Movement As Medicine

23 May

UMass Amherst- 


Movement as Medicine

Barry Braun seeks an exercise prescription to fight diabetes and other metabolic disorders

“Research by Barry Braun, associate professor of kinesiology at UMass Amherst, reveals that exercise is a medicine that can be prescribed just as any other in the fight against some of society’s most pernicious health challenges.

Braun, an endocrinology and metabolism expert, directs the campus’s Energy Metabolism Laboratory. He investigates the integration of exercise, pharmacology and diet to prevent and manage metabolic disorders such as Type 2 diabetes. The method is called metabolic rehabilitation and it’s a prescription for better health. 

According to 2011 data from the Centers for Disease Control, an estimated 26 million Americans have diabetes and another one-third of U.S. adults over 20 are pre-diabetic. Effective drugs are needed to combat that trend. For Braun, one of those drugs is exercise.

“Think of exercise as you would any other drug,” he says. “There’s a dose and frequency with which it needs to be taken to get the best response.” Braun is working on ways to optimize exercise’s disease-fighting effects. He says that, like all drugs, exercise interacts with other substances we put in our bodies, including nutritional supplements, prescription medications, and the foods we eat. Understanding those interactions is important in determining when and how to prescribe exercise.

In studies funded by the American Diabetes Association and the National Institutes of Health, Braun conducted experiments on the effects of exercise and metformin, the most-prescribed drug for Type 2 Diabetes. He hoped to determine whether combining drug treatment and exercise regulated blood sugar better than either exercise or drug treatment alone. The surprising results: “Exercise combined with metformin was not better than exercise alone; it might even be worse. We’re now trying to understand the mechanisms to explain that.” According to Braun, everything—diet, exercise, and pharmaceuticals—works together in a complex biological system.

His collaborators who study drugs and diseases on the molecular level are drawn to Braun’s translational work on living, breathing human beings. “It’s hard,” he notes, “to isolate a single factor in a messy biological system like the human body, but it’s also difficult to make the direct connection to human health when the experiments are done in isolated cells.” Braun adds that one of UMass Amherst’s strengths is it that it has dozens of faculty members, in Kinesiology and elsewhere, tackling the problem from both perspectives.”

As I was snooping around the UMass Amherst website I saw this article pop up on the front page about one of my old professors and it brought a smile to my face. It is good to see the kinesiology department at my alma mater doing good things. Dr. Barry Braun was no doubt my favorite professor in my time at UMass.

The idea of exercise as a prescription is something that more people need to grasp. Everybody just wants to pop a prescribed dose of pills everyday in order to cure their problems but that cannot be the solution for every situation. As much as all of the big pharama companies out there don’t want you to believe this, the more we study the more we are finding that exercise is the strongest prescription there is. Get you daily dose and you’ll be better off.


One Response to “Movement As Medicine”

  1. Michelle M May 31, 2011 at 9:09 pm #

    loveee this!!!!

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