Virtually every organism is dependent on movement in one form or another. With respect to humans, physical activity imposes unique stresses on a broad spectrum of cell types, tissues, and organ systems. In so doing, physical activity plays a key role in shaping fundamental biological processes and is necessary for maintaining health and preventing disease. Consequently, there is an accelerating realization that greater emphasis needs to be placed on physical activity as a alternative adjuvant in standard medical practice.
The idea that “exercise is good for health” seems axiomatic, however a fundamental, mechanistic understanding of how exercise works in specific diseases and conditions is still lacking. Motivating individuals to engage in regular exercise, remains a challenge that requires systematic research and identification of evidence-based strategies for successful behavior change. In addition, how to effectively engage individuals in the benefits associated with activity, many of whom may suffer from physical constraints, for example stroke, traumatic brain injury, loss of limbs, or chronic pain will require technological innovations. Without knowledge at this level, rational and appropriate uses of exercise as adjuvant therapy will remain imprecise, and the effectiveness of physical activity as a means to benefit human health and wellness may be lost.
The mission of the Exercise Medicine and Sport Sciences Initiative is to promote and expand scholarly activities and innovative discoveries in all fields associated with movement, including exercise and sport sciences, exercise medicine and rehabilitation at UC Irvine. The mission of the Initiative will enhance human health and wellness through undergraduate and graduate teaching, basic and translational research, development of innovative technologies, service to the community, and clinical activities.
For more than a decade at UC Irvine, talented and diverse groups of faculty representing six Schools (Biological Sciences, Medicine, Engineering, Social Sciences, Social Ecology and Claire Trevor School of the Arts) have centered their research on physical activity. From discoveries of fundamental biological/physiological processes to development of innovative approaches in rehabilitation medicine, these faculty, their postdoctoral fellows, graduate students and undergraduates, have formed core groups broadly interested in the fields associated with exercise, sport sciences and rehabilitation.
The EMSSI integrates these groups under a single organizational entity and coordinates and promotes activities on the UCI campus to enhance basic and translational research, to accelerate development of innovative technologies, provide services to the community, and encourage clinical activities. The educational component is made up of a newly approved undergraduate major in Exercise Sciences starting Fall Quarter 2014, and an interdepartmental graduate program in Exercise Medicine and Rehabilitation that is currently being developed.
The EMSSI achieves this integration by organizing various units and groups on campus into cores (Figure 1). These include Behavioral Sciences, Clinical Applications, Genomics and Basic Sciences, Translational Medicine/Technology Development, and Education. In addition, EMSSI will interact with Intercollegiate Athletics (ICA), providing educational and research opportunities for our student athletes. It is worth noting that the 2010 Knight Commission Report entitled “Restoring the Balance” states that collegiate athletic programs should be: “…make academic values a priority and treating college athletes as students first and foremost—not as professionals.” The EMSSI fully integrates ICA and provides unique integration and interactions consistent with the Knight Commission Report and is an example of how Division I athletics can be fully integrated with academic/research programs.