Flexing our research muscle for the BBC

Posted in: Research promotion

We had the pleasure of welcoming Michael Mosley and crew to campus a few months back to film the latest episode of ‘Trust Me, I’m a Doctor’ which aired last night and asked whether or not stretching was important before doing exercise.

Putting Michael through his paces in our Applied Biomechanics Suite and around campus was Dr Polly McGuigan whose research interests within the Department for Health focus on muscle and tendon mechanics.

And stretch

For a whole day, Polly had Michael squatting, jumping and flexing before exercise in an effort to see what effect (if any) stretching had on his flexibility, performance and power.

Michael’s results revealed to him by Polly over coffee in The Edge CAFE showed that he was more flexible after the stretching routine due to reduced stiffness of his muscle-tendon units, but that this had a detrimental effect on performance: reducing his jump height and the amount of power produced by his muscles.

Powerful activities like jumping require muscles to develop a lot of force and to transmit that force to the skeleton very quickly. Stretching reduces the stiffness of muscle which means they transit their force a little more slowly, reducing the power of their contraction.

You'll find out more about Michael's results here.

Polly and Michael discuss results from his stretching tests outside The Edge
Polly and Michael discuss results from his stretching tests outside The Edge

Behind the scenes, what ends up as a 5 minute segment may have taken a whole day’s filming and also involved extra organising too – you may have spotted some familiar faces stretching and running around the lake during the introduction!

But when there’s an opportunity to reach an audience of around three million on primetime TV it’s an excellent opportunity to take and one that really helps to get our research and expertise out to the masses.

Lights, camera, action as Michael Mosely is put through his paces in our Applied Biomechanics Suite.
Lights, camera, action as Michael Mosley is put through his paces in our Applied Biomechanics Suite.



Amplifying messages

So how does an opportunity like this come up? Back at the beginning of 2015, we’d put Polly in touch with the editor on NHS Choices who was writing an article about pre-exercise stretching in light of new research casting doubt about its effectiveness.

Last night’s ‘Trust Me’ shows how one thing can lead to another, helping to amplify messages about research and expertise. As the BBC producer explained to me: ‘When we were trying to find an expert to talk to us about muscles and stretching, the NHS Choices article with Polly’s name were the first to come up.’

Watch last night's episode again via iPlayer - http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b07v3pwk/trust-me-im-a-doctor-series-5-episode-2 (starts - 44m35s)

Posted in: Research promotion


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