Research to Understand How Exercise Affects the Body at Molecular Level



Research to Understand How Exercise Affects the Body at Molecular Level

Marcas Bamman, PhD

The UAB Center for Exercise Medicine is one of the clinical sites participating in the nationwide, NIH-funded Molecular Transducers of Physical Activity Consortium study, or MoTrPAC, which aims to increase our understanding of how exercise affect our bodies by measuring molecular changes in healthy adults and children before, during and after exercise.

"Research shows that physical activity has substantial health benefits, but we do not fully understand why, especially at the molecular level," said Marcas Bamman, PhD, director of the UAB Center for Exercise Medicine. "This large study size of 2,600 volunteers is meant to account for person-to-person variation, and to reveal differences based on demographics like age, race and gender."

MoTrPAC researchers are currently reviewing lessons from an initial phase with a smaller group of volunteers and preclinical animal model studies to optimize their protocols and prepare to scale up for full recruitment.

Part of the study will test how the response to exercise changes after generally inactive participants complete a 12-week supervised exercise regimen. Sedentary adults will be randomly assigned to an endurance training regimen (treadmill, cycling), a resistance training regimen (weightlifting) or an inactive control group. Low-activity children will be randomly assigned to an endurance training regimen or to a control group where they pursue their normal activities. Contributing to the overall size of the study is a separate group of highly active adults and youths who will help researchers understand what exercise looks like at the molecular level in those who have exercised consistently over an extended period.

Volunteers will provide biospecimens before, during and after exercise that will go through a complex array of molecular assays. Adults provide blood and fat and muscle tissues, while children provide only blood samples.

Bamman says that, one day, a doctor may be able to prescribe a personalized exercise routine based on what is likely to create the best outcome for an individual. Other researchers may use the data to identify drugs that mimic the molecular signals of exercise, so-called exercise-mimetics, which could help people who are unable to exercise.