Exercise for children; In this study richard Carpenter, 75, was going through the mail one day last year when he saw a postcard from UCI seeking participants for a study on whether exercise can help with age-related memory loss. “They almost put it into the recycle pile,” Carpenter says. “But they mentioned it to my wife, and she said ‘Wait!’ She knew they could use a program like this. For the last 20 years, I have not really been involved in exercise at all, and my memory is really bad.”
Today, the retired criminal investigator for NASA works out at the Huntington Beach YMCA four times a week as part of a 15-site national study on the effects of aerobic exercise on adults with mild memory problems. The Exercise Evaluation Randomise Trial is co-led by Carl Cotman, a UCI professor of neurology and neurobiology & behavior who’s a renown expert on age relate dementia and exercise.
Exercise for children
Across the UCI campus, researchers are exploring the impact of exercise on health from childhood until the end of life. That focus now includes a bachelor’s degree in exercise science that emphasizes the health effects of physical activity. The university has a long history in exercise science, says James W. Hicks, professor of ecology & evolutionary biology and director of the campus’s Center for Exercise Medicine and Sport Sciences.
However, he says, the twin epidemics of obesity and diabetes have propelled research away from questions about exercise and sports performance toward the theory that “exercise is medicine.” “That concept has exploded,” Hicks says. “That’s where the future is: understanding how exercise alters disease trajectories and improves outcomes.”
If anyone has been at the forefront of exercise and health, it’s Cotman. More than two decades ago, his research show that exercise increases production of a substance called brain derive neurotrophic factor. BDNF aids in learning and memory and facilitates connections among nerve cells. It’s so critical to brain function that it has dubbed “Miracle-Gro for the brain.” “Exercise builds brain health,” says Cotman, a founding director of UCI MIND, one of 30 National Institutes of Health fund centers for aging and dementia research. “It makes you more efficient. You’re thinking cleaner. It introduces a state of readiness.”
Different clinical conditions
“People use to think, ‘If I can’t get out and do 30 minutes at the gym and break a sweat, it’s not worth it,'” Yassa says. “But even 10 minutes of walking can give you an extra boost.” His carefully craft PNAS study caught the attention of Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health. In a blog post, Collins said the work illustrates the importance of an ongoing NIH-fund; so project exploring the molecular, or cellular, changes that arise with physical activity. The project is called the Molecular Transducers of Physical Activity Consortium; also UCI is involve in that project too.
“In our studies,” she says, “they make it clear to the children; so that they’re part of something that’s going to benefit them and help us develop and implement exercise programs for other children with different clinical conditions. They love that.” Similarly, retiree Carpenter enjoys participating in the EXERT project. “You huff and puff,” he says. “It’s not only good for me; but what I’m doing will be analyze at a future time and maybe add a little bit of information to the big picture.”
All of the EXERT sites are affiliated with local YMCAs. This was done for a reason, Cotman says: so the study’s results won’t be confined to the pages of a science journal. “It gives us a community base organization that knows how to do this once the trial is done,” he says. “There will be a place where people can continue to practice the exercises and bring new people in. Translation to the public is essential.”