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Preventative Health and Exercise and Nutritional Interventions

Lead: Professor Ioannis Vogiatzis

Over a quarter of the population in England have a long-term condition and an increasing proportion have two or more long-term conditions. This is the reason why long-term conditions are now a central task of the NHS Long Term Plan. Sedentarism and inadequate nutrition act synergistically, and additively causing long-term conditions and chronic diseases. This has led health authorities to explore the role of different forms of physical activity and nutrition in the management of the risk of developing and/or progressing numerous long-term conditions and diseases.

Our main research areas include the application of innovative exercise strategies to improve functional capacity along with behavioural interventions to promote physical activity and wellbeing in healthy frail and diseased individuals, as well as the optimisation of the role of nutrition and functional foods to improve health status in general population. Through our collaboration with NHS-based services in the North East of England our research has informed the development of novel treatments and interventions, that improve patients’ readiness for major surgery, physical and mental recovery following surgery, and quality of life in older adults with multi-morbidity through participation in wellness programmes in the community. Our research focuses on designing, implementing and evaluating care pathways at the interface of psychology, medicine and rehabilitation in cancer survivors and in patients with chronic lung and heart disease, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s and Parkinson’s disease as well as in chronic pain syndromes, fibromyalgia, chronic musculoskeletal and rheumatologic disorders, and musculoskeletal long-term conditions. 

Exercise for patients with long-term conditions

Research is focusing on populations with chronic lung and heart disease, colorectal and prostate cancer, multiple sclerosis and on adults with Crohn’s disease. Specific research themes include the optimisation of exercise therapy to induce the greatest health or therapeutic benefits for clinical populations, the role of prehabilitation in those patients waiting for surgery and tele-rehabilitation in heart and lung disease patients and those post-surgery.

Strategic collaboration with the NHS has allowed the deployment of cardiopulmonary exercise testing and rehabilitation research projects and services. In addition, research is focused on the development and evaluation of rehabilitative interventions for musculoskeletal deconditioning. This overarching theme is underpinned by research looking at exercise rehabilitation strategies to restore spinal/postural stability as a result of chronic injury (e.g., lower back pain) or muscular unloading (e.g., ageing, long duration bed rest, microgravity), and the effectiveness of surgical interventions to restore lower limb joint function and stability, using multidisciplinary approaches.

Further research interests focus on conditions at the interface of psychology, medicine and rehabilitation in disease entities such as chronic pain syndromes in adults and children, fibromyalgia and chronic widespread pain syndromes, chronic musculoskeletal and rheumatologic disorders, and musculoskeletal long-term conditions. By using novel techniques such as transcranial magnetic stimulation and motor nerve stimulation, research has focused on the mechanisms and sites of exercise-induced neuromuscular fatigue.  

Human nutrition to optimise wellbeing and athletic performance

Capitalising on the wide expertise relevant to all aspects of conducting multidisciplinary nutritional clinical trials, we have an important contribution in the areas of product development, in biomolecular science, in microbiomes research and in proteomics and metabolomics development. Furthermore, we investigate the effects of different nutrition interventions in cardiovascular function, physical performance and brain function. Finally, we are creating a ‘virtual’ one-stop shop for multidisciplinary research proactively targeted at existing and future industrial collaborators.

In this frame, we collaborate with local, national and international partners to develop and conduct work using exercise to improve human performance and improve health and wellbeing of the broader population. In recent years the research group had an increasing interest in the use of functional foods (such as cherry juice and beetroot) to improve exercise recovery and how these might be applied to improve human health and sports performance. Although a majority of work is focused on human performance there is increasing application and translation from this work to the general population to maintain health along the life span, but also to improve the prognosis in clinical populations.


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