Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Tech, Carilion Look at Strength and Diabetes

Systematic, progressive resistance training--also called strength training--is a safe and efficient way for middle-aged and older adults to improve their health is the conclusion of a Virginia Tech-led research team that includes experts in behavior, exercise, physiology, and medicine. The team is designing a program to help pre-diabetic adults begin and maintain resistance training in order to prevent diabetes.

"Much attention has been directed at aerobic exercise for weight management and health; while resistance training is encouraged to build strength and maintain lean body mass, particularly in older adults," says Richard Winett, director of the Center for Research in Health Behavior at Tech. "However lab-gym based studies have shown that resistance training has other potential benefits for prevention and treatment of heart disease, some cancers, and diabetes, and some people may find this form of exercise more appealing."

"In the case of diabetes, improved muscle function may improve insulin and glucose metabolism," says Brenda Davy of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. "But these positive effects depend upon maintaining resistance training over the long-term."

Davy and Winett are principal investigators on a five-year, $3.2 million National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)-funded behavioral change intervention program to help older adults begin and maintain resistance training. Additional biological and psychological measures will be part of the study. The first phase will be at the Virginia Tech Riverside Clinical Research Center on the Carilion Clinic campus in Roanoke.

"The project is a good example of the potential of interdisciplinary collaboration between researchers from different fields," Winett says. Davy brings knowledge of health and exercise physiology and Winett brings expertise in behavioral science to the collaboration. "The research I have been involved with for most of my career has been related to food intake, nutrition, weight management, and physical fitness," Davy says. "But despite all we have learned, most people still do not adopt and maintain healthy lifestyles. Some of the most exciting scientific advances in years to come will be how to help people improve health behaviors long-term."

National data indicate that only 10 to 15 percent of older adults perform any strengthening exercises. Increasing the prevalence of resistance training to 30 percent is an objective of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Healthy People 2010 initiative.

As many as 200 people will be part of the study over the five-year period.

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