Latest News and Research Highlights from ACSM

If you're looking for new health and fitness story ideas, here are some highlights from ACSM programs and recently released research in ACSM’s flagship journal, Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise®The American College of Sports Medicine is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world.

PE classes may lead children to be more active and less sedentary throughout the rest of their day!

Low levels of physical activity and excessive sedentary behavior are increasingly common problems among children around the world. These behaviors lead to health problems throughout the life cycle. This was a cross-sectional study of nearly 6000 children, ages 9-11, from 12 countries around the globe - including the United States. The international group of investigators leading the work found that children who participate in at least one-two physical education (PE) classes each week were more physically active and less sedentary than those who did not participate in PE. This finding was seen both during school hours and out-of-school hours. The results were consistent across all 12 countries investigated, but to an even greater extent in the poorer countries compared with richer countries. Thus, school children should be encouraged to participate in PE to promote higher physical activity levels and discourage sedentary behaviors. Promotion of PE classes should be part of a comprehensive strategy to promote healthy lifestyles.

For more information, view the abstract or contact the investigator.

Weight-bearing physical activity leads to better bones in childhood

Investigators from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia set out to better understand the link between physical activity and bone health. There is scientific consensus that children should get at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day – specifically, activity that increases their heart rate and makes them sweat. However, this recommendation does not mention weight-bearing physical activity that can improve bone health. In this study, the researchers accessed data from 2337 boys and girls, ages 5-19, that was part of the Bone Mineral Density (BMD) in Childhood Study. The BMD test results for each child were obtained from as many as seven annual tests. The findings indicated that replacing low-impact physical activity for high-impact weight bearing physical activity was associated with higher bone mineral density. This outcomes applied to both boys and girls, for different race groups, and even for children with a genetic predisposition to osteoporosis. These findings have implications for future physical activity recommendations to help improve bone health in childhood.

For more information, view the abstract or contact the investigator.

PRIME: A novel approach to improving function in older adults!

The percentage of people over 70 years of age is increasing. New approaches to maintaining physical fitness are essential, so these older adults may remain independent and minimize health care costs. Elderly individuals are often too weak to perform whole body exercises at a high enough intensity to produce optimal benefits.

In this clinical trial, the investigators studied 107 people who were over 70 years of age and at risk of losing functional independence. They were randomly assigned to perform either 4 weeks of standard treadmill walking or PRIME training. PRIME training consisted of 5-minute bouts of low-weight, high-repetition lifting, targeted to specific muscle groups – these were exercises that did not significantly raise heart rate. Both groups then engaged in a standard aerobic and weight lifting program for a further 8 weeks. At 12 weeks (4 + 8 weeks of total treatment) both groups improved, however the PRIME approach produced greater benefits in aerobic fitness, strength and function. PRIME is a novel training strategy that may help elderly individuals and those with cardiovascular limitations maintain their functional independence.

For more information, view the abstract or contact the investigator.

Endurance athletes and overtraining – what happens to the nervous system?

Endurance athletes often undertake periods of intense training with the aim of improving performance. This increased stress can lead to a deterioration in performance and alteration in physiological systems – a functional state sometimes called ‘overreaching’. Among these changes, the autonomic nervous system, which can regulate bodily functions such as heart rate and blood pressure, may be disturbed. In this study, the investigators assessed the effects of 3-weeks of overload training at 150% of the athletes’ normal load and compared the effects with those following a regular training program in a control group. Subjects were well trained male and female triathletes or cyclists between 18-50 years of age who were randomly assigned either to the overload or regular training groups; a total of 17 individuals completed the study. Athletes who completed overload training had a decrease in cycling performance, in parallel with an increase in resting muscle sympathetic activity. The control group improved their performance; they demonstrated no changes to sympathetic activity, but improvements in the tonic and reflex control of heart rate. This study demonstrates that overload training may blunt the beneficial autonomic effects of regular training, and that increased sympathetic activity may be involved in the observed performance decline.

For more information, view the abstract or contact the investigator.

Cardiac rehabilitation: Getting more fit may mean easing into HIT!

Globally, heart disease still is the number one killer among chronic diseases. Exercise-based cardiac rehabilitation (CR) programs are an effective strategy for helping heart patients improve their health and reduce their risk for heart-related deaths. CR programs currently have patients perform moderate-intensity continuous exercise (MICE). This traditionally involves walking, jogging, or stationary cycling at a comfortable pace for 30-60 minutes. In this study, the investigators measured fitness levels in heart patients performing a progression of higher-intensity interval training (HIT). This HIT approach involved short bouts of exercise performed at near maximal effort, followed by recovery periods of slower exercise. HIT outcomes were compared to those from traditional MICE. A total of 772 patients participated and were assigned to HIT or MICE groups for 26 weeks of training; group assignment was balanced according to age and sex. Results showed that progressive HIT improved fitness levels significantly more than did MICE in patients participating in CR. In addition, HIT improved several other risk factors for heart disease, including depression, more than did MICE. These findings may enhance how exercise training is provided in health care to improve the lives of heart patients.

For more information, view the abstract or contact the investigator.