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Routine Blood Tests Could Help Predict Fitness Changes

By Labmedica International staff writers
Posted on 29 May 2017
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Image: Research suggests a combination of routine blood analytes can predict improvement or decrease in the fitness of older marathoners (Photo courtesy of Today).
Image: Research suggests a combination of routine blood analytes can predict improvement or decrease in the fitness of older marathoners (Photo courtesy of Today).
In an initial study of marathoners (runners-bikers) aged >60 years, researchers have found that results from a combination of routine blood analytes predicted improvement or decrease in their fitness.

Beneficial impact of endurance sports on physical and mental performance can be seen in blood test results. In collaboration with the Health and Prevention Center of the Healthcare Institution for City of Vienna employees, a group of researchers from the biobank at Medical University (MedUni) of Vienna has shown, in a study conducted with older marathoners, that specific blood parameters could be used in the opposite way to predict future changes in fitness. This could be used for personalized sports medicine to optimize endurance-training programs for individuals.

Within the Austrian research infrastructure BBMRI.at, MedUni Vienna biobank works closely with the biobanks and medical archives of the other Austrian universities. The consortium has set itself the joint goal of improving the quality of biomaterial used in biomedical studies and hence increasing the reliability of research results nationwide.

In the APSOEM Marathon Study, which has been running since 2009, MedUni Vienna's biobank has already demonstrated that the cognitive ability and mental state of older marathon runners aged >60 are significantly better than those of comparable age groups who do not engage in any endurance sport. Data gathered in this study were used in the new study.

The follow-up study was conducted by a research group headed by Dr. Helmuth Haslacher from MedUni Vienna, in collaboration with Robert Winker's team from the Health and Prevention Center of the Healthcare Institution for City of Vienna employees. They took blood samples from 47 marathoners before an ergometer test, and carried out lab tests to determine levels of analytes, including inflammatory markers, and muscle and liver parameters. Ergometer tests were repeated after an interval of 3 years: approximately 2/3 of the athletes showed a decline in fitness since the initial test. The researchers found that it was possible to use the earlier blood results as a basis for predicting who had lost fitness by the time of the follow-up examination, whose fitness level had remained the same, and whose had even improved.

The next step will be to investigate larger groups and other types of sport. A possible future application would be to develop an app for checking fitness.

They study, by Haslacher H et al, was published May 5, 2017, in the journal PLOS One.


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