Contact Us | Site Map | Accessibility

Exercise and Diet

The normal wear and tear that our bodies go through as we age makes older people more susceptible to problems with joints, muscles and connective tissues. More than three million people are disabled by such problems, and a further five million suffer from arthritis, osteoporosis, rheumatic and similar diseases. Current advice is that older people should keep active as exercise and a healthy diet help to maintain muscle, bone and tissue. SPARC projects cover a range of issues which link movement, activity, strength, diet and heart function, with the aim of improving understanding of what constitutes a healthy life style in later years. This work is particularly important for developing more comprehensive advice, especially for those people who cannot follow conventional exercise regimes.

Photo of Matthew Lancaster

Ageing, exercise and gender: complex interactions and outcomes for all muscles

Dr Matthew Lancaster, Leeds University
12 months, £25,500
General Poster: Giving an Old Heart Hope,
Scientific Poster: Cardiac Ageing & Exercise
Keywords: Moderate Exercise, Cardiovascular Health, Maintaining Fitness, Cardiac Adaptation

Throughout the lifespan exercise is encouraged to promote cardiac, respiratory and musculo-skeletal health but the precise interactions of ageing, gender and different exercise protocols remain poorly understood. The development of a new model of the effects of ageing on muscular function will enable future study of critical issues relating to, for example, aerobic capacity, healthy circulation, strength in skeletal muscle, cardiac capacity and resistance to irregular heart rate and heart attack.

Gladys Onambele-Pearson

Optimisation of skeletal muscle responses and quality of life to exercise in people over 60 years old: healthy diet vs dietary supplementation

Dr Gladys Onambele-Pearson, Manchester Metropolitan University
12 months, £28,245
General Poster: Lifestyle, Scientific Poster
Executive Summary: Healthy Diet v Dietary Supplementation: improving physical fitness and quality of life in older people
Keywords: Skeletal Muscle, Exercise, Nutrition/Supplementation, Endocrinology

Older people have the greatest barriers (mostly in terms of ability/opportunity) to participating in exercise, and thus have the highest incidence of decreased ease in carrying out tasks of daily living. In an ageing society, the negative effects of age on skeletal muscle performance would be reduced if compliance to exercise regimens could be encouraged through simple advice on timing, duration, frequency, intensity, as well as appropriate nutritional interventions. Research into the impact of optimal nutrition/diet supplementation in young and/or athletic populations is extensive. Such data are scarce when considering healthy, older populations. We therefore propose to investigate the impact of healthy eating habits with or without supplementation, on exercise responsiveness. This protocol seeks to maximise training benefits on the neural muscular and tendinous complexes.

Richard Ferguson

Temperature and velocity interactions in neuromuscular function during locomotion in older people

Dr Richard Ferguson, Strathclyde University
12 months, £51,322
Poster: Efficiency of Movement
Keywords: Muscle Temperature, Contraction Speed, Mechanical Efficiency, Neuromuscular Function

The decline in mobility of the aging population, caused by a loss of muscle function, is an important issue in the quality of life. One way of helping to develop rehabilitative interventions to improve mobility in the older population is to enhance our understanding of factors that influence locomotory performance. One such factor that is not well understood is efficiency of movement, i.e., the energy required to produce a certain movement. This research will lead to an understanding of how factors relevant to the elderly population, such as speed of movement and temperature, can influence efficiency. The research will also elucidate the neuromuscular mechanisms that might explain these changes.

Dianne Ford

The molecular basis of the beneficial effects of calorie restriction on ageing: DNA methylation influenced by Sitr1-mediated histone deacetylation

Dr Dianne Ford, Newcastle University
8 months, £43,888
General Poster: Calorie Restriction, Scientific Poster
Executive Summary: The Beneficial Effects of Calorie Restriction on Ageing
Keywords: Calorie Restriction, Histone Deacetylation, Sirt1, DNA Methylation

Substantial evidence indicates that restricting energy intake delays aspects of the ageing process but the mechanisms responsible for this beneficial effect remain unclear. The protein Sirt1, which increases in tissues and cells when energy intake is restricted, is emerging as a strong candidate for being a principal mediator of these effects and much research is focused on studying its mechanisms of action in this context. One known action of Sirt1 is to remove chemical groups from proteins called histones, which form a core around which the DNA in the cell's nucleus is wrapped. This process is referred to as histone deacetylation. Deacetylation of histones is linked with a chemical modification to the DNA molecule itself DNA methylation. Changes in DNA methylation occur with ageing. In this project we will investigate if expressing Sirt1 in cells alters histone deacetylation and/or DNA methylation to reveal a possible mechanism through which increasing Sirt1 expression through energy restriction can affect the process of ageing.

Sarah Aldred

Lipoprotein Oxidation in Ageing

Dr Sarah Aldred, Birmingham University
12 months, £29,148
General Poster: Towards Active Ageing, Scientific Poster
Executive Summary: Taking a Walk? physical activity and the health of older people
Keywords: Exercise, Lipoprotein Function, Adaptation to Exercise, Oxidative Stress

Oxidative damage to lipoproteins, in particular low density lipoprotein (LDL), is known to play a role in a number of diseases associated with ageing such as cardiovascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and dementia. Exercise can alter the balance of oxidative and anti-oxidative species within the human body. Although it was first assumed that due to an increased oxygen metabolism, exercise would induce an increased release of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species causing damage to proteins, DNA and lipids, more recent research has indicated that exercise induced radical species are key to adaptive processes. The aim of the proposed study is to assess parameters of lipoprotein protein and lipid oxidation, and lipoprotein nitration in aged individuals who undertake a programme of moderate physical activity for a period of 8 weeks, in order to identify changes due to physical activity which may impact upon diseases associated with ageing.


SPARC & KT-EQUAL Workshops

Please refer to the KT-EQUAL website for forthcoming workshops.

Latest Executive Summaries and Monographs

Please refer to the KT-EQUAL website for recently issued monographs.


Become a SPARC/KT-EQUAL Member (no charges) and receive updates and information about our work.

Please refer to the KT-EQUAL website for the current membership form.

The SPARC Story

Welcome to SPARC and KT-EQUAL: Knowledge Transfer for Extending Quality Life

SPARC brings together researchers, practitioners and policy makers in ageing. It specialises in communicating the latest design, engineering and biological ageing-related research to all stakeholders, making the case about the benefits for an ageing population of scientific research, and it encourages new blood into ageing research. Although funding for SPARC ended in December 2008, SPARC is continuing to function from the University of Reading within a new initiative - KT-EQUAL which commenced in January 2009. Soon KT-EQUAL will have its own website but for the time being news and information about SPARC and KT-EQUAL events are being handled by the SPARC website.

SPARC Mission Statement

Supporting Older People by
Putting Research into Practice and
Actively Promoting Needs and Solutions through
Research Leadership and


BBSRC - Biotechnological and Biological Sciences Research Council EPSRC - Engineering and Phsyical Sciences Research Council