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BioActivEx – Bioactives and Exercise Research Group Exeter

BioActivEx: Bioactives and Exercise Research Group Exeter

BioActivEx: Bioactives and Exercise Research Group Exeter

BioActivEx: Bioactives and Exercise Research Group Exeter

  • We investigate the effects of bioactives and exercise on musculoskeletal, cognitive, vascular and metabolic ageing, and exercise performance.
  • We use a combination of whole-body, cellular and molecular techniques.
  • We perform hypothesis driven research to inform the development of evidence-based bioactive interventions to support longevity, exercise performance and quality of life.

Current projects

Other projects and historic work

Limb immobilisation and neuromuscular function

Periods of immobilisation are experienced throughout the lifespan in response to situations such as injuries, periods of illness or inactivity. These periods result in loss of muscle strength which is thought to occur due to muscle atrophy and impaired neuromuscular function.
This project aims to investigate the alterations in neuromuscular function and muscle size during short periods of limb immobilisation.  Our goal is to quantify the relative contributions of muscle atrophy and impaired neuromuscular function to these short term losses of muscle strength. 

We use a variety of techniques including peripheral nerve electrical stimulation, transcranial magnetic stimulation of the motor cortex, electromyography, MRI and dynamometry.
This work is being carried out by Matt Campbell and Prof Jo Bowtell. Matt is also supervised by Dr Jon Fulford at the University of Exeter Medical SchoolProf Katya Mileva of London South Bank University, and Dr Bryan Taylor of the University of Leeds.

Bioactives and vascular function

We demonstrated that Montmorency cherry protects endothelium-dependent vasodilation and increases nitric oxide availability after transient ischemia-reperfusion injury.

In our work that demonstrated improved 15km cycling time trial performance, muscle oxygenation was enhanced, suggesting that the vasoactive properties of the Montmorency cherry polyphenols may underpin the ergogenic effects.


  1. Montmorency cherry supplementation attenuates vascular dysfunction induced by prolonged forearm occlusion in overweight, middle-aged men
  2. Montmorency cherry supplementation improves 15-km cycling time-trial performance

Bioactives and protein synthesis

We have shown that Montmorency cherry does not alter the anabolic response to protein and exercise in healthy, relatively active, older men in the short term, but does attenuate the expression of proteins involved in the muscle inflammatory response to exercise.


  1. Tart cherry concentrate does not enhance muscle protein synthesis response to exercise and protein in healthy older men


We have shown that chronic supplementation with an anthocyanin-rich blueberry concentrate improved task-related brain activation, working memory, and brain perfusion in healthy older adults.


  1. Enhanced task-related brain activation and resting perfusion in healthy older adults after chronic blueberry supplementation

Bioactives and exercise performance and recovery

We have previously shown that Montmorency cherry concentrate supplementation improves the recovery of isometric muscle strength after intensive exercise and that Montmorency cherry powder supplementation improves 15km cycling time trial performance probably via improved muscle oxygenation. We have also demonstrated that a flavanol-rich cacao mucilage juice enhances functional recovery from exercise-induced muscle damage.


  1. Montmorency cherry juice reduces muscle damage caused by intensive strength exercise
  2. Montmorency cherry supplementation improves 15-km cycling time-trial performance
  3. Flavanol-Rich Cacao Mucilage Juice Enhances Recovery of Power but Not Strength from Intensive Exercise in Healthy, Young Men

Our capabilities

Neuromuscular function testing

  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation
  • MRI
Exercise testing and training

Vascular function testing

  • Flow mediated dilation

Human tissue sampling

  • Skeletal muscle
  • Blood
  • Faeces
  • Urine
Human primary cell culture

  • Myogenic
  • Osteoblast
  • Osteoclast
  • Endothelial
Molecular biology analyses

  • Gene expression
  • Protein expression
  • Microbiome profiling
Our research in action

Take a 360° tour of our Neuromuscular function lab: click and drag to rotate the camera.