New research will look at how physical activity levels affect our bodies as we age

Thursday, 16 May 2024

Experts at the University of Nottingham are on the lookout for volunteers for a major new study looking at how physical activity levels affects our bodies as we age.

The UK population is getting older, with those aged 65 years and over set to increase to one in four of the population by 2039, but in the last 30 years the maintenance of good health has not kept pace with this increased lifespan. On average, adults in the UK typically spend the last decade of their life in poor-health.

The Covid-19 pandemic further exposed our unhealthy nation and raised government and public health awareness around the association between physical inactivity, being sedentary and poor health, which is now a major public health priority. It is vital for individual wellbeing and the UK economy that more adults reach old age in better health and maintain a good quality of life for a greater proportion of their older age. Key to achieving this is a need to understand the mechanisms by which habitual physical activity levels impact on the progression of health as we age.

In response, this new groundbreaking study led by Professor Paul Greenhaff and colleagues from the University of Nottingham, will study the effects that six months of highly controlled physical activity and inactivity have on the body, in middle-aged men and women.

Through this research we will combine world-leading MRI technology and human biology expertise to assess people’s health over the course of six months of controlled physical activity interventions. Ultimately our research will enable us to make recommendations which will maximise the health of adults at risk of decline, and help them reach old age in good health.”
Paul Greenhaff, Professor of Muscle Metabolism in the School of Life Sciences

The team of researchers are looking to recruit:

  • People who are overweight (with BMI of between 25 and 29) and aged between 55-65 years
  • Are not involved in exercise training and walk less than 5000 steps per day
  • Spend more then 8 hours per day sitting.

Over a six-month period, this group of participants will be asked to increase their physical activity; attend three supervised cycling sessions per week; and have body function, diet and activity levels measured before, during and after the six-month period.

The team are also looking to recruit:

  • People who are overweight (with BMI of between 25 and 29) and aged between 55-65 years
  • Are not exercise training but walk 8,000-10,000 steps per day
  • Spend fewer than six hours sitting down a day

This group will be asked to reduce physical activity to match that of the UK average adult for six months – taking less than 4,500 steps per day; having a sitting time of 7 hours or more per day; have body function, diet and activity levels measured during and after the six month period; and attend three months of supervised exercise sessions after the study finishes to restore fitness levels.

Both groups will need to attend sessions at the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham.

For more information, please email or call the study team at or 07866 010 684.

Story credits

More information is available from Professor Paul Greenhaff in the school of Life Sciences at the University of Nottingham at

Charlotte Anscombe - Media Relations Manager - Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences
Phone: 0115 748 4417

Notes to editors:

About the University of Nottingham

Ranked 32 in Europe and 16th in the UK by the QS World University Rankings: Europe 2024, the University of Nottingham is a founding member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience, and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our students. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia - part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement.

Nottingham was crowned Sports University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2024 – the third time it has been given the honour since 2018 – and by the Daily Mail University Guide 2024.

The university is among the best universities in the UK for the strength of our research, positioned seventh for research power in the UK according to REF 2021. The birthplace of discoveries such as MRI and ibuprofen, our innovations transform lives and tackle global problems such as sustainable food supplies, ending modern slavery, developing greener transport, and reducing reliance on fossil fuels.

The university is a major employer and industry partner - locally and globally - and our graduates are the second most targeted by the UK's top employers, according to The Graduate Market in 2022 report by High Fliers Research.

We lead the Universities for Nottingham initiative, in partnership with Nottingham Trent University, a pioneering collaboration between the city’s two world-class institutions to improve levels of prosperity, opportunity, sustainability, health and wellbeing for residents in the city and region we are proud to call home.

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