Regular and ongoing participation in physical exercise can provide a significant health benefit across the lifespan. The Wellness & Exercise Strand is concerned with identifying and implementing effective strategies, based on the use of physical exercise, which facilitate the maintenance of health. Regular physical exercise has been shown to induce improvements in muscle strength, joint mobility, postural control and cardiovascular fitness. These improvements are associated with better functional capacity so contributing to ameliorate independent living with a resultant reduction in the need for clinical services. The Wellness & Exercise Strand employs recent concurrent advances in exercise science and sensor technologies to create novel approaches in implementing successful therapeutic exercise programmes in the ageing population. It focuses on three main areas: 1. Identification of optimal prescription for exercise programmes that can be carried out in the home (or in
any other non-clinical environment) on an ongoing basis by the ageing population. Particular focus has been given to the use of short duration bouts, of moderate to high intensity exercise, targeting multiple components of fitness and functional capacity. 2. Identification of a key set of biomarkers indicating changes in neuromuscular, skeletal and cardiovascular function, that can be used to effectively track participant progress. In addition it is imperative that the resulting data can be translated into formats that will be understood by both the healthcare community and the population performing the exercise to achieve effective biofeedback. 3. Development of a technological platform that will facilitate implementation of exercise in the home or community in a manner that will see it embedded into daily life. Key to this will be the deployment and evaluation of a sensor based system that will deliver effective exercise performance & compliance monitoring, physical status testing,
encouragement & motivation, and feedback to the target population.
Current Research "Stepping Stones"
Stepping Stones is a short term high intensity programme of physical exercise to improve fitness levels in healthy middle-aged people (55-65 years). It is designed to be:
• Straightforward to perform in the home or workplace
• Short in duration and easy to integrate into a normal daily routine
• Easily monitored remotely by a healthcare professional if necessary
The efficacy of exercise prescriptions are accessed using quantitative measures based on electrophysiological, kinetic and kinematic data (EMG, ECG, force plate, accelerometry) and act as a guide towards the most effective interventions.
A complete home/work technology platform has been developed for the project, using a wearable wireless sensors system (SHIMMERs™) and an open shareable software platform (BioMOBIUS™). This facilitates effective monitoring and biofeedback during exercise whilst enhancing end-user motivation and involvement in the process.