Despite an increase in life expectancy worldwide, ageing is associated with deterioration in both motor and cognitive functioning. Changes in brain structure and function with advancing age, including deterioration of prefrontal areas involved in attention, monitoring and control of behaviour, significantly impact activities of daily living and undermine the preservation of physical independence in elderly people. However, age-associated decline in cognition might be ameliorated by some types of physical activity. Nevertheless, the precise mechanisms for the protective benefits of physical activity on aging remain unclear. Thus, differentiating typical ageing from exaggerated age-associated decline due to poor physical activity and other lifestyle factors (sedentariness) can be difficult. One way to disentangle the role of physical activity from other lifestyle factors is to hold physical activity constant, by studying individuals who have been physically active for much of their life.
To understand mechanisms that underpin the role of physical activity and sedentariness across the lifespan, with a view to improving the life of older people. we aim to use athletes as a model of healthy ageing to identify any associated ageing mechanisms that might be offset by physical training. This project aims to bridge a knowledge gap in the understanding of the relationship between lifestyle (physical activity and sedentary behaviour) and cognitive functioning. To this end, the proposed project will compare highly active, average, and sedentary individuals (20-80 years) with the view to understanding the benefits of exercise (and other lifestyle choices) as a function of age, and optimal type of exercise across the adult lifespan. This research will lay the foundations for follow-up research to further develop personalized interventions to improve the quality of life of older people.
The main aim of this project is to investigate the implications of exercise as a lifestyle approach across the lifespan by:
- Primary Assessments include neurocognitive function (MRI, in particular resting-state brain activation and functional connectivity), psychological function (psychometrics), and musculoskeletal physiology.
- Additional assessments will include blood measures (e.g., metabolomics, inflammation and endocrinological measures).