02:44pm Saturday 30 May 2020

Sports science improving health

But we shouldn’t forget the positive impact sports scientists have had not only on elite athletes, but on improving the health and wellbeing of the general community, says Exercise and Sports Science at ECU, Associate Professor Anthony Blazevich.

One example is the use of high intensity training (HIT) by sport scientists. HIT involves short bursts of exercise, which are used to improve performance and endurance. Elite athletes have been using this method for the past few decades, but it turns out that HIT also benefits non-athletes by boosting overall wellbeing.

In fact, as little as five minutes of cycle sprint exercise three times a week can dramatically improve our health, and increase life expectancy and quality of life. It’s such a small amount of exercise that you could get dressed for work, jump on a bike for a few minutes in the morning and go to work without a shower afterwards.

The use of protein powders and massive doses of supplements has been a contentious part in the drugs in sport debate. But in studying these supplements, sport scientists have uncovered wider benefits when they are used in combination with regular exercise.

Medical researchers are now using supplements to help minimise muscle wasting in burn victims and cancer patients. They can also improve muscle mass in patients with brain and spinal cord injuries and maintain muscle size and strength in older individuals.

Finally, we’ve all heard that athletes must perform at their peak in a wide variety of climactic conditions, from biting cold to severe heat. This can have a profound effect on hydration. In the 1970s sports scientists began their research into how hydration could improve physical performance.

This research led to the development of hydration drinks which are now being used to help reduce muscle cramps in older individuals and those with kidney disease. The drinks can help rapidly rehydrate those who have been lost at sea or in the bush for long periods of time. Hydration drinks have now saved countless lives and are a central part of clinical and occupational practice.

Research conducted by sports scientists continues to benefit many of us in our everyday lives. It’s rewarding to see our research used in such a wide variety of non-athlete populations. The effect is dramatic and has improved life expectancy and quality of life for the better.

Background on the Author:

Associate Professor Anthony Blazevich is Director of the Centre for Exercise and Sports Science at Edith Cowan University.

For more information on Professor Blazevich visit the School of Exercise and Health Sciences webpages.

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