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UCI researchers to study health effects of exercise in children

Irvine, Calif., May 1, 2006 -- Researchers with the UC Irvine Center for the Study of Health Effects of Exercise in Children have received a $7.2 million, five-year National Institutes of Health grant to study the impact of physical activity on childhood health.

The information gained will be used to find how exercise can be best used to prevent asthma and childhood obesity, and to enhance the process of growth and development in children with chronic disease and disability.

"With the alarming increase in obesity and asthma in children -- both conditions uniquely tied to levels of exercise and physical activity -- never before has the need for such research been so great," said Dr. Dan Cooper, center director and professor of pediatrics, who will lead the project, which encompasses three thematically linked research studies investigating the biological processes that associate exercise with disease in children.

Physical activity is a critical moderator of growth and development in children and adolescents. Cooper said exercise also has substantial therapeutic benefits for children who suffer from a variety of chronic diseases and disabilities.

"A very exciting part of the research is based on recent discoveries that exercise can influence the immune system in children," Cooper said. "It is the immune system that seems to be abnormal in childhood diseases like asthma and arthritis. Also, abnormal immune function may contribute to increases in the risk for heart disease later in life."

While the idea that exercise is good for children makes sense, very little is known about how much and what kind of exercise is necessary and healthy. Even though children are the most active age group, pediatricians and other health care professionals receive little or no formal training in assessing their patients' physical activity levels or how to motivate parents to alter their children's physical activity patterns. The problem is even wors
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Contact: Tom Vasich
tmvasich@uci.edu
949-824-6455
University of California - Irvine
1-May-2006


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