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Last modified: Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Years of physical activity, training, put to the test at national swim meet

Aug. 4, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University researchers, former IU swimmers -- including Olympians Gary Hall, John Kinsella and Alan Somers -- and other IU-affiliated competitive swimmers plan to take care of business this week at the U.S. Masters Swimming 2009 Long Course National Championship in Indianapolis.

The 42-member DOC IU Masters Swimming team (Hoosier Daddies) includes swimming notables such as Olympic medalists Hall and Kinsella, Hoosier standouts such as Somers and Ed Silva, and local U.S. Masters swimmers Bob Wright, Doug Strong, Jutta Schickore and Karen Bowdre -- several who have won national championships. The team is named for legendary IU swim coach Doc Counsilman, who coached many of these athletes at IU.

lap swimming

Out of the pool, researchers from the IU School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, the IU College of Arts and Sciences's Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Bloomington's Internal Medicine Associates (IMA) and IU's Medical Sciences Program in Bloomington will put the competitors' cardiovascular health to the test as part of a study that examines whether sustained, high levels of physical activity reduces age-related cardiovascular and mental deterioration.

Joel Stager, director of the Counsilman Center for the Science of Swimming in the School of HPER, and Peter Finn, professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, said aging research typically involves the chronically ill, not the chronically active. This U.S. Masters Swimming study gives researchers the opportunity to study the impact of physical activity on important cardiovascular parameters, such as heart rate variability, mechanical and valvular degeneration and central arterial stiffness, in an aging, yet healthy and highly active, group of older swimmers.

A second component of the study involves the impact of such high levels of activity on cognition and central nervous system (CNS) function. Finn will be joined by David Koceja, associate dean of research for the School of HPER, in assessing CNS function in this unique sample. Stager said routine exercise has been shown in some studies to preserve cognitive function or to reduce the declines typically seen with aging.

"We're interested in looking at people who maintained their exercise for decades," said Stager, a U.S. Masters champion who also will be competing at the meet. "The goal being to define the difference between what must be and what is."

The U.S. Masters championship will take place, Aug. 6-10, at the IU Natatorium at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

Stager, professor of exercise physiology in the Department of Kinesiology, can be reached at 812-855-1637 and The roster for DOC IU Masters Swimming and other teams can be found at