My Favorite Part of Exercise Physiology

My favorite part of exercise physiology was learning about the way that my muscles and body actually worked on a molecular level.  As a biochemistry major at Union I have been exposed to an array of knowledge from cellular peptides and their composition to the thermodynamics of a carbon bond.  What I missed, though, was information about my every-day life as a whole, and how science impacts it.  As a former athlete, I enjoyed learning about my body’s fuel utilization the most.  While I was not able to put any of my knowledge into effect this year, I hope to be able to in the future.  The intricacies and habits of our body far exceed what I was thinking of on a surface-level, and this class enabled me to better myself both physically and mentally.  I believe that is the most important aspect of learning – not just the knowledge aspect, but also being able to apply it.  This course gave me the relevant knowledge I needed to apply certain methods and advantages to my every day life.  That, to me, is more valuable than any face-value knowledge available in books, lectures, or labs, and is why I enjoyed this course so much.

Week 10 Post

My favorite part about Exercise Physiology was learning about the immune system. I generally find this system of the body most fascinating because of the amount of different pieces that come together for the same goal, fighting against pathogens. I enjoyed learning about the immune system in this class because it capitalized on my ability to learn about my research topic, “Short and Long Term Effects of Anabolic Steroids”, in both a positive and negative manner. From a positive aspect,  in class we talked about how inflammation is a process where white blood cells and chemicals protect the body against infection from bacteria and viruses . We also discussed how there are certain diseases, like autoimmune diseases, where the body doesn’t function properly and is overactive which can cause inflammation to work against the body’s own tissues and cause tissue damage. This related to my topic very well as it turned out that steroids can reduce the production of inflammatory chemicals in order to minimize tissue damage. From a negative aspect, we discussed in class the idea of the “Open Window Theory”, which talks about the idea of exercise induced immune system suppression, causing the body to be more susceptible to infection and diseases. In regards to my topic it was interesting as steroids that are used by powerlifters and body lifters can be dangerous because during post exercise they are already being affected by the open window theory. But on top of that, because of the suppression of inflammatory response of the immune system due to steroids, it can lead to higher cases of sickness and being prone to more infections. These two ideas really allowed me to differentiate between the positive and negative impacts of steroids.

Article Post

In honor of a lot of topics discussed in the Endure book, the article I found was on the idea of endurance and testing to see how far the body could endure gruesome physical activities on a metabolic scale. In endurance challenges such as the Ironman triathlon or the Tour de France bicycle race, everyone has the same maximum level of exertion that they can maintain throughout the physical challenge. They concluded that in grueling physical activities that last for days, weeks and months, humans can only burn calories at 2.5 times their resting metabolic rate and not even the fastest ultra-marathoners can best that limit. One of the main reasons why is because above the limit of 2.5 times a person’s resting metabolic rate, the body begins to feed on itself to obtain the additional calories needed to function. In addition the limit may have to do with digestive capability of the gut. There’s a limit to how many calories our guts can effectively absorb per day and it’s why just eating more won’t improve endurance right away. From these findings from previous studies, these are some of the factors that up until now,  defined what exactly is possible for humans in regards to endurance. In this study, the researchers measured daily calories burned by athletes who ran six marathons a week for five months as part of the 2015 Race Across the USA, which stretched 3,000 miles from California to Washington, D.C. They also looked at other ways to measure endurance through 100-mile trail races and pregnancy. What they found was that the mega marathon runners burned 600 fewer calories a day than expected suggesting that the body can lower down metabolism to keep the body going and prevent you from burning up all of your fuel sources. In addition, they also found that the maximum sustainable energy expenditure in endurance athletes was only slightly more than women’s metabolic rates during pregnancy suggesting that there the limits that prevent Ironaman triathletes from breaking speed records could be related to the same that keeps babies from growing too big in wombs. I thought this article was interesting as it gave another example of just how limiting the human body is across varying groups of people. Something I wish they spoke about was the manner at which the study was conducted. They could have looked at the effect that competitive drive played a role in the endurance. Perhaps another group could have compared how going head to head with other individuals affected endurance compared to doing the trial by yourself.  I would have liked to see more of this because although there are physiological limits stopping us from reaching certain records, there are also neurological factors that can cause us to either break these limits or hinder our ability by telling us we are tired when the body may still have a little bit more energy to continue on. These topics are discussed in the Endure book such as in the section regarding belief and ones ability to believe they can surpass someone in a race as opposed to just running against yourself.

Favorite Part of Class

My favorite part of class this term was reading Endure. It was awesome to read a book that was not a typical subject textbook. Learning about all the different obscure sports per chapters along with the most grueling stories of different endurance feats kept the book very interesting and I always wanted to keep reading. I also think it really helped us understand how the things we were learning in class connected to real life. Discussing what makes a sub-2 marathon performer I was like oh, that’s why VO2 and lactate threshold are so important! I honestly may start going to 7-11 before my runs this summer and fuel up on some slushies to see how that effects my work outs.

Week 10 blog

Personally, my favorite topics this term was when we learned about the various muscles fibers in our body as well as the mechanisms needed for contractions to occur. Prior to this course I did not know the details of each fiber type (Type I, Type IIa/x). Learning about various fiber types in depth was very informative not only for class, but also real world applications. Understanding the details of how myosin and actin are able to work together and generate force was interesting as well. These are things that occur in our body all the time without us putting much thought or effort into it. Learning which muscles types are advantageous/disadvantageous for specific activities and knowing that it is possible for an individual to change their fiber types based upon their needs was neat as well. Overall, I really enjoyed the class and learned a lot these past ten weeks.

Favorite Parts About Exercise Physiology!

My favorite topic to learn about was muscle cramps. For me, this was most surprising. The book cites this as a result of involuntary muscle contractions but it is unclear if it comes from the peripheral nervous system or the central nervous system. For something that is so common-you would think they knew the cause by now! I have always thought that this was a result of dehydration-as I experience leg cramps when I am dehydrated all the time.

But as we have learned, there is not a lot of evidence to link dehydration or electrolyte imbalance to muscle cramps. The book cites that muscle cramps are likely due to changes in the central nervous system. Potential causes of increased motor neuron excitability include high levels of excitatory input to the motor neurons and/or the lack of inhibitory input to the motor neurons. Those promote dysfunction of the muscle spindle and/or the Golgi tendon organ. There are several lines of evidence support the view that exercise can promote dysfunction of muscle sense organs and trigger muscle cramps.

I also enjoyed watching everyone’s presentations (so far). It is always interesting to see where someone takes a topic and what studies they find!

Week 10 Post: Favorite Topic

I had two favorite aspects of this course. The first was being able to compare the same topics that I learned last term in Comparative Animal Physiology to how they are affected by exercise. Since the same general physiology topics were covered in both classes, I had a general understanding of the material, but it was interesting to see how the topics changed when exercise was thrown into the mix instead of comparing the similarities and differences of the topics in various animals. The exercise component was without a doubt more interesting.

The second would be how different forms of training impact the body differently. For example, how the body adapts to strength training much faster than endurance training, and how the muscle fibers can switch over to accommodate for the new activity. How muscles adapt to exercise was fascinating – how they use the spindle fibers to detect mechanical stretch, detect the calcium levels which vary with muscle activation, how free radicals affect recovery, and the AMP/ATP ratio. Going off of the idea of how muscles adapt to training, how quickly they react to detraining was not only interesting, but also a little worrisome. The fact that you could spend months or years running trying to get your endurance up, and then you take two weeks off, maybe because of an injury or because you were on vacation, and your VO2max would decrease by 8%.. and then 20% after 84 days. It’s weird to think about that in a short period of time, there could be significant physiological changes going on in your body (i.e. rapid loss of plasma volume leading to the decrease in stroke volume, switching of the fibers back to type IIx, decrease in mitochondria). That just doesn’t seem right.

Overall, my favorite part of the course was learning about how all the systems change and adapt to work together to maintain homeostasis when you decide to go for a run and how those changes can improve your overall health in the long run.

Week 10 Blog Post

My favorite part of exercise physiology was learning about anaerobic ATP production and how that contributes to specific types of exercise. For example, according to one of the charts from our chapter 3 powerpoint, the anaerobic contribution to ice hockey is close to 90% compared to aerobic ATP production contribution. This was really interesting for me to learn about because one of our fitness tests is to run a mile and a half, which according to the same chart lies somewhere between 60 and 80% aerobic contribution. Knowing this, it is puzzling to me why we would be tested on an exercise that requires a heavy contribution of the type of ATP production that we don’t use during our sport. People tend to perform the worst on the mile and a half test compared to the 300 yard  shuttle sprint test and this makes a lot of sense now knowing that the processes used to fuel the sprint test are more in line with our sport than those used to fuel the distance test. It was also cool to learn about all the different factors that impact performance, especially because these concepts were supplemented by the Endure book. I also thought the labs were really cool because we got to be our own subjects so it made it more interesting because we were learning about our own bodies. Lastly, being an athlete, I feel as though I have gained a better understanding of how exercise impacts the body and therefore have a better scientific insight on how to improve my performance.

Favorite Part of Exercise Physiology

My favorite aspect of exercise physiology was learning how the muscles work and fuel consumption. I thought the muscle aspect was cool because when you are exercising you really don’t think much about how your muscles are working you jut know they do. I found it interesting to learn the details about how they work and all the different things that contribute to a muscle contraction. I like learning about fuel consumption because I always thought of “carb loading before a big game” was the way to go. It was cool to see why people actually do that and think that can help. I liked learning about what type of fuel sources were used when and how crossover takes place based on intensity and duration. I never really thought that changing your diet to be carb or fat based could really make that much of a difference on endurance. The other part of the course I liked was the Endure book. At first I wasn’t really looking forward to having to read it because reading is not one of my favorite past times, but I don’t think that anymore. Once I actually sat down and read it I couldn’t stop. I actually really enjoyed reading it and learning about the different ways our body works and how it can affect our endurance. My favorite part is the slushy part to cool down your body. I wish I knew that before I was a washed up narp because maybe I would have added it to the game day routines.

The Risks (or lack-there of) Involved With Exercising During Pregnancy

In the past women have been directed not to exercise by their primary care physicians, peers, and scientific researchers.  With the rise in popularity of elite female athletes, however, this predisposition is being called into question.  A news article in the Washington Post delves into the (relatively) new rise in exercising while pregnant, the risks involved, and any connections to complications during pregnancy and labor that intense exercise may have on an individual.  This interest has been brought up by many female athletes such as Serena Williams, Beth Rodden (a Mountain Climber), and Alysia Montaño (a world-class runner) who have not only competed while pregnant, but have managed to excel in their sports while in different stages of their pregnancy.

One might think that exercising while pregnant could be harmful to the fetus, because it would increase the levels of CO2 in the blood as well as lactic acid and even free radicals.  Studies by the University of Iceland seem to put science on a tract to disprove this notion.  Of all of the test subjects in the exercise and non-exercise groups there was no significant difference in the pregnancies between the individuals who exercised and those who did not.  While the study was too small to come to any firm conclusions about the population as a whole it could be hypothesized that exercise does not, in fact, have any negative side effects on someone’s pregnancy.

I have thought through the article, and have come to some conclusions myself.  One women made a statement that I feel is important to take note of.  Margie Davenport, of the University of Alberta, stated that it “We need to start changing the conversation away from what are the risks of exercising during pregnancy to what are the risks of not exercising during pregnancy.”  I feel that this is an important comment, because it pushes the readers of the article to stray from the traditional notions.  I agree with her, and I feel that exercising while pregnant is important to the health of the mother and her unborn child.  However, I also feel that women who are not used to exercising should be more cautious.  If someone – not only a pregnant women – jumps right into high-intensity exercise it could increase a risk of cardiovascular or skeletal injury.  This type of incident would put the child and the mother at risk.

So, I stand by Davenport in saying that it is important for women (pregnant or not) to exercise.  Given that there is not any known risk to exercising while pregnant, I would suggest anyone who is pregnant to continue their workout regimes or even start new ones – as long as they are safe about them.  Exercise can help reduce stress, and improve the overall health of those who utilize it correctly, and these are benefits that could even assist someone in the entire pregnancy process.