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Clinical Trial Adds Rigor to Exercise and Sports Science

ESS Clinical Trial

To finish her Ph.D., Exercise and Sports Science (ESS) major Erin Smith decided to go above and beyond with her research requirement. For her research project, Smith is conducting a registered clinical trial studying the effectiveness of High Intensity Functional Training (HIFT) in the reduction of metabolic syndrome symptoms.

Engaging in Rigorous Research

The clinical trial is being conducted in collaboration with Gunnison Valley Hospital and the University of New Zealand. Clinical trials are research studies that evaluate medical, surgical or behavior interventions and are the most common way to determine if a treatment or procedure is effective.

Not only does this study provide learning opportunities in medical and sports science, but it also is a notch in the belt of Western Colorado University when it comes to cutting edge testing and analysis. Lance Dalleck, professor of ESS and advisor to Smith, said this trial and these partnerships make Western comparable to the best colleges in the state.

“This puts us on par with the University of Colorado Boulder in terms of the rigorous research,” said Dalleck. “The robustness of what we’re doing here is at the highest possible level.”

Small Effort, Big Rewards 

Metabolic syndrome symptoms are any combination of high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and abnormal cholesterol levels. When a doctor or physician finds these symptoms, they typically suggest a lifestyle change to the patient’s diet and exercise.

“People with metabolic syndrome have busy schedules and sometimes find exercise to be unenjoyable,” said Smith, “The goal of this exercise (HIFT) is to mitigate those barriers to exercise.”

The Impact of Exercise

The uniqueness of HIFT exercise is that it does not take much time out of a person’s day and, according to Smith, it is known to be more enjoyable than typical exercise.

“Exercise has a really profound effect on mitigating metabolic syndrome symptoms,” said Smith. “The question I’m trying to answer is what is the minimum dose to seek the most change?”

To uncover this question, Smith is conduction a two-phase study. The first phase tested the immediate change to metabolic syndrome symptoms after just one “dose” of exercise. The second phase will split the subjects up into three test groups. One group will exercise once a week, the second group will exercise twice a week and the third group three times a week.

“There’s just so many options, so having studies that show what works and the minimum dosage is really important,” said Smith.

At a Higher Level

Not only will this study contribute to the discussion around combating metabolic syndrome, but it also gives Western students in the ESS department opportunities for hands on learning experience.

Student Allison Dages, who is in her fourth year of the Exercise and Sports Science 3+2 master’s program, is a research assistant in the study.

“This clinical trial is extremely novel, no one has studied this specific modality of exercise before,” said Dages. “Being a part of that is really exciting and special.”

Growing as a Student and Researcher

Dages said that while she’s always been interested in ESS, being a part of this study has helped her grow as a student and researcher.

“I’ve always believed exercise is medicine but being a part of this clinical trial proves that exercise is a healing tool for a lot of people,” said Dages.

Making an Impact at Western

While this clinical trial has given students learning opportunities, it also puts Western higher in the clinical sector.

“Clinical trials are typically done in educating hospitals and big research universities,” said Smith. “The unique thing is that we’re able to do this at Western and put Western’s name on the map.”

Learn more about Western’s Exercise and Sports Science program.



Author Credit: Kinlee Whitney

Photo Credit: Randall Gee

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