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Sports Medicine Researcher to Get Olympic Medal

Athletes like Tour de France winner, Lance Armstrong, and two-time world champion backstroker and Olympic hopeful, Lenny Krayzelburg, owe much of their success to Dr. John Holloszy, a man they've never met. Dr. Holloszy is a researcher whose study of aerobic exercise, nutrition and muscle development has become the basis for training programs worldwide. But mostly, Dr. Holloszy's breakthrough studies have benefited those who made a comeback after battling with heart disease, diabetes, obesity and even old age. For his contributions to the science of exercise, Dr. Holloszy will be presented a gold medal from the International Olympic Committee at the Olympic games in Sydney, Australia this September. Dr. Holloszy joins us to talk about this.

For more than 40 years Dr. John Holloszy, who is a professor of internal medicine, chief of the division of geriatrics and gerontology and director of the applied physiology section at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri, has been studying the impact of exercise. His studies are mainly as a preventive tool against diabetes, heart disease, obesity and the infirmities of old age. Although he has hardly ever met a world-class athlete, his research on what enables athletes to increase endurance as they train, has become a keystone of training programs worldwide.

Much of Lance Armstrong's comeback training program was based on Dr. Holloszy's theory of muscle adaptation, so was champion backstroker Lenny Krayzelburg's.

In recognition of his contributions to sport sciences, Dr. Holloszy will be presented with a gold medal by the International Olympic Committee at IOC's executive session in Sydney, Australia in September. The prize, the third presented to sport sciences, is awarded every two years and includes a $500,000 award.

Before his findings that progressive training increases the numbers of mitochondria (power plants) in cells--the ones that burn fat and carbohydrates to provide energy, it was thought that improvements in endurance came solely from increased cardiovascular capacity and blood flow to the muscle. The increase in the numbers of mitochondria is proportional to the intensity and the duration of the exercise. So athletes now train much, much longer than they once did.

Dr. Holloszy's real focus is on disease and disease prevention. "Right now, the great majority of us are sedentary. Obesity is an exercise deficiency problem. All you have to do is enough exercise to keep from gaining that weight. Exercise half an hour a day."

Roughly 50 % of coronary artery disease is due to exercise deficiency and to a considerable extent it is reversible. Much of Dr. Holloszy's clinical research is designed to keep people out of nursing homes, and keep them healthy and independent.

He says the award is a great honor. It draws attention to the field of exercise. Lack of exercise is one of our major health problems.

There are three different types of exercise:

  1. Endurance
  2. Weight lifting
  3. Flexibility, bounce

All three types are extremely important for maintaining function.

It's always easier to maintain than to regain.

Exercise tips:

  1. Start early
  2. Proceed gradually
  3. Incorporate all three types of exercise

"Not everybody can be an Olympian but almost anyone can do enough exercise to stay fit and healthy," says Holloszy. He has been asked to run a leg in the torch relay. He's worried, not about the running, but about his suit: top and bottom come in an unmatched set. He has an X-large size on the top, and a medium size on the bottom. He's afraid he'll lose his pants. "You think they'll have safety pins?"

Dr. Holloszy says his $500,000 prize were a huge number for people involved in his research over the years, "I'm accepting it for my research program. Geriatrics division at Washington University and applied physiology."

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