Why does exercise improve health?

The  Molecular Transducers of Physical Activity in Humans Program is a new initiative from the NIH to elucidate the molecular changes that occur during exercise. “We know that exercise improves health, but this is the first effort to develop a comprehensive map of the proteins, hormones, and other molecules that change as a result of physical activity,” said DMPI faculty member William E. Kraus, M.D., principal investigator of one of the Duke-led research projects. “We are eager to participate in this initiative, which we hope will help guide the field over the next 30 years.”

Seven clinical centers across the country, including Duke, will recruit people from different races, ethnic groups, genders, ages and fitness levels, beginning in 2018. The Duke team will partner with colleagues at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and East Carolina University with a goal of enrolling 450 people.

Samples from participants will be analyzed at seven sites, including one at Duke headed by DMPI Director Christopher Newgard, PhD. The Duke group, working with a team at the Broad Institute/Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, will be “analyzing ‘targeted’ metabolomics, which are precise, quantitative measurements of several hundred chemical components involved in key metabolic pathways,” Newgard said. He said the Harvard group will measure proteins and a complementary set of metabolites.

The information gained from the study will hopefully result in the ability to target appropriate physical activity to optimize human health in individuals.