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K-State Today

January 27, 2017

Research collaboration pushes exercise past the 'red line'

By Joe Montgomery

David Poole

Like an engine tachometer has a red line for measuring peak performance, humans and animals also have their upper limits for exercise and sports performance. A researcher from Kansas State University and his collaborators from universities in the United Kingdom have released new findings about how to "cross the red line." These findings provide insight for better understanding a variety of human and animal diseases.

"Fatigue and an inability or unwillingness to exercise are major indicators of pathology and conditions such as heart failure, diabetes and a host of respiratory, neural and metabolic diseases," said David Poole, a professor of anatomy and physiology in the College of Veterinary Medicine and a professor of kinesiology in the College of Human Ecology at Kansas State University. "This is very often what brings the patient — human or animal — into the clinic or hospital."

Poole's collaborators are Mark Burnley, an exercise physiologist at the University of Kent, and Anni Vanhatalo, a physiologist at the University of Exeter. Their article, "Critical Power: An Important Fatigue Threshold in Exercise Physiology," was published in the November 2016 issue of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.

"As part of our article, we explored the fatigue processes that occur below and above the critical power," Burnley said. "The critical power concept allows us to determine if certain physical tasks are feasible for the individual in question, whether it was early humankind running down prey on the African plains millennia ago or the contemporary patient, athlete, or in the case of Bryan Allen, a human trying to fly across the English Channel under his own power. Knowing where the red line is, and knowing when to cross it, will always be a key part of human endeavour."

"Just as importantly, the degree of exercise impairment plays a major role in their eventual diagnosis and, very often, the manner in which exercise can be applied therapeutically," Poole said. "Hence, this bulletin highlights our recent state-of-the-art model describing how fatigue and exercise intolerance manifests itself and where we are regarding understanding specific causal mechanisms."