Health Notes: Revised ACSM physical activity guidelines released, Augie's Quest gene study tracks possible ALS culprit

This is another in an occasional series of SNEWS® Health Notes reports that will take a look at one or more recent pieces of research studies or reports about health, fitness, physical activity and wellness. We cover: Updated physical activity guidelines from ACSM with AHA and Research funded by Augie's Quest tracks down genes likely responsible for ALS.

This is another in an occasional series of SNEWS® Health Notes reports that will take a look at one or more recent pieces of research studies or reports about health, fitness, physical activity and wellness. We’ll focus on news you can use and present results in plain English, without all the techno-garble that can make many research studies seem overwhelming to read, let alone understand and explain to somebody else. Let us know what you think, what you would like to see, and how you’d like to see it!

>> Updated physical activity guidelines from ACSM with AHA

After 12 years, the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association have released a long-awaited version of the physical activity recommendations. The core of the recommendations remain relatively unchanged but after research has piled up after more than a decade to cause the researchers overseeing the revision to veer away from the simplicity of dog-walking and gardening as enough aerobic exercise.

Vague descriptions of activity on “most, preferably all days per week” for frequency were replaced with a recommendation for at least 30 minutes, five days a week, of moderate-intensity exercise. In addition, vigorous activity has been incorporated into the recommendations since studies have shown that it too is a key part of physical health. In fact, the term “more is better” is used in the current guidelines when it comes to intensity and frequency, although the point of maximum benefit has not been established.

And, no, taking out the trash or walking farther to your car in a parking lot now is not enough to satisfy your body’s need for movement for health and fitness but can still be complementary.

Strength guidelines remain similar.

The update has now blessed the fact that different goals may require different amounts and intensities rather than seemingly negating anything more than light or moderate. They now emphasize that relatively modest amounts of physical activity will improve health, while physical activity for cardiorespiratory fitness and expanded health gains, such as weight loss, may require more than a minimum 30 minutes of moderate activity most days of the week.

A separate set of recommendations addresses adults older than 65. Click here to see a July 30, 2007, SNEWS® Health Notes to read about new strength guidelines for those with cardiorespiratory disease.

So what? The public can’t begin to keep up with recommendations so fitness professionals should try to keep track themselves to help consumers establish best practices.

For the scientifically minded: The papers were published jointly in Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise, ACSM’s official journal (, and Circulation, a journal of the American Heart Association ( For more information or additional details on the physical activity guidelines, go to either association. Click here to see the official statement with the eight changes in the 1995 guidelines. Read the entire article online, including tips and a FAQ, by clicking here.

>> Research funded by Augie’s Quest tracks down genes likely responsible for ALS

The New England Journal of Medicine has just published a report that has been discussed for months, revealing that researchers who were funded in part by Augie’s Quest donations have traced genes potentially responsible for the onset of the disease.

Augie Nieto told SNEWS®, “We just had our genomics study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The press has been overwhelming.”

Researchers identified genetic locations that were associated with ALS (known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) and found a protein that seemed to be at the core. Researchers wrote, “Biologic factors implicated by our data include cytoskeletal regulation, a finding that suggests that aspects of cytoskeletal dysfunction may be central to the initiation or progression of sporadic ALS.”

But finding the genes and proteins doesn’t mean they can now cure ALS. Rather, it leads them on the path that seems to indicate a certain susceptibility by some people. As researchers often say, more research is, of course, needed.

Concluded the researchers, “Our findings suggest that there is no single, overwhelming genetic association underlying sporadic ALS, and this is consistent with a model in which sporadic ALS results from a complex interplay of environmental factors and numerous low risk susceptibility loci. Unraveling the network of causes will probably require substantial effort once the genes involved have been identified. However, the identification of the candidate susceptibility loci in this and other studies is an essential first step.”

So what? This may not affect the fitness industry clientele as a whole, but the industry can be proud of the fact that it is contributed in some way to the funds that helped make this research — and a potential cure — a reality.

For the scientifically minded: If you want to reach the abstract, you can do that on the New England Journal of Medicine website by clicking here. If you want to read the entire study — N Engl J Med 357:775, August 23, 2007 — you’ll need to pay a fee.