It's not easy getting old.

The joints stiffen. The body weakens. Muscle mass is lost.

Now a team of McMaster University researchers looking into why that happens has received a boost from the provincial government.

Kinesiologists Gianni Parise and Stuart Phillips received part of the $4.6 million in new McMaster research funding from the province Wednesday morning.

Parise and Phillips look at the impact of diet and exercise on various segments of the population, but particularly focus on aging. Their goal is to determine how exercise and nutrition work together to keep our bodies stronger for longer.

"Some of the events associated with aging, we can't stop," Parise said after the announcement. "No matter what we do, we're going to lose mass, we're going to get weaker, and we're going to die.

"The question is how do we stay healthier longer? While we're here, how do we improve that quality of life as we age?"

With $361,700 plus matching funds from the federal government, Parise and Phillips will build a metabolic kitchen in the Ivor Wynne Centre to prepare meals for their test subjects.

In the new modest-sized kitchen, researchers will prepare meals of precisely measured nutritional value to give to participants, who are usually Hamiltonians.

Until now, they've relied on participants to report what they've been eating, and "as we know, people aren't always honest about that," Parise said.

For the elderly, understanding the impact of diet and exercise could help people stay independent and in their own homes longer. The team is also studying other segments of the population, such as people who are obese.

The payoff for taxpayers, Parise said, is that we'll eventually know how to stay healthier longer.

"Our ultimate goal is to improve the health of Canadians."

Other projects being funded include:

  • $727,419 for a biosafety level two lab that will look at various aspects of disease, including identifying new pathogens and developing new diagnostics
  • $400,000 for a new research lab to study the development of batteries for hybrid vehicles
  • $154,213 for a new music lab that will examine how music and psychology intersect
  • $110,000 for a new lab for hand control research

The money matches grants from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation over the past year.

"The 14 projects we're celebrating today have the potential to produce exceptional research gains," said Mo Elbestawi, vice-president of research and international affairs.