Study aims to help older people be steadier on their feet

Published 21 March 2007

Health and fitness enthusiast Doug Willis, 71, of Goonellabah, is handing his body over to sports science.

Doug is the first person to volunteer for a study by Southern Cross University’s Department of Exercise Science and Sport Management which is looking into how the control of posture and balance is affected by aging and exercise in people aged over 60.

More volunteers are urgently needed for the study.

The research, by PhD student Pedro Bezerra, and honours students Zac Crowley and Martin Frank, supervised by Associate Professors Shi Zhou and Allan Davie, might lead to an understanding of why falls are more common in older people and to interventions which could make them safer on their feet.

The research team is initially examining how the strength of lower limb muscle groups affects postural stability.

Later in the study the participants will be involved in one of two training programs to improve muscle strength and then tests to see if there is a corresponding increase in body stability.

Mr Willis said he was keen to support any research which would enable older people to keep their independence longer.

“Falls are common in older people and these can lead to major surgery and a severe curtailing of a person’s mobility, which in turn affects the whole extended family and puts great pressure on the health care system,” Mr Willis said.

“When I heard they needed volunteers for the study I was happy to offer because the issue is of such great importance.

“I have always been interested in keeping fit and active and intend to continue exercising well into the future.

“Up until last year I was jogging, riding my bike and going to gym three mornings a week. However, at the moment my life is very busy, so I just walk and do half an hour of floor exercises four times a week.”

Mr Willis is well known in the Northern Rivers region and has been involved in church-related work here and abroad for most of his adult life. He was involved in the tsunami follow-up relief in India, particularly in the hard-hit Andaman/Nicobar Islands area.

He returned to the Northern Rivers last year to marry Loma Graydon, the University’s Community Relations and Alumni Officer, and soon found himself involved again in lecturing and preaching in the region – as well as donating his time to scientific research.

The Southern Cross University researchers still need another 40 healthy men and women aged from 60 to 75 to take part in the study. The first part of the study requires three assessments to be undertaken at the University’s Lismore Campus. One visit is for familiarisation, two for strength and postural control tests. Each testing session will require approximately two hours to complete.

By participating in the project, you will be making an important contribution to the field of exercise science for a better understanding of age-related changes in neuromuscular function, muscular strength and postural control, while updating your knowledge in these areas.

Anyone who is willing to join the study should contact Pedro Bezerra or Zac Crowley on or or by phone on 6620 3759.

Photo: Doug Willis (centre) being tested by PhD student Pedro Bezerra (right) and Honours student Zac Crowley, for a study that aims to help older people become steadier on their feet.

Media contact: Zoe Satherley Southern Cross University media officer, 6620 3144, 0439 132 095.