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Human Performance Lab Helps Athletes Push Their Limits

Want to scratch that itch to be a more competitive athlete? Run a faster marathon? Or just get back into clothes that fit fine in 2009?

Loyola Marymount University’s Human Performance Lab can fill the bill for you.

The lab, staffed with professors from the Natural Science Department, is offering a range of exercise, fitness, nutritional and body composition analysis services. The program also meets a need in the community for affordable professional services, while providing training for undergraduates majoring in athletic training or studying physical therapy at the Frank R. Seaver College of Science and Engineering, said Professor David Ramirez, who chairs the department.

altThe Human Performance Lab clinical testing program was developed after LMU was approached by local physical therapists, who wanted this kind of testing for their patients and clients, said Hawley Almstedt, associate professor of natural science, who helps run the lab.

“We see an unfilled need,” said Almstedt, during an interview at the on-campus facility, which is filled with exercise equipment and state-of-the art diagnostic tools. An unfilled need for whom? “Somebody going out to do a marathon for the first time, or they are active, or perhaps they are on an intramural team, or maybe they take a lot of fitness classes; but mostly they want to know a little bit more about their health.”

More elite athletes, such as regular competitors in marathons or triathlons, can benefit as well. “These are very athletic, exercise-savvy individuals, of which there are a ton in this region and they don’t even know this program exists at LMU.”

Clients can choose from an array of services. For the advanced athletes, there are sophisticated tests such as the VO2 Max Test (maximal volume of oxygen uptake test), which is a mainstay in Olympic training. The test assesses fitness and the effectiveness of training by measuring oxygen consumption and CO2 production. “It tells us if you are using carbohydrates or fats as an energy source,” Almstedt said.

For the less-driven consumers, there is body composition and resting metabolic rate tests, coupled with nutritional advice built around analysis of a food journal. This person would be “looking to set a typical New Year’s resolution goal, or needs a baseline to get started on a healthy lifestyle,” she said.

The resting metabolic rate reveals a client’s baseline caloric-needs, and the staff builds a diet to match. “We suggest a number of calories you would want to consume to lose a pound a week,” said Almstedt, whose doctorate is in exercise physiology from Oregon State University.

The lab also offers bone mineral density testing which may be of interest to many women, young and old, at risk for osteoporosis. Almstedt’s research, in fact, focuses on the study of peak bone mass and its role in the prevention of osteoporosis.

Professors Ramirez, Todd Shoepe, and Silvie Grote work at the lab, while also teaching and conducting research in the health and human sciences and athletic training programs at Seaver College. There are about 240 students in the twin programs at Seaver; three juniors or seniors per semester will work in lab. The experience will give these undergraduates a taste for their prospective vocations and also experience to help them get into graduate school.

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