Tag Archives: Exercise

Obesity: hamsters may hold the clue to beating it

Apply by 28 February for our Research Grants of up to £10,000 (over a 12 to 18-month period). This scheme supports physiologists in their first permanent academic position or returning to a permanent position after a career break, to provide support for their research or to provide seed-funding to start a new project. Gisela Helfer was a 2017 awardee of this grant, and you can read about her research below:

The global obesity crisis shows no signs of abating, and we urgently need new ways to tackle it. Consuming fewer calories and burning more energy through physical activity is a proven way to lose weight, but it’s clearly easier said than done. The problem with eating less and moving more is that people feel hungry after exercise and they have to fight the biologically programmed urge to eat. To develop effective ways to lose weight, we need a better understanding of how these biological urges work. We believe hamsters hold some clues.

Hamsters and other seasonal animals change their body and behaviour according to the time of year, such as growing a thick coat in winter or only giving birth in spring. Some seasonal animals can also adjust their appetite so that they aren’t hungry when less food is available. For example, the Siberian hamster loses almost half its body weight in time for winter, so they don’t need to eat as much to survive the winter months. Understanding the underlying physiological processes that drive this change may help us to understand our own physiology and may help us develop new treatments.

How hungry we feel is controlled by a part of the brain called the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus helps to regulate appetite and body weight, not only in seasonal animals but also in humans.

Tanycytes (meaning “long cells”) are the key cells in the hypothalamus and, amazingly, they can change size and shape depending on the season. In summer, when there is a lot of daylight and animals eat more, tanycytes are long and they reach into areas of the brain that control appetite. In winter, when days are shorter, the cells are very short and few.

These cells are important because they regulate hormones in the brain that change the seasonal physiology of animals, such as hamsters and seasonal rats.

Growth signals

We don’t fully understand how all these hormones in the hypothalamus interact to change appetite and weight loss, but our recent research has shown that growth signals could be important.

One way that growth signals are increased in the brain is through exercise. Siberian hamsters don’t hibernate; they stay active during the winter months. If hamsters have access to a running wheel, they will exercise more than usual. When they are exercising on their wheel, they gain weight and eat more. This is true especially during a time when they would normally be small and adapted for winter. Importantly, the increased body weight in exercising hamsters is not just made up of increased muscle, but also increased fat.

We know that the hamsters interpret the length of day properly in winter, or, at least, in a simulated winter day (the lights being on for a shorter duration), because they still have a white winter coat despite being overweight. We now understand that in hamsters the exercise-stimulated weight gain has to do with hormones that usually regulate growth, because when we block these hormones the weight gain can be reversed.

When people take up exercise, they sometimes gain weight, and this may be similar to what happens in hamsters when appetite is increased to make up for the increased energy being burned during exercise. This doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t exercise during the winter, because we don’t naturally lose weight like Siberian hamsters, but it does explain why, for some people, taking up exercise might make them feel hungrier and so they might need extra help to lose weight.

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We need to find ways to overcome appetite. Lucky Business/Shutterstock.com

What we have learned from studying hamsters so far has already given us plenty of ideas about which cells and systems we need to look at in humans to understand how weight regulation works. This will create new opportunities to identify possible targets for anti-obesity drugs and maybe even tell us how to avoid obesity in the first place.

By Gisela Helfer@gi_helfer and Rebecca Dumbell

(This blog was originally published on The Conversation.)

Creating Champions: Road to the Olympics

By Kim Murray, Great Britain skeleton athlete, @KimMurray88

After years as a physiologist in elite sports, I thought I was pretty familiar with the life of an athlete. Then I became one myself: suddenly there was a team of support staff there to help me; numbers were being crunched and I wasn’t the one making the spreadsheet, but a data point on it. In the four years since I switched sides from exercise physiologist to full-time athlete in skeleton, I’ve gained a deeper understanding of the mental and physical challenges that drive an ever better performance.

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I now train full-time in Bath, alongside around twenty other British skeleton athletes. We have a team of coaches, sport science staff and medical support staff working alongside us to produce champions. On a day to day basis I work with a coach, strength and conditioning coach and physiotherapist. However, there is much more going on behind the scenes in terms of planning and data management as well as having access to nutrition, performance lifestyle and psychological support.

The life of an athlete is not quite what I expected. Day to day can be a grind; you must find something more within yourself when you’re tired to complete a session or pick up a new technique. You’re also constantly surrounded by super humans so although to the outside you seem physically unbelievable there is always a lot of internal competition and I can be very hard on myself. What has exceeded my expectations however, is what I have been able to achieve and experience, and the friends I have made in the short time I have been part of the team. You travel for half the year; visiting the most beautiful parts of the winter world, throwing yourself off the top of tracks, hitting 120 plus km/h (74 mph) and calling it work. Some days I just simply cannot believe this is my life.

 

The physiologist in the athlete

Having worked with athletes, I try to conduct myself in a way that I appreciated when working: filling in wellness and training data, minimising moaning, sleeping well, being honest about injury or illness. I remember what ‘athlete behaviours’ I should be striving to demonstrate and more to the point I know why they are important. I’ve spent enough time trying to get buy in from athletes and coaches to know how much more can be achieved when they comply. However, the emotion and enormity of what you’re trying to achieve can get to you; in my case, that is tightly linked with putting my physiology career on pause and the risk I took to follow the skeleton path. It can be a very testing environment and sometimes you just feel like your life is being determined by others or you’re not where you want to be in terms of making progress. In hindsight, these feelings are usually due to fatigue. When tired, you become less rational and the athlete behaviours can slip.

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Strength testing in the physiology lab

As the athlete, you’re not always involved in decision making and a lot goes on at a programme level that you don’t see. Our job is to put in the work, hit our goals and to grow as athletes and people. It is important to trust in the vision and direction of the performance director, coaches and support team. However, I sometimes find this difficult because I have a need to know why I do things. Having been part of athlete support teams, I am used to knowing the behind the scenes, so it was quite a big change to not always be a part of those conversations. If I am striving for a certain time on the push track or score on a physio test I ask why. Fortunately, as a more senior athlete I do now get to see more of what goes behind the training plans and goals. The team know my background so I quite often get to see a little more of the spreadsheet, as they know I am interested and will understand. This allows my inner spreadsheet geek to live on!

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Sprinting through a series of light gates is a way of measuring running speed

I don’t get to practise or apply exercise physiology in the way I used to. Yes, we use force plates and light gates, fill in wellness and training data, take part in special projects and so on, but when you’re the subject you’re not exposed to the same level of insight. What I am becoming though, is an expert of my body. How much sleep I need, what food I should eat, how I best warm up, what coaching cues help my performance, when I need more rest, what my peak power is, what a healthy body composition looks like for me. I am also further developing soft skills such as assertiveness, effective communication, team work and resilience. So, whilst I miss working as an exercise physiologist every day, I hope that this break will firstly, fulfil the desire to play the athlete and secondly grant me new skills and understanding from the athlete point of view that will be useful when I do return to work one day. In the meantime, I am giving skeleton my all and focusing on a huge goal: the 2022 Olympics in Beijing!

The Ultra Cycle Diaries – The Finish Line

by Daniel Brayson, King’s College London, @DrDanBrayson

Having never attempted anything like the Transcontinental Race before, my expectation ahead of the race was to complete it before the cut-off time, which was set at 15 days and 2 hours. In the very early stages of the race, I rode quite conservatively knowing that to finish within this time was critical for my sense of achievement. However, I very quickly realised I was capable of much more. I arrived at the first checkpoint in around 60th position, which surprised me. I then arrived at all the remaining checkpoints in higher positions than the previous one and was placed somewhere in the 30’s for the final checkpoint on the Transfagarasan highway in Romania.

The last hurdle

Approximately 1000 kilometres from the finish line in Meteora, I was in a good position to make a late charge for a top 30 position and I set about the task gamely. I rode through the remaining portion of Romania and a short section through Bulgaria into Serbia. Feeling hardened from the first 75% of the race I felt my performance improving rather than declining and set about three substantial climbs in northern Serbia with a certain amount of gusto and swagger. Temperatures were fierce, up into the 40°Cs, but I felt I had acclimatised to these by now and in my mind I was conquering these hills with no problems, better than any I had attempted previously at the height of the midday sun. Having capacity for only 1750 ml of water and a broken smartphone, I found myself rationing water as I couldn’t know when the next opportunity to resupply would arrive. I made up for it when I had the opportunity and guzzled litres at service stations but as it turns out, the damage had been done. Later that evening, when the sun had disappeared below the horizon and temperatures had dropped to the point it was “cool,” I started to suffer. I felt hot and restricted in my clothes despite the cool evening breeze; I became irritated by my clothes to the extent that I removed my jersey and rode shirtless for a while. After a little while longer, my feet felt hot and irritated too, so I took them out of my cleats and rode on top of those. Then suddenly my legs went completely: I’d hit a wall, pedalling felt like I was sitting on a ledge mixing cement with my feet, and I was overcome with delirium. I stopped at a service station and slept in a secluded area covered in pinecones for the night. I was so out of it I hadn’t noticed the pinecones at first, and stirred from sleep a few hours later to find myself cursing them wildly. At this point, I intended to crack on, but as I stood up I felt a wave of nausea overcome me, so I figured I needed more rest.

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In the morning, I ‘soft pedalled’ (rode slowly) for about 100 kilometres, at which point I came face to face with a steep hill at 1pm. Again, the temperature was up in the 40°Cs. With no obvious signs of shade on the sides of the road I looked around, feeling dejected. I had been riding next to a river and noticed locals frolicking in their bathers. I found a small quiet area and immersed myself, fully clothed, in a shallow part of the river and remained there in state of semi-consciousness for almost 4 hours. When the mid-afternoon sun was less fearsome I rode another 40 kilometres to the nearest town and holed-up in hotel for the next 8 hours. At this point, I could not stomach any solid food, and realised I was suffering at the hands of the extreme temperatures and heat exhaustion.

Lessons from the Transcontinental Race

At the time, I felt that I had not ridden at the right times of day in order to avoid the heat, and this point comes through as in my video diary. Now, as I reflect, I know that I couldn’t have ridden at night since I can’t suppress the urge to sleep then (remember response inhibition?) The logistics of trying to reverse my body clock in preparation for a race whilst performing a demanding vocation would be insurmountable. My feeling now is that I should have been better prepared to ride in the heat. Principally, I should have addressed two issues. Firstly acclimation: I should have trained for the heat. I didn’t, because being British I am not often enough exposed to extreme heat to actually appreciate the effects it has on human physiology and performance – and to believe these temperatures actually exist! However, training for heat has been shown to potentially benefit overall performance, not just performance in the heat, so if there is any chance of high environmental temperatures it is worth undertaking heat training regardless. Secondly, I should have allowed a greater carrying capacity for water and fluids. This was perhaps the biggest flaw in my preparation. At times I should definitely have been carrying at least 3 litres, if not more! I paid the price for this and by the time I had recovered I had to re-align my expectations back to finishing before the cut-off. So with the intention of managing my workload carefully, I gingerly clambered aboard my bike and set off for the finish line.

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The finish line

After a calamitous final section in which I suffered a terminal failure of my rear tyre, I walked the final 7 kilometres, in suffocating heat, and arrived at the finish line in Kalabaka, Greece, in a foul and dispirited mood. I was robbed of the glory of rolling across the finish line, triumphant and fulfilled. Nevertheless, I had finished and I had finished 12 hours before the cut-off. On the lack of glory at the finish my final thought as I left Kalabaka to return to the UK was, ‘there’s always next time’.

The Ultra Cycle Diaries – Nutrition

By Daniel Brayson, King’s College London, @DrDanBrayson

In cycling very long distances as fast as possible, ultra-endurance cyclists use an extraordinary amount of energy. Replenishing these energy stores is critical for racers to maintain performance and stay competitive. To achieve this, riders do not simply settle for 3 square meals per day, or even 3 big meals a day, which would simply not be enough! Instead, we eat more frequently, and because we do not want to stop too often, this means eating whilst riding: “grazing on the go,” as it is affectionately referred to amongst cyclists. This involves eating an array of convenient snacks ranging from the healthy – bananas, oranges and kiwi fuits – to the energy packed goodness of carbohydrate and fibre rich wholegrain bars, nuts for fat replenishment, all the way through to the downright despicable: chocolate bars, Peperami and lots of jelly sweets. Did I mention ice cream? There was a bit of that too. The overriding consensus amongst riders is that a calorie is a calorie no matter where it comes from, and you take all you can get!

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Biting more than you can use

Although it is intuitive to think that you need to eat a lot more to compete in these races, there is a limit to how much energy a human can take on board. Take the example of carbohydrates. The limit to how much carbohydrate can enter the bloodstream is dictated by a clever transporter system between our gut and our circulation. The ‘problem’ with this system, from the point of view of an ultra-racer, is that it can only transfer approximately 60 grams of carbs per hour from the gut to the bloodstream, maybe up to 90 at a push. In an ultra event, racers are likely to use much more. On top of this, this transport relies on an adequate blood supply to the gut to deliver energy to the system and facilitate it’s function. However, when cycling most of our blood supply is directed to the muscles because they are using so much energy. This can make this transport system slower and less effective and may lead to “gastrointestinal distress” – tummy ache to you and me! This is a common problem for ultra-cyclists, but it is even more common in ultra-runners, probably because of there is more jumbling up and down in the tummy, which I think is the technical terminology…

Measuring the loss of energy stores

If the human body is in a state where it can’t take on as much energy as it uses, it is likely there will be a net loss of energy stores in the body; this has actually been shown in a couple of studies which examined ultra cyclists. However, the magnitude of this deficit is up for debate. One study showed that it could be as much as 8000 calories per day, whilst another derived that it was a more conservative 1500 calories. This discrepancy is likely due to the fact that these studies chose very different methods of measurement. To add to these studies I attempted to use yet another type of measurement to see if I could determine my ‘energy status’ during the Transcontinental Race. I opted for measuring circulating glucose (sugar) and lipids (fats) by pricking my finger and then using an everyday device that a diabetic might use to monitor their blood sugar. Simple.

Or perhaps not. I found that when I measured glucose, cholesterol and triglycerides, values were usually either the same as or higher than the resting values that I measured before the race, which goes against the hypothesis that I would be suffering from an energy deficit, and the data generated by previous studies. I can think of a number of mitigating circumstances. Firstly, I had devised a plan to take measurements pre- and post-meal. Yet, it quickly became obvious that I would rarely find myself in a pre- or post-meal state, because I ate so often. Timing of measurements was therefore erratic at best. Also, continually lancing my fingertips became a painful burden: my fingers were wounded and bruised for most of the time I was racing. Eventually, I decided it was too much of a hindrance, especially as my chances of finishing the race were already jeopardised by heat-induced illness. Heat also affected my appetite and ability to adequately digest: I was nearly re-acquainted with more than one meal towards the end of the race and spent the last two days eating nothing but ice-lollies.

In case you needed reminding, this was no walk in the park! Come back next week to find out if the ice-lollies got me over the line!


Make sure you follow the blog and subscribe to our Youtube Channel to keep up with the Ultra Cycle Diaries. Check back every Wednesday for a new blog and video!

The Ultra Cycle Diaries – Fatigue

By Daniel Brayson, King’s College London, @DrDanBrayson

Cycling 4000 kilometres as quickly as possible inevitably means that fatigue plays an important role, and those who manage and deal with it well are likely do best in endurance bike racing. Fatigue is the over-arching term to describe the inability of an individual subject to maintain a performance output over time; in the case of the Transcontinental Race, a very long time.

The reduction of the body’s energy stores is a key factor in the development of fatigue. Elite bike racing teams focus heavily on it to avoid what is affectionately known in cycling circles as ‘bonking’: feeling hypoglycaemic, with your legs turned to jelly, and mild dizziness. However, whilst fuelling is undoubtedly crucial, the Transcontinental Race provides the added challenge of being one long stage from start to finish: no daily finish lines, no support team and massage waiting at the end of every day. Therefore, developing a race strategy also includes deciding when and how much to rest and sleep, and route planning – both of which will impact on fatigue. Managing these components to optimise performance in the race is no mean feat especially when there are other factors to consider which are completely out of your control…

Fatigue graph

This plot of my power output over time shows an overall gradual decline in power during the race (red), which could be dure to a multitude of factors including the distance cycled and the increasing temperatures. ©Daniel Brayson

Response inhibition – the power of the mind

Due to the fiercely hot weather, a number of racers made the decision to cycle during the night and sleep during the day to avoid the hottest part of the day. This strategy didn’t work for me: I find it very difficult to inhibit my physiological urge to sleep at times that I would normally do so; this was no surprise, as I would famously fall asleep in nightclubs during my undergraduate years! Those who can resist these kinds of urges have what is known as a strong ‘response inhibition’: they are able to use the fortitude of their minds to ignore the desire of their bodies to sleep, and power through. They are likely to be successful endurance cyclists too, since they may also have a strong response inhibition to fatigue! The reason for this has been discovered recently: to a certain degree, fatigue is determined by the effort perceived by an individual rather than just the energy reserves available in their muscles (Marcora & Staiano, 2010). In fact, studies have shown that when a subject stops exercising because of exhaustion, there is still energy left in their muscles suggesting that it is the brain that is the limiting factor to performance!

Stress and physical performance

Remaining on the topic of the psychological components of fatigue, it is also now known that dealing with stressful situations can increase the effort perceived by an athlete and have a negative impact on endurance performance (Marcora et al., 2009). During the Transcontinental Race I encountered numerous stressful situations. For instance, I lost lots of my gear by just forgetting to re-pack it and leaving it in random places. I lost a pulse oximeter – a device to measure the oxygen saturation of my blood – before I got anywhere near a mountain, missing out on some nice data. My phone, on which I was heavily reliant for navigating and for performing an app-based psychological test called the Stroop test, broke because of the heat. I bought a new one and exchanged my sim card, only to realise 15 minutes down the road that I didn’t have it. I raced back to the shop – it wasn’t there. Retracing my steps, I could no longer determine if I was sweating through physical effort or panic! I finally found my brand new phone, just peeking out amongst the packaging in which it originally came: I had thrown it in the bin!!! Fatigue begets fatigue begets fatigue…


Make sure you follow the blog and subscribe to our Youtube Channel to keep up with the Ultra Cycle Diaries. Check back every Wednesday for a new blog and video!

References

Marcora SM & Staiano W. (2010). The limit to exercise tolerance in humans: mind over muscle? Eur J Appl Physiol 109, 763-770.

Marcora SM, Staiano W & Manning V. (2009). Mental fatigue impairs physical performance in humans. J Appl Physiol (1985) 106, 857-864.

The Ultra Cycle Diaries – Man vs Heat

By Daniel Brayson, King’s College London, @DrDanBrayson

A word of advice to budding ultra-cyclists: don’t climb steep hills in a heat wave! High temperatures came to define a large portion of my cycling race across Europe, especially the further eastwards I rode. On many days, the mercury pushed above the 40⁰C (104⁰F) mark and even reached 50⁰C (122⁰F) one day. The biological effects of physical exertion in high ambient temperatures are important to understand, especially if you plan on doing something like the Transcontinental Race.

Slowed down by Lucifer

Over exertion in the heat can increase core body temperature to an abnormal level and lead not only to a significant reduction in performance but more importantly to heat-related illnesses, such as heat stress, exhaustion and stroke. While these differ in severity, they share symptoms, including muscle weakness, dizziness, nausea and loss of appetite. I was acutely aware of the dangers of over-exerting myself in the heat, but because I was in a race, I did it anyway: competition is known to cause competitors to focus on the race so much they ignore sensory cues! That’s how I ended up climbing mountain roads that were not tree lined, in more than 40⁰C (104⁰F). Climbing up against the pull of gravity means the body has to work harder and consequently, generate more heat. You also go slower uphill, meaning there is limited moving air to evaporate sweat and cool the skin. The data I’ve collected show how temperature affected my performance.

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Take a look at these two climbs (in grey), that I did quite early in the race, on consecutive days: Timmelsjoch in Austria followed by Monte Grappa in northern Italy. If we look closely we can see that on average, temperature (orange) was much higher when I climbed Monte Grappa than when I climbed Timmelsjoch. And whilst heart rate (red) is similar, power output (white) is much lower during the climb to the summit of Monte Grappa – I even stopped completely to cool down. A decrease in power output could be attributed to fatigue from the first climb, except that I did much better on another huge climb even later in the race… when the average temperature was much lower!

Your body in a heat wave

At ‘normal’ temperatures, 10-25⁰C (50-77⁰F), exercise feels comfortable; if temperature increases to over 35⁰C (95⁰F), the same intensity of exercise gets more difficult and cannot be maintained as long. Why? In both settings, exercise increases the amount of heat produced by our metabolism, but the way the body copes with it is affected by the temperature. In lower temperatures there is a large difference between the body temperature (high) and ambient temperature (low). Heat naturally travels down a thermal energy gradient towards the lower temperature environment so the body gets rid of the extra heat easily (using convection, conduction and radiation for those of you who did GCSE Physics). In addition, and to facilitate greater heat loss, sweating allows the surface of the skin to cool when sweat evaporates; this process relies on the energy state change: evaporation of liquid sweat into gas uses up heat, leaving the skin cooler. Now, when the ambient temperature is above the core temperature the human body, the usual processes of convection conduction and radiation happen very slowly, if at all. The body then relies a lot more on sweating; however, sweating too much causes dehydration and excessive loss of salt and minerals called electrolytes, with severe implications for performance and health (Cheuvront et al., 2010).

For example, in hot conditions blood vessels near the skin dilate, allowing blood to flow closer to the surface of the skin to cool it down – hence the red face. Heart rate increases to help fill these now larger blood vessels, yet because of sweating and dehydration, blood volume and blood pressure go down, making it even harder to fill the heart: the volume pumped per heart beat actually becomes smaller! This creates stress on the heart whilst it works hard to pump blood to all of the body’s tissues and organs. These constraints definitely place a limit to how much humans can safely exert themselves in the heat (Gonzalez-Alonso et al., 2008)!

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Beating the heat

It is worth noting that a person’s ability to cope with high temperatures during physical exertion is not set and can be improved by training. For example, a two-week acclimation protocol of training at 40⁰C (104⁰F) ambient temperature can lead to increased sweating, retention of electrolytes by sweat glands and expanded plasma volume, all of which compensate, to a degree, for the problems highlighted above. But it’s important to note that you would need to drink more water, not less. It is a common misconception that acclimatising to heat means having to drink less water!

As for me, heat wasn’t the only thing that gave me trouble during the Transcontinental Race… tune in next week for a new episode.


Make sure you follow the blog and subscribe to our Youtube Channel to keep up with the Ultra Cycle Diaries. Check back every Wednesday for a new blog and video!

References

Cheuvront SN, Kenefick RW, Montain SJ & Sawka MN. (2010). Mechanisms of aerobic performance impairment with heat stress and dehydration. J Appl Physiol (1985) 109, 1989-1995.

Gonzalez-Alonso J, Crandall CG & Johnson JM. (2008). The cardiovascular challenge of exercising in the heat. J Physiol 586, 45-53.

Sir Roger Bannister and Exercise Physiology

Bannister_publicdomain_600pxBy Mark Burnley, University of Kent, UK.

On Saturday March 3, 2018, Sir Roger Bannister, the first person to run a mile in under 4 minutes, passed away. His run on the Iffley track in Oxford in May 1954 was one of the defining athletic feats of the 20th century. In reading Bannister’s autobiography, however, it is striking just how much one man managed to pack into life, and how relatively little of it was concerned with athletic performance. He was an amateur athlete whose career pathway was already chosen, and that career was clinical medicine.

Sir Roger Bannister was a neurologist first and an athlete second. This goes some way to describing how good he was at neurology! He published 81 papers on the part of our nervous system that controls involuntary actions like breathing (called the autonomic nervous system). He also wrote and edited several texts on disease in this system.

Bannister’s investigations of the physiology of the respiratory system during exercise took place during a research scholarship in the University Oxford’s Laboratory of Physiology in 1951. It may surprise you to know that this had nothing to do with his interest in athletics. Bannister was instead interested in respiratory control, and exercise was merely a means of testing stress placed on this system. This work was published in The Journal of Physiology in 1954.

In this study, he explored the effect of oxygen levels on the movement of air in and out of the lungs (called ventilation), and on physical performance. To do this he had participants, including himself, run at constant speeds and breathe room air, with 33%, 66%, and 100% oxygen. At the time, the reason for the reduction in ventilation and improvement in physical performance when breathing oxygen-enriched gases was not clear.

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Roger Bannister in 2009. © Pruneau / Wikimedia Commons, via Wikimedia Commons

Each of Bannister’s four participants is identified by initials, which is of course not allowed now. We know of three for certain (Bannister and his supervisor, Dr Dan Cunningham, who co-authors the paper, as well as Norris McWhirter [N.D.McW]). The latter was able to run with relative ease breathing 66% oxygen, and only terminated the treadmill test because “he had a train to catch”!

Throughout the paper, Bannister seems to interpret his results as a clinician: the participant’s subjective experiences of the tests seem almost as important as the respiratory variables themselves. In light of the sometimes extreme volume of data modern laboratory technology can produce, we shouldn’t forget to ask participants in physiological research how it felt.

Physiological research requires interactions with people in other ways too. In his acknowledgements, Bannister thanks, among others, Prof. Claude Douglas for help and advice. Where would exercise physiology be without Douglas? Everybody stands on the shoulders of giants. Even other giants do.

Sir Roger Bannister was special because he was an ordinary man who produced an extraordinary life’s work: on the track, in the laboratory, as a patron and administrator in sport and sports medicine, and in his clinical practice. His humanity shone through in everything he did, and his The Journal of Physiology papers are no different. Thanks for everything, Sir Roger.