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The University of Southampton
Active Living

Active Living for Health

Active Living for Health research focuses on mechanisms of movement in health and neuro-musculoskeletal disorders. Through our research we have pioneered and driven new knowledge and new applications for technologies now used worldwide, to expand expertise in neuro-musculoskeletal services and enhance self-management interventions.  We are continuously developing new ways of preventing, diagnosing and managing common conditions that affect the general health of the population.


Musculoskeletal conditions, such as osteoarthritis and back pain, can limit activity, so their prevention and effective management are vital for an active lifestyle. Physical activity is known to prevent chronic conditions, including cardiovascular and respiratory diseases and cancers, and is also beneficial for mental health and wellbeing.  Our work involves adolescents through to older adults and includes a variety of conditions that affect people who are frail or sedentary, through to healthy people undertaking recreational and elite sports. Our research with astronauts offers a powerful model for studying effects of inactivity and ageing (Myotones project). Our research is integral to the multidisciplinary IfLS and Centre for Sport, Exercise and Osteoarthritis Research Versus Arthritis. Our neurorehabilitation research has advanced knowledge of the mechanisms associated with neurological disease processes and recovery, and led to the development of new neurorehabilitation technology for treatment and assessment, particularly in stroke and Parkinson’s disease.

A strategy for sustainability is embedded within our research and enterprise activities and interlinked with our undergraduate Allied Health Professions programmes, supported internships and pre-doctoral studentships and postdoctoral fellowships that facilitate capacity building.

See below for our projects

Muscle Tone in Space (Myotones) project

Southampton researchers [Stokes, Warner, Muckelt] are involved in the first study of its kind to investigate the effect of space flight on muscle tone. They are working with the European Space Agency and NASA, using novel technologies to monitor musculoskeletal health of astronauts. A device called the MyotonPRO takes rapid measurements of tone and stiffness of muscles and tendons. An ultrasound scanner takes pictures for measuring thickness of muscles. This project is already benefiting people on Earth by feeding back into research around muscle-wasting conditions, such as stroke and Parkinson’s (project with physiotherapists in Ghana; Maria Stokes). 

FeeTURA Study

The Southampton team pioneered Diagnostic Ultrasound Imaging (DUSI) used by podiatrists [Bowen]. The first programme of work has evolved to increase understanding of foot problems in rheumatic diseases [Bowen, CherryGates and Dando]. Findings indicate that the use of DUSI of the foot would be more beneficial than clinical examination alone in the refinement of diagnosis and the implementation of effective care pathways for patients who have foot symptoms and those starting biologic therapies.

Centre for Sport, Exercise and Osteoarthritis Research Versus Arthritis

The Southampton team are leading several projects including: studies of movement quality (neuromuscular control) in active groups, such as young footballers and military personnel to prevent injuries and onset of osteoarthritis. This involves developing exercises to protect joints and enable safe movement during sport and general activity [Stokes, Muckelt, Warner]. We are also leading on studies examining the lifetime risk and epidemiology of foot osteoarthritis [Bowen, Gates].


Southampton researchers, including Active Living for Health [Hughes], are investigating the use of functional electrical stimulation mediated by a novel form of control, to help stroke patients regain arm movement, building on recent work.

Key research programmes:

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Ultrasound Imaging in Podiatry and Physiotherapy
M-Mark Project
M-Mark Project
Ultrasound Image of Quadriceps
Ultrasound Image of Quadriceps (thigh) Muscle (cross-sectional)
Space M-Mark Project
Space M-Mark Project
Ultrasound Image of Achilles’ Tendon
Ultrasound Image of Achilles’ Tendon (Longitudinal)
Measuring Foot Pressure
Measuring Foot Pressure
Prosthetics Group
Prosthetics Group on Bringing Research to Life Roadshow
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International Movement Screening and Interventions Group (IMSIG)
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