Sports Medicine Update
Chester J. Zelasko, Ph.D. | June 13, 2006

Just about every year, I attend the national convention of the American College of Sports Medicine. It’s a way to keep up on the latest research in exercise and fitness, health, weight management, and supplementation. This Newsletter is a summary of some of the most interesting studies presented.

Exercise, Exercise, Exercise!
The keynote address on opening day was presented by Dr. Steven Blair of the Cooper Institute in Dallas. Dr. Blair has researched the effects of exercise for more than three decades. One of his key findings has been that someone who is overweight but fit has a lower death rate (mortality) and illness rate (morbidity) than someone who is lean and sedentary. The interesting new development this year is that he demonstrated that the benefits are not just a decrease in cardiovascular disease. The benefits of exercise include lower rates of cancer and Alzheimer’s disease as well. As I always say, if you’re not exercising regularly--whether you’re lean or fat--you’re dying prematurely. It’s the single most important thing you can do for your health.

This was one of the hot topics this year. Exercise seems to be pro-inflammatory--usually thought to be negative--but without the negative effects for most of the body. Researchers want to know the how and why of that. Those discoveries will take years, but know this: exercise reduces overall inflammation in the body and that’s a good thing.

Coolest Fact
When you begin to exercise, over 1,000 genes are activated--some in the early stages, some later, and more still during recovery after exercise. It will be years before we know what every gene does during exercise, but until then the only thing you really need to know is that you should be exercising every day.

Exercise and Immune Function
In a study on mice, researchers infected them with a lethal form of flu--one that’s lethal only to mice. With one group, the researchers exercised them moderately every day for four days after infecting them with the virus; the other group remained sedentary. More exercising mice survived than sedentary mice.

Timing of exercise may prove to be important. Someday we may find that at the first symptom of a cold, it’s important to workout. Here’s one of the possible explanations as to why it may help: the rise in core temperature due to exercise may help kill the virus. Time will tell.

Cherry Juice and Muscle Pain
Eccentric exercise (in which the muscle lengthens) induces more muscle damage than concentric exercise (in which the muscle shortens). An example is running downhill. In a small study, subjects who drank two servings of tart cherry juice (12 ounces a.m. and p.m.) beginning four days before a bout of eccentric exercise and continuing for four days afterward had less pain and loss of strength than subjects who used a placebo (1). While pain is subjective, the maintenance of muscle strength over the control group was the real revelation.

Does this just apply to athletes? No--remember how you felt the days after the last time you helped someone move? Try the tart cherry juice next time.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Exercise-Induced Asthma
This study used adult subjects with exercise-induced asthma (2). Subjects were given 5.2 grams of a blend of EPA and DHA fish-oil supplements for three weeks, while controls were given an olive-oil placebo. Comparing symptoms of exercise-induced asthma before and after supplementation, subjects using the omega-3 fatty acids did not reach the diagnostic threshold for exercise-induced asthma. Bronchodilator use also decreased for those using fish oil. While this is a very small study, the results certainly warrant the discussion with your pulmonologist about the use of omega-3 fatty acids if you have exercise-induced asthma. At the least, it may mean less reliance on medications--but never exercise without your inhaler with you if you suffer from this condition!

There were several more studies that were interesting, but that’s it for now. Understand that most of these studies were small and provide an avenue for further research; we don’t base lifestyle recommendations on results like these. However, they provide direction and as long as drinking cherry juice does no harm, it may be worth a try the next time you’re going to exercise strenuously. The overall message, however, is that however you do it, get off it and get after it!

  1. Cote, K et al. The Efficacy of Cherry Juice Supplementation in Preventing the Symptoms of Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage. Poster presented at 2006 ACSM National Convention.

  2. Mickleborough, TD et al. Protective Effect of Fish Oil Supplementation on Exercise-Induced Bronchoconstriction in Asthmatic Subjects. Poster presented at 2006 ACSM National Convention.
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