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World’s largest study into what keeps us active as we age

One of the world's largest and most comprehensive studies into the factors that keep us active as we age is among 10 Queensland University of Technology (QUT) projects to share in more than $6.1 million funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

Principal Research Fellow at QUT's Faculty of Health, Professor Gavin Turrell, leads the HABITAT (How Areas in Brisbane Influence healTh And acTivity) study which, since 2007, has been looking into life and recreation among people aged 40-65 in Brisbane.

The study has been collecting data on more than 10,000 residents over the past five years and will now continue to survey these same adults across 200 Brisbane neighbourhoods over the next five years to gauge the role both active and sedentary behaviour play in preventing declines in physical function and health over time.

Professor Turrell said the $1.27 million study would also examine how physical activity and sedentary behaviour were influenced by neighbourhood environment as well as socio-demographic, social and psychological factors.

"We aim to see how a local neighbourhood's design and its built and social environment influence physical activity," he said.

"People's perceptions of their neighbourhood are also important, for example whether traffic, the state of footpaths, crime and safety and proximity to local shops influence their ability to be active.

"We want to know how often people participate in active leisure activities such as walking, playing tennis or swimming and what influences them to take up such pursuits and what discourages them.

"We're also looking at the amount of time people spend in sedentary behaviour both at work and at home, sitting in front of the TV or computer and what difference retirement and grandchildren make to a person's activity."

He said the research would be an invaluable resource for those developing policy around sustaining good health in Australia's ageing population.

"Australia's ageing population is characterised by problems such as rising obesity and physical and mental chronic disease," he said.

"We're also seeing increased population growth and urbanisation with increasing pollution levels and a higher reliance on cars for transport.

"At the same time people are becoming less active."

Professor Turrell said every recent government report on ageing had identified an urgent need for research so governments could develop strategies to help people maintain their independence and reduce time spent in hospitals and aged care facilities.

"It is widely accepted that physical activity helps promote good health and prevents disability; this research will provide the evidence that is needed by policymakers who can develop programs to help keep people active and maintain their independence as they age."

Other QUT recipients of NHMRC funding are:
•Professor Graham Kerr: Improving postural stability and reducing falls risk in people with Parkinson's disease using textured insoles: a randomised controlled trial: $968,537.70
•Dr Leanne Hides: A clinical-trial into the effectiveness of telephone-delivered brief interventions for reducing alcohol use and related harm in young people: $702,461
•Dr Jyotsna Batra: Identification and characterisation of a novel genetic signature at the 5p15 region associated with risk of prostate cancer: $590,222.10
•Professor Selena Bartlett: The role of neuronal nicotinic receptor subunits in the self-administration and relapse to alcohol seeking: treatments for alcohol dependence: $513,860.10
•Professor Pamela Russell : Simultaneous imaging and drug delivery for prostate cancer theranostics: $545,362.35
•Associate Professor Damien Harkin: A novel mesenchymal stromal cell and biomaterial for corneal reconstruction: $489,980.40
•Professor Zee Upton: Innovations in diabetic foot ulcer (DFU) wound care: $387,711.68
•Professor Kenneth Beagley: pH-dependent, antibody-mediated enhancement of genital chlamydial infection: implications for vaccine design: $360,431.18
•Doctor Kathleen Finlayson: Preventing recurrence of leg ulcers in older adults with peripheral vascular disease: identifying predictors and evaluating strategies: $299,564

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Media contact: Rose Trapnell, QUT media team leader, 07 3138 2361 or rose.trapnell@qut.edu.au

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