Dr Alan Barker
Senior Lecturer in Paediatric Exercise and Health

Research

Research interests

My primary research interest concerns the potential health- and performance-related benefits that can be gained through performing time-efficient, high-intensity exercise (HIE) when compared to a work-matched bout of moderate-intensity exercise (MIE) in children and adolescents. We know that the origin of cardio-metabolic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and type II diabetes, starts during childhood. Interventions (e.g. exercise) that can promote cardio-metabolic health in children and adolescents may therefore offer primary prevention against these largely preventable diseases.

Research projects

1. The effect of exercise intensity and sex on vascular health outcomes in adolescents

This series of studies investigates the effect an acute bout or repeated bouts (e.g. exercise training) of exercise on vascular health outcomes in adolescents. Health outcomes include the assessment of postprandial lipaemia, hypertension and heart rate variability, and micro- (laser Doppler imaging) and macro- (flow mediated dilation) vascular function following a hyperemic stimulus.

PhD student: Mr Bert Bond (primary supervisor)
Internal collaborators: Professor Craig Williams (secondary supervisor); Dr Sarah Jackman, Professor Neil Armstrong, Dr Philip Gates 
External collaborators: Drs Keith Tolfrey and Laura Barrett (Loughborough University)
Funding: Physiological Society Research Grant and CLES Strategic Development Fund

2. The effect of exercise intensity on insulin sensitivity in youth 

This series of studies investigates the effect of HIE and MIE on glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity across a range of paediatric groups, including varying pubertal status, body fatness and level of physical activity. We are also collaborating with the local NHS trust to extend this work to children with type I diabetes.

PhD student: Miss Emma Cockcroft (primary supervisor)
Internal collaborators: Professor Craig Williams (SHS); Dr Sarah Jackman (SHS), Professor Neil Armstrong (SHS)
External collaborators: Dr Christopher Moudiotis (Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust)

3. Exercise testing and training, and limiting factors of oxidative metabolism, in young people with cystic fibrosis

Maximal oxygen uptake is considered to be a powerful marker of disease prognosis and mortality in patients with cystic fibrosis. This work has therefore developed a test protocol that will allow both a reliable and valid measurement of maximal oxygen uptake in children and adolescents with cystic fibrosis. This work will also use non-invasive measures of oxygen uptake, cardiac output and muscle oxygenation to determine the limiting factors of muscle oxidative metabolism during ramp and square-wave exercise in children and adolescents with cystic fibrosis.

PhD student: Miss Zoe Saynor (secondary supervisor)
Internal collaborators: Professor Craig Williams (primary supervisor);
External collaborators: Dr Patrick Oades (Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust)

Funding:

  • The reliability and validity of maximal cardiopulmonary exercise testing as a prognostic tool within the young cystic fibrosis population.
    Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust.
  • The influence of disease status and ‘priming’ exercise on pulmonary oxygen uptake and muscle deoxygenation kinetics during moderate and high intensity exercise in paediatric patients with Cystic Fibrosis.
    Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust.
  • An Integrated Approach to Exercise Prescription ad Management in Young Cystic Fibrosis Patients – A Feasibility Study.
    Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust.

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