Government of Canada invests in first-of-its-kind research study on the health impacts of inactivity

News release

Researchers seek to understand how to improve health of patients confined to bed rest—and for astronauts in space

February 24, 2021 – Ottawa, Ontario – Canadian Institutes of Health Research

Canadians know the importance of physical activity to their health and wellness. But there is still more we have to learn about the effects long periods of inactivity have on our health. This research evidence is crucial to informing how we can provide better care and minimize the impact of inactivity on the health and wellness of older adults who undergo long periods of bed rest because of injury and illness. This research is also vital in helping to influence and shape long stays for older adults in acute care and long-term care settings. There is another unique application for this research: improving the health and wellness of astronauts when they experience adverse health effects related to the weightless environment of space.

Today, the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health, and the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, announced an investment of $3.34 million in research to understand the health impacts of extended periods of inactivity and the effectiveness of preventative measures to mitigate the impact of inactivity on our health. This investment will support eight teams of researchers whose data collection will begin in spring 2021.

Researchers will follow older adults between the ages of 55 and 65 during a bed-rest study held at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) in Montreal. This study will examine the health impacts of inactivity on the human body and the impact and effectiveness of physical exercises in staving off the effects of inactivity in older adults. Inactivity studies are commonly used in space research as they reproduce, on Earth, the physiological changes experienced by astronauts in space due to weightlessness. These studies can also inform how we provide care to patients who experience varying periods of inactivity and to older adults, since biological changes caused by bedrest are similar to those seen over decades of normal aging.   

As a component of the larger Transitions in Care Initiative, this study is a partnership between the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Canadian Space Agency and the Canadian Frailty Network. The goals of the study are to develop solutions for improving the quality of life of older adults, identify measures to support patients who are transitioning from one care setting to another, and mitigate health risks associated with an extended period of inactivity. Results will also provide insights in understanding how exercise contributes to living longer and healthier lives.


“As many Canadians – particularly older adults – are experiencing inactivity caused by the effects of COVID-19, we need to better understand how it effects our bodies. Our investment in this collaborative research, which involves teams from across the country, will provide governments and health professionals with important evidence on how inactivity affects the human body.”
The Honourable Patty Hajdu
Minister of Health

“As highlighted by Canada’s Space Strategy, space is a strategic national asset, critical for advancing Canadian innovation and technology. I am pleased to see this partnership, which builds on Canada’s long history of space-based health related science. It will contribute to the health and well-being of people on Earth as well as that of our astronauts during their missions so they can continue their important work.”
The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne
Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry

“As a former astronaut, I can say that being weightless in space is a truly remarkable experience. Ensuring that we understand the effects of space on the human body makes this research invaluable for the health and wellness of astronauts. The research teams and bed-rest study participants will be well supported at the Centre for Innovative Medicine of the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre.”
The Honourable Marc Garneau
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Member of Parliament for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount

“CIHR is privileged to support these research projects, which are the first of their kind in Canada. The potential applications range from improving the quality of life of older adults, assisting patients as they navigate transitions in care, and improving the health of astronauts during space missions.”
Dr. Jane Rylett
Scientific Director, CIHR Institute of Aging

“CFN is pleased to support this important study as frailty affects one in four older adults in Canada over the age of 65, and one in two adults over the age of 85. Frailty is not an inevitable part of aging, and at CFN we are working hard to ensure that public health approaches to frailty mitigation, such as reduced sedentary time, are properly studied and implemented to benefit all Canadians.”
Dr. John Muscedere
Scientific Director & CEO, Canadian Frailty Network

“The RI-MUHC is pleased to host the first bed-rest study in Canada at the Centre for Innovative Medicine, where researchers have access to a full range of services in a state-of-the-art environment dedicated to clinical research. This study will provide the scientific community with strong data to improve the health of Canadians, in space and on Earth.”
Dr. Miguel Burnier
Executive Director and Chief Scientific Officer (Interim), Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre

Quick facts

  • This research is being done as part of the Transitions in Care (TiC) Initiative. At some point in their life, almost every Canadian will experience a transition in care, when, as patients, they move from one care provider or institution to another. Examples include moving from receiving pediatric care to adult care, from the emergency department or from hospital to home care, from rehabilitation and long-term care facilities, or through accessing health services from rural areas to health services in a city. As patients move from one setting of care to another, there is a risk to their health because of the potential for miscommunication between care providers.

  • The TiC Initiative aims to enhance patient safety and improve patient outcomes by improving continuity of patient care through innovative solutions. It strives to improve health care systems by identifying and reducing gaps that can exist during a transfer of care, and by scaling up innovative solutions to address them.

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Cole Davidson
Office of the Honourable Patty Hajdu
Minister of Health

Media Relations
Canadian Institutes of Health Research

Media Relations
Canadian Space Agency

At the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) we know that research has the power to change lives. As Canada's health research investment agency, we collaborate with partners and researchers to support the discoveries and innovations that improve our health and strengthen our health care system.

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