Afroditi Stathi, Professor of Physical Activity and Community Health conducts research aimed at arresting the downward spiral of inactivity: more inactivity leading to less mobility and less mobility leading to more inactivity, with subsequent negative consequences for the older person, their families and society. The REtirement in ACTion (REACT) study, a 42-month randomised controlled trial funded by the UK National Institute for Health Research has provided robust evidence that a relatively low-resource, one-year group exercise and behaviour maintenance intervention delivered in community settings can improve physical functioning of older people with mobility limitations, with benefits that last over at least two years.
Carolyn Greig, Professor of Musculoskeletal Ageing and Health at the University of Birmingham, has a major research interest in maintaining physical independence in older age through improving musculoskeletal health. Age-related loss of muscle mass and function, known as sarcopenia, is a well-known consequence of ageing and contributes to frailty and increased risk of fractures. Using interventions such as exercise training, often combined with nutritional supplementation, Professor Greig measures how muscle responds to these interventions in terms of changes in size and strength as well as the effect on functional ability, which is the ability to perform normal everyday tasks and activities important for a physically independent life.
Aligned with the United Nations Decade of Healthy Ageing, Professor Greig and colleagues Professor Janice Thompson and Dr Victoria Goodyear recently launched a Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) ‘Healthy Ageing: concepts, interventions and preparing for the future’. This course covers healthy ageing with a strong global focus on maintaining optimal functional ability in older age, which, in the words of the World Health Organisation, means ‘doing the things you have reason to value’.