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Taking steps to relieve elderly joint pain

A Bournemouth University lecturer’s scientific study found that four months of exercise and stretching training for the elderly improved their lower limb joints when walking downstairs.

Stronger ankle flexibility and postural stability when climbing the stairs was also found in completing the exercise.

James Gavin, lecturer at BU wants to relieve older adults of the struggles that weak joints cause, by giving patients an opportunity for recovering through his research.

Focusing on musculoskeletal physiology, James wants to use his knowledge to find out whether exercise training can help the older generation negotiate stairs, as well as using stair climbing as part of rehabilitation for those recovering from joint replacement surgery.

“Older adults were filmed walking up and down a custom-built staircase with 3D analysis cameras,” explains James.

“In addition, force plates were embedded in each step to measure ground reaction forces, and each step could be adjusted, like height for example to make stair negotiation more challenging.”

The project was carried out at Liverpool John Moores University which is studying the effects of exercise training on the movement and sensory demands on lower limb joints of climbing up and walking down stairs.

James’ in depth understanding of muscle adaptation was particularly useful in the study.

After presenting the group’s findings at two international conferences, James also has three peer-reviewed articles in preparation and has contributed to a technical report for the stakeholders, New Dynamics of Ageing and The Building Research Establishment.

“My next steps are to conduct applied research that has practical impact on people’s daily lives,” he said.

“Using principles of musculoskeletal trainability, I aim to study practical methods of exercise training that can be embedded into people’s daily lives.”

James’ motivation behind the project is that he particularly wants to discover how to improve “functional performance in older adults and those recovering after surgery”.