The annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine took place June 2 to 5 in Baltimore, and attracted more than 5,000 participants from around the world. The conference focused on advances in exercise science and sports medicine. Key highlights included studies focusing on the benefits of exercise among adolescents, young adults and the elderly, with impacts on overall health status, specific disease states such as cardiovascular conditions, and academic achievement among middle-school and college students.
"The main presentations have been focusing on how do we get individuals to be more physically active, as improved physical activity will promote improved health status. It comes down to practicing clinicians providing recommendations for increased physical activity," said Randal Claytor, Ph.D., of the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.
In one study, presented by Claytor, researchers found that low levels of physical activity among children and young adults are likely associated with cardiovascular disease risk factors, including factors promoting arterial stiffness.
Among 593 youths aged 10 to 24 years, the researchers measured body composition and total daily moderate and vigorous physical exercise. Participants were categorized as obese, obese with type 2 diabetes, or normal-weight controls.
The researchers found that those who exercised the least and had the highest body mass index levels -- especially those who did not engage in vigorous physical exercise -- were at the highest risk for arterial stiffness. In addition, age played a role in the development of arterial stiffness and risk of cardiovascular disease.
"Adolescents who are obese or obese with type 2 diabetes were shown to be relatively inactive, not engaging in moderate to vigorous physical activity, especially not enough vigorous activity, which is important because vigorous physical activity is an independent predictor of arterial stiffness," Claytor said. "We hope that the results of the study spur practicing clinicians to recommend more physical activity, especially among adolescents who are inactive and are obese or obese with type 2 diabetes."
In a study presented by Ronald W. Bass, of Illinois State University in Normal, researchers found that middle-school students who were more physically fit were more likely to do well on standardized academic achievement tests.
The researchers evaluated 338 sixth grade students at a small, urban middle school in central Illinois to determine if students meeting Fitnessgram physical fitness standards were more likely to meet academic standards. They found that students meeting standards for cardiovascular fitness were six times more likely to meet or exceed Illinois Standardized Achievement Test (ISAT) reading requirements, and more than two and a half times more likely to meet or exceed ISAT math requirements, compared to students not meeting the fitness standards.
"The emphasis on standardized test scores has meant less funding for physical education and physical activity in schools," Bass said in a statement. "Given the increasing body of knowledge on the subject, schools may want to place more emphasis on physical education and physical activity programs not only to improve students' health but to raise their academic achievement as well."
In another study focusing on the impact of exercise on academic achievement, researchers at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, and Saginaw Valley State University in Michigan, showed a potential association between a higher grade point average (GPA) and vigorous physical activity among college students.
The researchers evaluated 266 college students who completed an online survey during fall or winter semesters of the 2007/2008 or 2008/2009 academic years, with physical activity measured by the number of days a student engaged in vigorous physical activity for at least 20 minutes. Linear regression analysis showed that gender, major, and vigorous physical activity participation were associated with GPA. Based on these findings, the researchers developed an equation that included physical activity, gender, and major to predict GPA.
"The potential impact on GPA illustrates additional benefits of physical activity. Although we found an association between GPA and physical activity, this does not imply that vigorous physical activity causes an increase in GPA," said study supervisor, Joshua Ode, Ph.D., of Saginaw Valley State University in Michigan. "This relationship is more clear in elementary and middle-school students, but this is one of the first studies looking at the college student population."
A study presented at the conference by Conrad Woolsey, Ph.D., of Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, found that student athletes consuming both alcohol and energy drinks consumed significantly more alcohol and took part in riskier drinking habits than those who consumed alcohol alone.
The researchers evaluated 401 National Collegiate Athletic Association student athletes (257 males and 144 females) attending a large Division-I university in the fall of 2006 to assess how energy drinks affect existing alcohol-related problems. In addition, researchers measured consumption rates of alcohol alone, energy drinks alone, and combined alcohol and energy drinks to compare risk-taking behaviors and health consequences.
Among the 315 who used alcohol, 92.1 percent took part in "binge-drinking," which included the consumption of five or more drinks during one session. Compared to student athletes who consumed alcohol alone, those who used a combination of alcohol and energy drinks consumed more than double the amount of alcohol. In addition, athletes were significantly more likely to take part in "energy-binge" drinking, defined as the consumption of three or more energy drinks on one occasion, when combining alcohol and energy drinks than when consuming energy drinks only. Overall, student athletes demonstrated significant increases in risk-taking behavior and serious health consequences when combining alcohol with energy drinks.
"For practicing clinicians, the most important thing to remember is that energy drinks affect many of the same brain regions and neurotransmitters as alcohol and other drugs of abuse," Woolsey said. "Adolescents and young adults are at risk for long-term consequences because their brains are not fully developed and the overstimulation of the brain during this time causes brain changes that can affect the person for the rest of their lives. This includes an increased risk for psychological problems such as depressive and anxiety disorders because of how energy drinks affect neurotransmitters and brain regions."
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