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American College of Sports Medicine, May 27-30, 2009

American College of Sports Medicine 56th Annual Meeting

The American College of Sports Medicine's 56th Annual Meeting took place from May 27 to 30 in Seattle and attracted about 4,500 attendees from 50 different nations. The meeting presented a record number of abstracts and offered sessions for a diverse membership that includes physicians, therapists, public health workers, and basic-science researchers.

"We are so many things to so many people, which makes it challenging to plan the program," said incoming ACSM president and program chair James Pivarnik, Ph.D., of Michigan State University in East Lansing. "But there was something for everyone. We covered everything from the fatigue mechanisms of exercise performance and adipose tissue storage and function to the effects of physical activity on lifespan, brain function, and cognition."

Highlights included "Human Evolution, Endurance Running and Injury," a lecture presented by Harvard University biological anthropologist, Dan Lieberman. "He discussed how man evolved into a species that is very good at running," Pivarnik said. "It was a wonderful talk because he broke down a seemingly unexciting topic in a way that was exciting to everybody."

Pivarnik also cited lectures by Barbara Drinkwater, the ACSM's first woman president, who delivered an historical overview entitled "Evolution of the Female Athlete: Myth Versus Reality"; Salk Institute researcher, Ron Evans, Ph.D., who discussed how growth factors can regenerate muscle tissue in rats and how they someday may be used to transform humans into better athletes; and former ACSM president, Lyle Micheli, of Children's Hospital in Boston, whose talk was entitled "Pediatric Sports Medicine: Management of Knee Injuries in Young Athletes."

"Dr. Micheli's work is potentially practice changing because it may affect how pediatricians deal with kids who want to be athletic," Pivarnik said. "He discussed how different sports affect injury risk in children who are growing at different rates, and how pediatricians can recommend which sports may be best for a particular child."

Multiple sessions addressed issues specific to female athletes, including the effects of hormones on fat deposition and the effects of physical activity on the risk of chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease and cancer.

For example, Lisa K. Sprod, of the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, surveyed 4,296 women to see how physical activity levels at ages 10 to 15, 15 to 30, 30 to 50, and 50-plus are associated with breast cancer. Although Sprod and colleagues found that activity levels at ages 10 to 30 were unrelated to future disease risk, they found that highly competitive women ages 30 to 50 were significantly less likely than women with lower activity levels to develop breast cancer, and that highly competitive women above age 50 had a significantly lower risk than older women who exercised less than 60 minutes per week.

"Accumulating greater amounts of physical activity after the age of 30 may decrease the chance of developing breast cancer later in life," according to the authors. "Meeting physical activity recommendations can act like a prescription for prevention when it comes to breast cancer."

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Two studies challenged the conventional wisdom that video games cannot contribute to physical fitness. In one study, Elizabeth DiRico, of Adelphi University in Garden City, N.Y., studied the metabolic effects of three physically interactive Nintendo Wii Sports games -- boxing, tennis, and aerobics -- in 13 college students. They found that the boxing game was associated with moderate-intensity increases in heart rate and VO2, while the tennis and aerobics games were associated with light-intensity increases. Another study of older adults showed that the boxing game significantly increased heart rate and boosted mood.

"If a college age student has average fitness, an interactive game like Wii Boxing will provide little stimulus to improve aerobic capacity," DiRico said in a statement. "If someone has a high level of fitness and is training or trying to increase their aerobic capacity even more, they're going to have to do something beyond playing these games. However, this could be a way for sedentary people to get started with exercise and also provides those fit individuals with the opportunity to increase their overall daily physical activity."

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Two other studies assessed the effect of stress and culture on exercise motivation. In one study, Rafer Lutz, Ph.D., of Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and colleagues conducted a six-week study of 95 female college students who kept physical activity and stress logs. They found that stressful experiences reduced exercise activity among subjects in an early stage of exercise motivation such as contemplation, but actually increased it among subjects in a higher stage such as maintenance. Another study of 400 college students found that Americans were more likely to exercise to control weight and improve appearance, while Chinese students were more likely to exercise for health and recreation.

"I think our study suggests, more than anything, varying perceptions of exercise," Lutz said in a statement. "Someone who isn't regularly active may view exercise as 'one more burden' when stressed, whereas those who make it a part of daily life may view it as a stress reliever and an escape from pressure."

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Jeremy Sibold, Ed.D., of the University of Vermont in Burlington, presented research showing that exercise has long-lasting effects on mood. Sibold and a colleague randomly assigned 48 healthy men and women, ages 18 to 25 years, to either moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or rest, and used the Profile of Mood States to evaluate them after one, two, four, eight, 12, and 24 hours. Compared to controls, they found that the exercise group had significantly lower total mood disturbance for up to 12 hours, suggesting that exercise should be performed daily to maintain mood.

"These positive effects on mood occurred in all types of participants, regardless of age, gender, or fitness level," Sibold said in a statement. "In some cases, exercise may be able to complement other standard therapies as a cost-effective alternative in the treatment of mental health issues."

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