Scientists on a quest to find the right prescription for exercise

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Canadian scientists have a plan in the pipeline to explore just why exercise is so beneficial to the body.

A team at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) aim to unravel some of the mysteries about the effect physical activity has on the body with the aim of improving the health and quality of life of all Canadians.

Researchers at the CIHR’s Institute of Musculoskeletal and Arthritis (IMHA) will attempt, over a five year period, to find the right prescription to support physical activity, mobility and health across the life span.

While it is common knowledge that physical activity is good for the body, why that is so and what effect exercise has on the cells and tissues of the body remains unclear.

It is thought that physical activity could be used more effectively to fight chronic diseases such as arthritis, diabetes and heart disease but there remain questions about the barriers, both social and psychological, which prevent people from exercising or playing sports.

Dr. Jane E. Aubin, IMHA’s Scientific Director, says as ageing populations grow the burden of arthritis, osteoporosis, and other musculoskeletal, oral and skin conditions on health care systems will increase and supporting research that increases understanding of the relationship between physical activity, mobility and health will reduce this burden and improve the health and quality of life.

Over the next five years, the IMHA and its partners will fund peer-reviewed research and training projects in the area of physical activity and health, ranging from the cellular behaviour of joint tissues, to the psychosocial aspects of exercise, activity and sports on populations.

Specific activities may include the investigation of the prevention or reversal of disease through physical activity and mobility - applying physical medicine and rehabilitative strategies to tissue injuries in order to restore maximal function - investigating issues related to access and delivery of health services and treatments that enhance physical activity, mobility and health - examining the personal and environmental factors that influence the uptake and maintenance of a healthy lifestyle and evaluating mechanisms for translating evidence into sustainable public policy.

The Institute will also promote the application of the research results into new physical activity policies and programs in communities and has the support of the University of Saskatchewan.

University researchers along with the Saskatoon Health Region, the City of Saskatoon conducted a project aimed at encouraging all citizens to make regular physical exercise part of their daily lives which has become a model for communities across Canada and has won local, national and international awards.

Dr. Karen Chad, Acting Vice-President Research at the University says the project had tremendous success in motivating people.

While the focus of the five year project will be on physical activity and mobility, the IMHA says it will continue to support researchers working in the six areas that comprise its research community: arthritis, musculoskeletal rehabilitation, bone, skeletal muscle, skin and oral health, working not only in physical activity and mobility, but also in pain, disability and chronic disease, and tissue injury, repair and replacement.

By funding excellent research in these areas, the IMHA says it is hoped it will create knowledge that will help Canadians lead healthier and more active lives.


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