April 1, 2019

Markin undergrad looks at link between exercise intensity and prevention of cardiovascular disease

Learn more about the work of Janna Newton and other Markin scholars at research symposium April 3
Kinesiology student Janna Newton measures oxygen uptake and carbon dioxide elimination in study participant Sasa Cigoja. Photo by Stephanie Vahaaho, University of Calgary
Kinesiology student Janna Newton measures oxygen uptake and carbon dioxide elimination in study part

Blood sugar fuels the cells in the body. However, when the level of blood sugar is too high, this can cause hypertension and other cardiovascular complications such as atherosclerosis. Janna Newton is studying a way in which exercise can help prevent hypertension and cardiovascular disease. The Kinesiology undergrad is a fall 2018/winter 2019 Markin Undergraduate Student Research Program (USRP) scholar. Pictured above, Newton measures oxygen uptake and carbon dioxide elimination in study participant Sasa Cigoja.

Specifically, under the guidance of Dr. Juan Murias, PhD, and PhD candidate Rogerio Soares in the Faculty of Kinesiology, Newton is determining how the intensity of exercise interacts with blood sugar (glucose) regulation and how this impacts the way in which blood vessels respond in obese individuals.

Obese individuals appear to be more vulnerable to high levels of blood sugar (technically called hyperglycemia) after having a meal. This can limit the ability of the blood vessels to relax, which might have a negative effect in the transport of oxygen and nutrients to the body. Simply said, higher amounts of sugar in the blood can, in the long run, increases the risk for hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases such as atherosclerosis.

Newton’s project is part of Soares’s larger PhD study that is examining the impact of two different types of exercise on blood vessel response.  “I am investigating the acute effects of continuous aerobic, and high-intensity anaerobic, bouts of exercise on blood vessel response during hyperglycemia in normal weight individuals compared with individuals with obesity,” Newton explains.

Seeking better understanding of effects of exercise intensity on cardiovascular risk factors

Based on the results, “I hope to determine a potential exercise prescription that can reverse the negative effects of post-meal high blood sugar, thus decreasing the risk factors of cardiovascular disease, and potentially reducing morbidity and mortality rates,” Newton describes.

“I chose to do this particular research because I want to be involved in a project that has significant applicability to our population and the findings have the ability to moderate change. Obesity is a well-known cause of morbidity and mortality, and the rates of obesity are rising, so conducting research in this area contributes to the depth and breadth of literature.

“To find out how exercise impacts glucose ingestion is critical, especially in at-risk populations such as individuals with obesity. The results of this study can potentially impact exercise prescription in obese and non-obese individuals to decrease cardiovascular risk factors,” she says.

Building a foundation for the future

The Markin USRP has provided Newton with the opportunity to deepen her understanding of exercise physiology, as well as hone her practical skills and facilitate critical thinking in this area of research, allowing her to build a strong foundation for graduate studies. Says Newton, “I am passionate not only in learning about how obesity and exercise affects the body, but also in gaining hands-on experience by learning a diverse range of techniques to collect data on various physiological parameters. I enjoy going beyond the scope of classes within Kinesiology to solidify my knowledge and immediately seeing the application of the classes I have taken. 

“The Markin USRP is beneficial in many ways. Working collaboratively with staff, students and faculty has enriched my learning experience and made research dynamic and exciting. It is a gratifying overlap between academia and the community. Through the Markin USRP, I have learned how to develop protocols, execute testing and truly understand the results, which has helped to supplement my undergraduate education. Not only has this research benefited my learning but also has the potential to impact others by improving community health and wellness.”

Newton will be presenting her research at the Markin USRP Student Research Symposium on Wednesday, April 3, 2 p.m., Rozsa Centre, main campus. The Markin USRP invites all UCalgary faculty, staff, students and community to join in celebrating the research that was conducted over the fall and winter terms. Find more information on the Markin USRP student symposium.