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IU research at the American College of Sports Medicine meeting

Editors: More than 40 researchers from Indiana University participated in the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine in San Francisco May 29 to June 2. Below is a sample of some of the research.

June 1, 2012

The studies explore the following topics:

Who says girls can't compete athletically with boys?
Study: Stroke rehab patients might benefit from yoga
Study: High levels of activity aid arterial functioning
Altitude training: Study puts some data behind conventional wisdom
Workplace wellness: Site-based fitness program got results
Study confirms: College students decrease activity, increase weight

Who says girls can't compete athletically with boys?

lap swimming

An Indiana University study that looked at performance differences between male and female childhood athletes found little difference in certain age groups, even though boys and girls rarely compete against each other in the U.S.

Joel Stager, professor in the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation at IU Bloomington, said he is not suggesting that boys and girls compete against each other, but he said his findings indicate they could.

"It's the whole perception that girls can't compete fairly with boys," he said. "Well, at certain ages, they can."

The study analyzed data provided by USA Swimming that consisted of the best 50-yard freestyle performances for all USA Swimming-registered male and female swimmers ages 6 to 19 who competed from 2005 to 2010. This included 1.9 million swims.

The study found no difference in swim performance in children younger than 8. It also found little difference in 11- and 12-year-olds. The effects of puberty began showing in the older swimmers, as the boys began experiencing accelerated growth in height, weight and strength typical of age 13 and older.

Researchers chose to analyze children's performance in the 50-yard freestyle because the swimmers' performances were less influenced by training per se and more likely to be influenced by muscle function. A second study further characterizes the "distribution of performance" within the entire U.S. Swimming database, something that has never been done before for a competitive event.

"Sex Differences in Childhood Athletic Performance" was discussed May 31. Co-authors are lead author Andrew Cornett and Karen Kafadar, Eastern Michigan University.

Stager can be reached at 812-855-1637 or Top

Study: Stroke rehab patients might benefit from yoga

Modified Yoga

Researchers looking into the value of adapted yoga for stroke rehabilitation report that after an eight-week program, study participants demonstrated improved balance and flexibility, a stronger and faster gait, and increased strength and endurance.

The study, involving researchers from the Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and IU Bloomington, exposed older veterans recovering from stroke to yoga. The men and women had completed their post-stroke occupational and physical therapy before the study but continued to have impairments.

The findings from two new analyses of the study were presented during the ACSM meeting.

Arlene Schmid, rehabilitation research scientist at the Roudebush VA Medical Center and principle investigator of the VA-funded study, said loss of functional strength, flexibility and endurance is common after a stroke, which can lead to long-term disability. She said 5 million Americans are living with the consequences of stroke, which can alter patients' lifestyles through decreased independence in activities of daily living, limited mobility and reduced participation in society.

"Clinicians need methods to manage and improve these post-stroke physical impairments," said Schmid, also an assistant professor of occupational therapy in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at IUPUI.

Her analysis, "Physical Improvements After Yoga for People With Chronic Stroke," examined gains in functional strength, flexibility and endurance as a result of the yoga and found significant improvements in all areas. The yoga activities, she said in her report, might have "improved neuromuscular control, likely allowing for strength improvements in affected limbs, sides or areas of disuse."

Tracy Dierks, associate professor of physical therapy in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, focused his analysis of study findings on how well study participants could walk after the program.

In "The Effect of Balance Exercise Therapy on Gait Parameters in Individuals With Chronic Stroke," he reports that after the yoga program, the study participants showed improved balance and faster gait speeds with longer steps or strides. But, while the veterans could walk faster, they were unable to sustain this faster speed for the duration of the six-minute test.

"The gait findings from our study have the potential to greatly impact clinical practice for gait recovery," Dierks said. "The yoga intervention was designed to improve balance, not gait; we did not focus on improving gait at all. Yet we saw major improvements in most clinical gait measurements. But one often overlooked deficit remained: the inability to sustain gait speed for endurance."

Schmid concluded in her presentation that it might be appropriate to include yoga in the in-patient or out-patient rehabilitation people receive after a stroke. Such a class should be taught by a yoga therapist who has had additional training in anatomy and physiology and how to work with people with disabilities.

Dierks discussed his findings May 30 during the gait session. Co-authors are Peter A. Altenburger, IUPUI, and Schmid and Kristine K. Miller, Roudebush VA Medical Center.

Schmid discussed her findings May 30 during the session on cardiovascular system, cardiovascular disease management, children and the elderly. Co-authors are Miller, Linda S. Williams, Erin DeBaun and Teresa Damush, IUPUI/Roudebush VA Medical Center; Marieke Van Puymbroeck, IU Bloomington; Dierks and Altenburger, IUPUI; and Nancy Schalk, Heartland Yoga.

Schmid can be reached at or 317-988-3480. Dierks can be reached at or 317-274-3147. Top

Study: High levels of activity aid arterial functioning

Indiana University researchers found that the highly active middle-aged subjects in their study appear to avoid the arterial stiffening -- when arteries become less compliant as blood pumps through the body -- that typically comes with aging.

A reduction in compliance of the body's large arteries has been shown to occur with age and with inactivity. It also is considered a risk factor, predictive of future cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure and stroke. The study compared the arterial compliance of highly active swimmers with that of people who reported being only moderately active or completely inactive. The difference between the highly active participants and the others was significant, said Maleah Holland, a graduate student in the Counsilman Center at IU Bloomington, but there was little difference in compliance in the highly active group regardless of age or sex.

"This reinforces the idea that activity could be more influential than aging on some health factors," said Joel Stager, professor and director of the Counsilman Center in the School of HPER's Department of Kinesiology.

While there was little difference in arterial compliance between men and women in the highly active group, Holland found a significant difference between men and women in the inactive or moderately active group, with men faring better than the women.

"Oddly, women, particularly the inactive women, show the greatest risk for cardiovascular disease as compared with other groups," Holland wrote in her research report. "Thus, conversely, habitually high levels of physical activity may pose a greater benefit for women than for men." This may have been because the inactive women were more sedentary than the men classified as inactive.

The study involved 21 men and 28 women. The 33 highly active subjects were U.S. Master Swimmers who reported more than 200 minutes of vigorous activity a week. For comparison purposes, jogging would be considered a moderate level of activity, while interval training, which combines shorter but more intense periods of running with rest, would be considered vigorous activity.

Holland discussed her poster presentation May 31. Co-authors are Stager, David A. Tanner, Colleen M. McCracken and Hao Guo, Department of Kinesiology in the School of HPER, and Peter R. Finn, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences at IU Bloomington.

Holland can be reached at Stager can be reached at 812-855-1637 and Top

Altitude training: Study puts some data behind conventional wisdom

Chapman photo

Robert Chapman

Print-Quality Photo

Altitude training is a popular technique among athletes preparing for a competition, especially expert runners. Much research has been conducted on how to do it, at what altitude to train, how to modify workouts and how long to stay at altitude. However, a major unanswered question is when should an athlete return from altitude to compete?

Coaches of elite runners generally take one of two sides.

"They either believe an athlete should compete within 48 hours of coming back from altitude or in the 18- to 22-day range after returning," said Robert Chapman, exercise physiologist in the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation at Indiana University Bloomington. "But there is little scientific evidence showing why these coaches' opinions are valid."

His study, which will be discussed at the American College of Sports Medicine annual meeting on Thursday, suggests that both camps might be right.

About the study:

  • Six elite distance runners lived in Flagstaff, Ariz., for 28 days at an altitude of 2,150 meters. They followed a "live high, train low" altitude training program, which means that although the athletes lived at a high altitude, they trained at 1,000 meters to do harder and faster workouts a few times per week. After returning from the 28-day camp, the runners were tested over the course of 26 days. Researchers focused on testing heart rate, running economy and mechanics.
  • Physiological data shows that what most coaches say is true. Several variables showed that 48 hours is a good time to compete based on breathing results, while Day 7 and 13 showed more difficulty.

Chapman said this might be attributed to a concept referred to as ventilatory acclimatization.

"At altitude, a person breathes more, and that extra breathing stays with you when you come back down from altitude. Extra breathing uses more muscles, more energy, and the body has to work more to regulate blood flow," he said.

This study suggests that an athlete may perform best at 18 to 22 days because the extra breathing goes away and the body gets re-acclimated to a lower altitude.

"This research will help athletes plan for major competitions," says lead author Abby Laymon, graduate student in the School of HPER's Department of Kinesiology. "For example, if an athlete is training for the Olympic trials, they can count backwards and plan their workout accordingly to perform their best after altitude training."

This study joins four others from IU that focus on altitude training. Future studies will determine why the physiological changes occur post-altitude.

The study, "Time-course of changes in cardiorespiratory measures post-altitude training: Implications for competitive endurance performance," was discussed May 31 during the High Altitude/Hypoxia I session.

Co-authors are Daniel P. Wilhite, Joseph W. Duke, Jonathon L. Stickford, Joel M. Stager and Timothy D. Mickleborough, all from the School of HPER's Department of Kinesiology.

Chapman can be reached at 812-856-2452 or Top

Workplace wellness: Site-based fitness program got results

Carol Kennedy-Armbruster

Carol Kennedy-Armbruster

Print-Quality Photo

An Indiana University study of a site-based fitness program for active-duty military personnel found that the participants' fitness improved in several areas, including reducing body-fat composition and increasing flexibility and strength. The six-month program also decreased the amount of time the study participants reported that they sat each day.

The study examined SHAPE, the Senior Health Assessment Program Enterprise that provides specialized one-on-one and group fitness programs for Navy personnel who are 40 or older. SHAPE, a service contract with the U.S. Navy, is designed and administered by health fitness specialist experts at the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation at IU Bloomington. The contract is renewed on a yearly basis. Positive research outcomes have helped the service contract continue into its fifth year.

Health fitness specialists, hired by the School of HPER for the Navy, live on Navy sites at Pearl Harbor, San Diego and Norfolk, Va. Carol Kennedy-Armbruster, principal investigator of the service contract for IU, said the fitness specialists create individualized eight- to 12-week programs for each participating sailor and phase them into weekly sessions, group exercise classes and maintenance programs that they manage on their own.

She discussed some of her research findings about the program on Friday during the American College of Sports Medicine annual meeting.

"More than 15 undergraduate and graduate students within the Department of Kinesiology have been hired to fill the research associate positions with the Navy contract," she said. "The SHAPE service contract allows students to get experience in their trade and serve those that serve us."

The measurements in her study included a functional movement screening, which is a series of tests that evaluate the quality and efficiency of movement. Health fitness specialist use information from the functional movement screening to help design appropriate interventions for Navy personnel. This measurement, too, continued to improve four to six months after beginning the program.

"Due to the demands of the work environment, the mandatory physical testing, and the potential physical demands on their ability to perform at their best at all times, the factors of functional movement ability and fatigue are critical issues for active-duty military personnel," Kennedy-Armbruster wrote in her report.

Kennedy-Armbruster discussed "Effects of Navy SHAPE on Fitness Parameters, Functional Movement Screening and Self-Reported Sitting Time," June 1 during the exercise and aging session. Co-authors are Lisa Sexauer, Navy; and William Wyatt and John B. Shea, IU School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation.

Kennedy-Armbruster can be reached at 812-855-6083 or Top

Study confirms: College students decrease activity, increase weight

Pedestrian Safety

It is not uncommon for college students to pack on the pounds while they are away at school. Research suggests that 35 percent of college students may be overweight or obese, with the sharpest increase in obesity observed in the 18-29 crowd.

A new study conducted by Indiana University researchers explores the relationship between waist circumference, fitness and walking in college students. Jeanne Johnston, assistant professor at IU's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, says this is the first time fitness testing has been conducted in college students.

The testing is modeled after the Fitnessgram tests, which assess running, modified pull-ups and sit-ups. Waist circumference is measured in this study because it is directly correlated with a person's health.

"Fat around the waist is directly related to blood pressure, state of your arteries, glucose regulation and hormones that tell your body you are hungry," Johnston said. "Fat in the legs and arms is not as harmful as in your stomach for those reasons."

About the study:

  • The sample included 149 college-age men and 203 college-age women, with 46.8 percent residing in dorms/residence halls.
  • Fitness was assessed with three measures: A multi-stage 20-meter shuttle run, commonly known as the PACER test, and assessment of the number of completed modified pull-ups and completed sit-ups in one minute.
  • Waist circumference measurements were taken just above the belly button at the narrowest part of the waist.
  • The relationship between physical activity, fitness and body composition differed by gender and should be examined in greater detail. This relationship was more pronounced in men than in women.

Overall, there was a decrease in total physical activity among the sample and a significant increase in weight from freshmen to seniors. This is consistent with previous research.

"College is a critical time to develop your routine and healthy habits that will carry into your adult life," said Rickie Lee Marker-Hoffman, graduate student in the Department of Kinesiology at IU's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation. "It is very important to increase and maintain levels of fitness."

Researchers will further explore data from Japan and China in the future to compare fitness measures between the two countries.

Johnston can be reached at 812-855-5073 or Top

For additional assistance with these items, contact Tracy James at 812-855-0084 or