running Makes Us Human. [Online]. London: Ebury Press. Available at: https://www.penguin.co.uk/books/1108162/footnotes/.
    Running is not just a sport; it is the breaking down of our increasingly structured and demanding lives. In our always-on world, we are becoming alienated from our environment and ourselves, running reconnects us, lifts the spirit and allows our minds out to play and can help us to remember some of the impossible strangeness of what it means to be human. Footnotes will take you out to tread London’s streets, climbing to sites that have seen a millennium of hangings, or down the crumbling alleyways of Ruskin's Venice. It will transport you to the cliff tops of Hardy's Dorset, the deserted shorelines of Seattle, the giant redwood forests of California and the boulevards of Paris, using debates in literature, philosophy, biology and neuroscience to explore that simple human desire to run. Liberating and inspiring, this book will remind you why feeling the earth beneath our feet is a necessary and healing part of our lives.

Book section

  • Cregan-Reid, V. (2017). Essay on perspiration. In: Running: Cheaper Than Therapy. UK: Bloomsbury, pp. 33-35.
    Essay on perspiration appearing alongside other celebrity runners (David Baddiel, Jeff Galloway, Nicky Campbell, etc.)

Internet publication

  • Cregan-Reid, V. (2018). Modern Life Gives Children Nearly Everything They Need, Except Daylight [online publication]. Available at: https://theconversation.com/modern-life-offers-children-almost-everything-they-need-except-daylight-106374.
    A short article for the Conversation about the health implications of sustained indoor activities in modern life
  • Cregan-Reid, V. (2018). Why Do Hunter-Gatherers Live Nearly As Long As We Do But With Only Limited Access to Healthcare? [Online]. Available at: https://theconversation.com/hunter-gatherers-live-nearly-as-long-as-we-do-but-with-limited-access-to-healthcare-104157.
    A short piece about life expectancy for The Conversation
  • Cregan-Reid, V. (2018). Anthropocene: Why the Chair Should Be the Symbol for Our Sedentary Age [Internet Article]. Available at: https://theconversation.com/anthropocene-why-the-chair-should-be-the-symbol-for-our-sedentary-age-105319.
  • Cregan-Reid, V. (2018). Allergies: The Scourge of Modern Life? (Weekend) [Internet Article]. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/oct/20/allergies-the-scourge-of-modern-living-hay-fever-ashtma-eczema-food-peanuts-dairy-eggs-penicillin.
    Our ancestors didn’t suffer from hay fever and food allergies were extremely rare even a few decades ago. What is causing the steep rise in their incidence now?
  • Cregan-Reid, V. (2018). The Anthropocene Era Is Killing Us [internet magazine]. Available at: https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-anthropocene-era-is-killing-us.
    Our bodies evolved in a different geological era, and as we stand upon the crest of yet another, humans are showing signs of the stress these changes are placing on us.
  • Cregan-Reid, V. (2018). Power Plants [online publication]. Available at: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/fresh-air-farming-how-one-man-halved-his-asthma-medication-wlb8snbl3.
    Fresh-air farming: how one man halved his asthma medication
    Asthma sufferer Vybarr Cregan-Reid on how greening up his home has helped him to breathe easier — and reduce his medication
  • Cregan-Reid, V. (2016). From Perspiration to World Domination – the Extraordinary Science of Sweat [Website]. Available at: https://theconversation.com/from-perspiration-to-world-domination-the-extraordinary-science-of-sweat-62753.
    We often assume that it is our brain power that differentiates us from other animals. It is obvious that we are able to process more intellectual stimuli than other mammals, but any PC owner knows that computational power is completely useless if the cooling system fails. And this is what really sets us apart. It is our ability to maintain an effective working temperature, not just so that we can keep moving, but so that we can keep thinking while in motion, efficiently chasing down the quarry.
  • Cregan-Reid, V. (2016). ‘Running Makes You Smarter - Here’s How’ [Online]. Available at: https://theconversation.com/running-makes-you-smarter-heres-how-61454.
    This article is about recent research in neuroscience and what it tells us about the deep history of our bodies. It is about why our brains prepare us for the uptake of new knowledge after intense exercise and looks at John Clare's desire to out of his knowledge by walking over the horizon. It was incredibly popular and was subsequently translated into French and Spanish.
  • Cregan-Reid, V. (2016). The Top Five Spring Runs from the Author of Footnotes: How Running Makes Us Human [Online]. Available at: https://www.penguin.co.uk/articles/on-writing/on-writing/2016/may/the-top-five-spring-runs-from-the-author-of-footnotes/.
    Publicity piece hosted by Penguin.co.uk for "Footnotes: how running makes us human"


  • Cregan-Reid, V. (2017). Interview in Psychology Today. [Online]. Available at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/201707/the-run.


  • Cregan-Reid, V. (2016). The Octopus and the Windmill. Literary Review [Online]:34-35. Available at: https://literaryreview.co.uk/the-octopus-the-windmill.
    This article is a review of two recent books, Richard Askwith’s Today We Die a Little & Duncan Hamilton’s For the Glory


  • Franchi, B. (2017). Ideas That Matter: Strategies of Intertextuality in A. S. Byatt’s Fiction.
    What is the role of intertextuality and ekphrasis in A. S. Byatt's novels and short stories? How does Byatt deploy intertextuality to address the relationship between art as experience and representation? And how do intertextuality and ekphrasis enhance creativity and destructive forces across characters, texts and discourses? This thesis examines how the numerous intertextual and ekphrastic references in Byatt's fiction challenge and complicate the crucial relationship between ideas and matter, and between mental processes and bodily experiences.
    Starting from Kristeva's theory of intertextuality, I argue how in Byatt reading, storytelling and writing are not only the highly demanding intellectual activities that most of her characters engage with, but also potentially dangerous: writing can kill once written words come to replace actual experience (Chapter 1). Conversely, the visual arts, medicine and science, appearing throughout Byatt's fiction in the form of intertextual and ekphrastic presences, represent more positive, empowering and liberating elements because of the greater balance between the mental and the physical dimensions they encourage (Chapters 2 and 3).
    The two final chapters shift their attention from the metatextual, theoretical perspective of the first part and focus on how Byatt deploys intertextual strategies to address political and historical discourses, in particular war trauma and the construction of national identity. Where the weight of history defines material existence, intertextuality unleashes its most creative powers of self-defence and survival, and allows characters to defend themselves, through mythology and storytelling, against the traumas of war and cross-cultural encounters.
    Ultimately, Byatt's are stories of individual development: intertextuality and ekphrasis thus become the ultimate strategies with which her protagonists are given agency over themselves, either to fight for their own emancipation, or be the tragic cause of their own self-destruction.
  • Salvey, C. (2014). Mechanism and Meaning: British Natural Theology and the Literature of Technology, 1820-1840.
    As Carlyle recognized—and Arnold deplored—the nineteenth century was the ‘Age of Machinery’. Increasingly ubiquitous physical things, machines were also increasingly important cultural objects. In this project, I track how the meanings of machines were constructed by an emergent ‘literature of technology’ and ask what cultural work those meanings accomplished. From popular expositions of steam engines to mechanics textbooks to industrial travel narratives to histories of technology, the material, literary, and generic forms of these texts constructed the ‘machine’ as an intelligible object of public culture, as part of nature, as passive servant to human agents, and as the product of complex development. The cultural impact of such significances reverberated beyond debates on technology to shape seemingly irrelevant discourses: these meanings were harnessed by mechanical metaphors to do work in other cultural domains from poetics to political economy to religion. As a case study, I trace how each of these meanings supported or challenged the plausibility of natural theology in the 1830s, a religious discourse built on an analogy between machines and natural objects. Drawing on often-read texts like Babbage’s 'On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures' and Ure’s 'Philosophy of Manufactures' and lesser-read texts like the Bridgewater Treatises, Lardner’s 'The Steam Engine', Head’s 'A Home Tour through the Manufacturing Districts', and Whewell’s 'Mechanics of Engineering', this project ultimately argues that the way technology is talked about matters.

Visual media

  • Cregan-Reid, V. (2016). Sky News - Morning Stories - Run for Your Health. [TV]. Sky News.
    What would you do if i told there was a pill guaranteed to make you smarter, that could slow or even prevent Alzheimer’s, that could settle symptoms of depression, that was proven to be effective in the prevention of some cancers, that effectively tackled heart disease, that could reverse or prevent the onset of type-2 diabetes. Even better, it would enhance self esteem, make you feel more attractive, well, to anyone that you may want to attract. And, what if I told you that pill could make you more empathetic, would make you care more for your local environment; that you would be calmer, better at your job and increase your self sufficiency. What price would you pay for that pill? A month's salary, a year's?

    These are all things that I've discovered in my research into one of the simplest and most natural activities that is free to all of us. Some think it strange, most misunderstand it, but to the initiated who know how to do it slowly enough to enjoy it, it is absolutely magical. Running can give you all of these things. And it won't cost you anything.


  • Cregan-Reid, V. (2018). Is Exercise Fit for Purpose? [Internet Article]. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/news/series/the-long-read.
    Article for the Guardian 'Long Read' on why government guidance for exercise serially fail
  • Cregan-Reid, V. (2018). Human v4.0.
    An essay, commissioned by The Barbican to be turned into an artwork for their 'Life Rewired' season in 2019
  • Cregan-Reid, V. (2018). Sedentariness in Fiction. [radio essay].
    A short essay read for transmission on Radio 4's Open Book
  • Cregan-Reid, V. (2018). Changing World; Changing Bodies. [Radio].
    A three-part radio series looking at how our bodies have been changed by modern life
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