Ageing, lifestyle and physical activity

Our research promotes healthy lifestyles and wellbeing across the lifespan. We have multidisciplinary teams focusing on ageing and health, climate change and vulnerability, exercise, health and performance, living well with chronic disease, neurological rehabilitation, sports injury, sports performance and activity promotion, and work and health.

We collaborate extensively around Australia and internationally and are constantly seeking to innovate and develop new partnerships.

Our collective aim is to improve lives. Our research is conducted in a diverse range of settings (including hospitals, community, schools and residential care) and in conjunction with a variety of industry partners. Our research has been cited in numerous national and international practice guidelines and policy documents.

We're proud of our societal impact. By translating our research, we are changing lifestyles and practices of the general public, athletes, people living with chronic diseases, older people with comorbidities, healthcare practitioners and healthcare organisations.

Meet our researchers

Lindy Clemson

Professor Lindy Clemson
Research leader

Professor in Ageing and Occupational Therapy

Older people are at higher risk of falls, which can lead to a chain of negative consequences including loss of confidence, limiting activity and injury leading to hospitalisation and death. My research focuses on developing and implementing fall-prevention programs.

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My background in occupational therapy contributed to the development of three novel and effective fall‑prevention programs for older people. One of these, the LiFE program, teaches older people to embed exercise in daily life. LiFE has been implemented internationally and is currently the focus of a multi-university European consortium that is adapting it for younger adults using iPhone technology. Another significant program is iSOLVE, which general practitioners are using to implement evidence-based fall-prevention strategies with their patients.

My work in dementia includes COPE, an occupational therapy and community nursing program to improve day-to-day functioning of people with dementia. We are partnering with aged care providers, local health districts and private practitioners to determine how COPE can be delivered in a sustainable way.

Maria Fiatarone Singh

Professor Maria Fiatarone Singh
John Sutton Chair of Exercise and Sport Science

I decided to become a geriatrician when I watched my beloved grandmother suffer from psychotic depression after the death of my grandfather. Later, she had a hip fracture and failing memory and slipped between the cracks of a healthcare system ill-equipped to deal with elders with multiple comorbidities. I knew there must be a better way.

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I qualified as a geriatrician in the first established fellowship program at UCLA in 1987. Over the past 37 years, I have practised clinical geriatric medicine and conducted research in exercise, nutrition and ageing.

My work always tries to inject a holistic vision of health care that is often missing from medical systems and business models. My team has conducted numerous clinical trials, dissemination and training programs in the use of exercise as medicine for chronic disease and ageing.

Lee-Fay Low

Associate Professor Lee-Fay Low

I've been a researcher in the area of dementia for almost 20 years. At the moment, when someone gets diagnosed with dementia, they are told to get their affairs in order and come back in six months for follow-up. Contrast this to a diagnosis of cancer, or someone who has had a stroke; people with dementia receive no rehabilitation or support to live a good life.

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I recently won an NHMRC fellowship to research rehabilitation for dementia. I'm advocating for more rehabilitation for dementia and allied health involvement in aged care services, and piloting the Dementia Lifestyle Coach program which supports people diagnosed with dementia to be active and engaged in their communities. As part of this study, we have people with dementia being paid to provide peer support to others.

I'm also working with several aged care providers to roll out LifeFul, a reablement and relationship-based care program in their facilities.

Ollie Jay

Associate Professor Ollie Jay

Every year, heatwaves are responsible for more deaths than all other natural disasters combined, with the elderly, economically disadvantaged, and people with cardiovascular problems among the most vulnerable.

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Air conditioning offers by far the greatest protection against heat-related illness in a heatwave, for those who have it. However, rising electricity prices and the greater likelihood of blackouts associated with Australia's ongoing energy concerns makes our reliance on air conditioning during heatwaves even more tenuous. Through funding from the NHMRC, MS Research Australia, and the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, my research team in the Thermal Ergonomics Laboratory strives to better understand the factors that influence people's ability to regulate their body temperature. We're using this information to develop evidence-based guidance for sustainable cooling strategies for the most vulnerable during bouts of hot weather.

We're also working with sporting organisations such as Cricket Australia and the National Rugby League to develop user-friendly extreme heat policies that protect participants from the risk of heat illness.

Meet our research students

Mohammad Fauzan Bin Maideen

Mohammad Fauzan Bin Maideen

I have always been fascinated by research that fuels evidence-based clinical practice, and improves patient outcomes by challenging what may be seen as conventional wisdom in day-to-day assumptions.

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After working as a clinician and teaching academic for many years, I felt I was ready to embark on my doctoral studies and begin a long overdue research career. Choosing the University of Sydney for my PhD was an easy decision, with its stellar track record in research and academic innovation.

My PhD supervisor Associate Professor Ollie Jay has been extremely supportive and instrumental in sparking my interest in paediatric thermal physiology. He has been more like a mentor than a research supervisor. One exciting innovation we are looking at is an optimal method for non-invasively monitoring core body temperature in premature infants.

Meredith Gresham

Meredith Gresham

As an occupational therapist (OT), my career has focussed on making a difference in older people's lives, particularly older people living with dementia, as well as the family and professional carers who provide support. OTs work to help clients achieve independence with basic activities of daily living.

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One critical aspect of basic daily living is toileting – often the difference between a person remaining at home or being admitted to a nursing home

Until recently, there has been no way to automate the task of clean up. But now there is an electronic toilet seat (also known as a bidet) that washes and dries the user. Toileting is a decidedly non‑glamorous area of research but one with the potential to greatly improve people's dignity and autonomy. Along with my supervisors, Associate Professor Lee-Fay Low and Professor Lindy Clemson, I've taken on the challenge of exploring bidet technology as a way of supporting older people who need help with toileting.

Our research facilities

Shayan Quinlan

Biomechanic Laboratory

"The Biomechanic Laboratory has 16 LED cameras designed to pick up fast moving frames per second creating 3-D images, calculating angle of movement through actions such as running and walking," says Shayan Quinlan.

Shayan is completing a PhD degree at the Faculty of Health Sciences looking at changing the way childrens school shoes are designed by investigating the biomechanics of the child's foot within school shoes.

Will Casasda

Thermo-Ergonomic Laboratory

"I actively pursued placement at the University of Sydney, I had heard how good the research facilities are for the exercise and sport science field," says Will Casasola.

Will is on a professional training year from the University of Exeter conducting research in the Thermal Ergonomics Laboratory. His research is investigating how pregnant women thermo-regulate at set heat productions of 350 W and 5 W/kg, mimicking moderate intensity exercise.