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Public Health and Sport Sciences

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.

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

Current research themes

More research projects and historic work

Find out more about how blueberries can reduce inflammation and boost brain function, and dietary nitrates can improve exercise performance.

In this video we discuss our research on shatavari supplementation for older women, and dietary nitrates as prebiotics.

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 published a systematic review on the topic.

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 School and Prof Katya Mileva of London South Bank University.

Bioactives and vascular function

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

This work was funded by the Ecuador government and cacao company Inmobiliaria Guangala, and carried out by Paola WollmannProf Jo Bowtell, and Dr Sarah Jackman.

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 contribute to 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
  4. Tart cherry supplement enhances skeletal muscle glutathione peroxidase expression and functional recovery after muscle damage

Our capabilities

Neuromuscular function testing

MRI scanner

  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation
  • MRI

Exercise testing and training

A researcher watches someone run on a treadmill, wearing an oxygen monitoring mask

Vascular function

Graphic of red blood cells

  • Flow mediated dilation

Human tissue

Close up on someone taking a blood sample

  • Skeletal muscle
  • Blood
  • Faeces
  • Urine
  • Adipose tissue 

Human primary cell culture

Close up of a specimen under a microscope

  • Myogenic
  • Osteoblast
  • Osteoclast
  • Endothelial

Molecular biology analyses

Close up of a pipette dropping samples into test tubes

  • Gene expression
  • Protein expression using Western blots and/or proteomics
  • Microbiome profiling

Join our group

Study for an MSc

Study for a PhD or Masters by Research

If you are considering a PhD in bioactives and exercise, please contact a member of the group to discuss your proposed project. 

Apply for a Postdoctoral Fellowship 

For information on fellowship opportunities, please contact a member of the group directly.

Who we are

Postgraduate Research students

  • Zainie Aboo Bakkar
  • Matt Campbell
  • Naomi Fitzpatrick
  • Elsa Greed
  • Celeste Lugtmeijer
  • Ali Ali Redha
  • Vlad Sabou
  • Fatema Shamsaddin
  • Jessica Virgili
  • Oli Whitton

Professional Training Year students

  • Georgia Ek
  • Armin Jarchlo
  • Jack Pritchard
  • Ben Winney

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