$2.1 million to research of exercise science

By Derrick Perkins

A team of scientists at the University of Massachusetts have been awarded a four-year $2.1 million grant to study the long term effects of physical activity. Patty Freedson, current chair of the Department of Kinesiology, is leading the project to design a device which will measure body motion, the characteristics of breathing and a sensor will determine whether the exercise is taking place indoors or outside, according to the University. The National Institute of Health (NIH) is funding the project as part of their Genes, Environment and Health initiative to study how genes, environmental exposure and lifestyle choices affect health. According to Freedson, her previous ten years of research had concentrated around developing the instruments to accurately capture how the human body reacts to physical activity. “This project will move the field forward by incorporating several sensors into one small unit,” she said. “With the addition of other sensors, we will likely be able to improve upon our ability to quantify physical activity dose for applications related to understanding how much activity is needed for specific health outcomes.” Freedson and her team of UMass researchers will be working with Response Applications LLC, a private firm based in Hanover, N.H. as well as a researcher from the University of Tennessee to develop the device. According to the University, a partnership has been reached between the research team and Actigraph LLC, of Pensacola, FL. Once designed, constructed and tested in Freedson’s UMass laboratory, the device will be manufactured by Actigraph. The team is also developing statistical data processing methods that will combine the sensor output to determine the type of physical activity undertaken and the total amount of energy expended. By the end of the four-year grant, Freedson expects to have produced a working device. The nation’s medical research agency, NIH has allotted a total of $48 million in grants for the first round of the GEI.