Day 2 of the American College of Sports Medicine Conference – 2017

American College Sports Medicine Conference

Impacts of Exercise, the Gut Microbiome/Metabolome and Immunity on the Brain

Julia Basso – PhD

Exercise or prebiotic diet increases stress resistance, modulate stress reactive neurocircuitry, and promote adaptive gut microorganisms (Monika Fleshner, University of Colorado Boulder)

The gut is composed of bacteria called the gut microbiome.  Recently, a link has been shown between the gut and the brain (called the gut-brain axis) – certain bacteria are linked to emotion and brain plasticity.  It turns out that the gut microbiota is adaptive and can respond to our behaviors like the foods we eat and the physical activities we engage in.  In rodents, early life exercise has been shown to change the gut microbiota in positive ways, altering both the diversity and amount of gut microbiota.  These exercise-induced gut changes are related to positive changes in mood and provide stress-protective effects.  You can read more about this here:


Influences of Physical Activity/Exercise on Cognitive Health Across the Lifespan

Fit body, fit brain: effects of exercise on neurocognitive function in older adults (Kirk Erickson, University of Pittsburgh)

Older individuals who participate in a regular physical activity program show increased cognitive function, increase brain volume, and a decreased risk for cognitive decline and brain atrophy.  Two regions of the brain that seem particularly amenable to physical activity are the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, with fitness level positively associated with the size of these two brain regions.  Dr. Kirk Erickson concludes that, “1) Exercise has widespread effects on the brain.  2) Moderate intensity exercise several days a week is sufficient for improving brain health.  3) Starting to exercise in late life is not futile: even those who are sedentary can improve function.”


Exercise in the fight against Alzheimer’s and Dementia (Jeffrey Burns, University of Kansas Alzheimer’s Disease Center)

Increased physical activity is associated with decreased cognitive decline both in health individuals as those with Alzheimer’s disease (AD).  In rodent studies that use AD models, exercise decreases the pathophysiology of the disease.  Human studies, exercise has been shown to decrease rates of cognitive decline in patients with AD.  In patients with AD, higher aerobic fitness is associated with less brain atrophy, and 6 months of aerobic exercise helps to protect brain volume and function.  Dr. Jeffrey Burns says, “What’s good for the heart is good for the brain.” He also notes that more is always better because cognitive gains are positively correlated with fitness gains.


Exercise Psychology


Physical Activity Beliefs in Middle-aged, Weight-challenged Women with Sedentary Jobs (Mary Yoke, Indiana University)

For many weight-challenged individuals, there are many barriers to getting involved in physical activity.  If we are going to meet the needs of individuals who are physically inactive and weight challenged, we need to talk with them and brainstorm with these individuals to ask them about how we can get them physically active.  What are the barriers?  Recent research is showing that for these individuals, high-intensity, challenging exercises often result in discouragement, drop-out, and feelings of hopelessness.  Therefore, we may need to change the focus to more pleasurable activities such as light intensity activity, standing more, or moving while sitting.


Body-heart-brain Interaction On Exercise: Effects Of Intensity On Inhibitory Control, Affect, Autonomic Cardiac Function And Brain Oxygenation (Weslley Quirino Alves da Silva, Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte)

Different exercise intensities are associated with different levels of pleasurable sensations.  In general, at high intensity exercises, the pleasurable nature of exercise decreases.  When you look at sympathetic activity increases, cognitive function (inhibitory control)  In a study One study examined heart rate variability, blood flow in the prefrontal cortex, as participants cycled past their ventilatory threshold.  They found that participants experienced the exercise session as pleasurable until the ventilatory threshold was reached.  After this point, mood significantly decreases, cognitive function was impaired, and this was associated with significantly increased sympathetic activity (as assessed by heart rate variability), and significantly decreased oxygenation in the prefrontal cortex.


Associations Between Mother’s And Children’s Moderate-to-vigorous Activity And Sedentary Time In The Family Context (MinKyoung Song, Oregon Health and Science University)

The literature is unclear whether maternal physical activity behavior relates to the child’s physical activity behavior.  Song and colleagues recently found that both MVPA and ST in mothers and their children are directly related.  That is, the more mom’s are physically active (or sedentary), the more their children will be as well.


I Feel Good! – Physical Activity and Quality of Life (Eszter Füzéki. Goethe University Frankfurt)

PA can lead to meaningful increases in quality of life in various populations. However, based on the literature, it is difficult to prescribe a specific dose of exercise.  What exercise intensity and frequency is the best to improve quality of life?  Segar and colleagues (2011) have shown that, “[Individuals] with quality of life as a superordinate goal, exercise 15-34% more than those with weight/appearance, current health or healthy aging goals.” Physicians and healthcare professionals need to be aware that increased physical activity may not be the main goal for all people engaging in an exercise program.  Rather, improvements in mental well being and quality of life may be at the forefront of why people participate in exercise.

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