Impact Case Study

Combating musculoskeletal disuse in older people

Musculoskeletal research has directly informed international 'gold standard' physical activity and rehabilitation guidelines for older adults.

The problem

We’re all living longer, but unfortunately this doesn’t correspond to longer years of ‘good health’. This is putting an unsustainable burden on society.

What we did

Manchester Metropolitan University researchers, Neil Reeves and Gladys Pearson, are combating musculoskeletal deterioration caused by old age, by refining novel techniques that visualise the musculoskeletal system. 

What we discovered

They were the first to make major observations around the adaptation of tendons in older people. They consequently researched methods to combat the deterioration associated with ageing. The results have been used to develop guidelines for healthy ageing and to influence the designs of human centrifuge, vibration and yo-yo flywheel exercise therapies.

Why it matters

In 2009, muscle-tendon research was included in international ‘gold standard’ guidelines for older people from the US American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

The ACSM guidance is used by 45,000 international healthcare professionals offering government and clinicians a way of establishing physical activity sessions tailored to older people. Research is cited in UK Government health guidance and informs World Health Organisation guidelines for older adults.

Since 1990, the university’s musculoskeletal research has influenced the work of global commercial partners including Technogym and Novotec Clinical. They develop and supply resistance exercise equipment.

"These recognitions have been instrumental when conceiving the ‘Cologne strategy’ for the rehabilitation of children with neuromuscular disturbances with various underlying pathologies. Whole body vibration are the main constituents of this strategy"

Research into bed rest has led to vibration interventions across Europe – particularly as a clinical therapy to combat muscle weakness in children.

The university’s work is crucial, as testimony from the Zentrum for Kinderrehabilitation (Germany) acknowledges:

Researchers have informed policy makers and the wider public about the adverse effects of ageing and musculoskeletal disuse.

Gladys Pearson has responded to parliamentary questions and delivered presentations on ageing to ministers. 

“Research from Manchester Met has directly informed our programs in relation to resistance training for older adults. The impact upon sales was significant.”

Scientific Research and Communication Manager, Technogym

Featured Researcher

Professor Neil Reeves

Neil's academic interests lie in musculoskeletal biomechanics, gait analysis and human movement

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Phone 0161 247 5429