Exercise Science: Evaluating performance and fitness at the Exercise Physiology Core Laboratory

Exercise Science: Evaluating performance and fitness at the Exercise Physiology Core Laboratory


Aerobic exercise tends to have
the greatest cardiovascular benefit and there are a lot of clinical benefits to exercising.
Your heart rate goes up, you start pumping more blood, there are a lot of changes that
go on at the muscle. So you develop more of the energy components of the muscles, you
dramatically lower the risk of developing diseases associated with cardiovascular disease.
You reduce inflammation with a regular exercise program. I mean, clearly you shouldn’t start
an exercise program if you have been sedentary and if you’re overweight, unless you’re cleared
by your primary care physician. And often times we get referrals from physicians that
want their patients to have a scientifically sound exercise program. So the fitness measures
we look at are primarily what is called maximal oxygen consumption. Maximal oxygen consumption
by definition is the highest amount of oxygen you can consume during a maximal effort kind
of exercise bout. Room air has a certain percentage of oxygen, so what we do is measure the gases
produced, the carbon dioxide produced by the body and therefore estimate how much oxygen
her body takes in and uses during the exercise session. And the reason why we think that
is important is because the muscles need oxygen in order to contract, the blood has to transport
oxygen to the muscles and the heart has to pump blood. So maximal oxygen consumption
is generally considered the gold standard for cardio-respitory or aerobic fitness. Another
popular assessment we do here in the lab is a body composition analysis. We use something
called the bod pod. It’s basically a capsule that a participant would sit in for about
40 seconds, three different times. It estimates someone’s percent body fat or ratio of fat
tissue to lean tissue in the body using body density. And from your body density, we can
fairly accurately determine what percentage of your body is fat. So there’s another test
that we do where we measure the blood lactate response to exercise. That involves a maximal
exercise test on either a bike or on a treadmill where we draw blood every three minutes. The
benefit of drawing blood is to measure lactate. When that lactate accumulates above resting
levels, it can impair performance. We can then feel people what percentage of their
maximal capabilities that occurs at and that allows us to help design very effective exercise
protocol.

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