People are not a Clockwork Orange
I’ve been using the term “a clockwork orange” quite frequently these days. The term, as popularized by the famous novel and cult classic movie “A Clockwork Orange,” is used to describe how people are not simply clockwork organic entities controlled solely by well-defined deterministic principles. For example, if you give an orange tree the right mixture of controlled environmental conditions, you’ll grow a consistently good, essentially identical orange. But as we all know, humans aren’t nearly that simple.
In a recent groundbreaking clinical study coauthored by Valencell’s Duke University collaborator, Dr. Bill Kraus, he suggests the clockwork orange principle holds true for how we humans respond to exercise. According to this study, summarized in the journal article “Adverse Metabolic Response to Regular Exercise: Is It a Rare or Common Occurrence?”, it turns out if you give people of the same age, gender, and health the same exercise program, regardless of the amount of exercise in the program, there will always be about 10% of them who show signs of adverse health effects (such as adverse blood pressure, “bad cholesterol” levels, and triglyceride levels). In other words, although exercise is shown to be overwhelmingly helpful for most people’s health, there are a few healthy people for whom exercise may actually be harmful to their health.
This key finding should not be discouraging to exercisers, as countless studies show that exercise is a miracle drug in the grand scheme of things. For most people, exercise improves health metrics without any adverse health reactions whatsoever – unlike most prescription drugs which improve one health metric or health condition at the expense of another.
Nonetheless, there remain some folks who show at least one adverse reaction to exercise – and nobody knows why! In the publicized study, there was found to be no correlation with age, ethnicity (black or white), gender, the amount of exercise given, health status, prescription drug use, or even the resulting changes in cardiorespiratory fitness (VO2max) following the exercise program. The last item is particularly astounding from a Valencell perspective because it means that some people actually improved their VO2max but still suffered at least one adverse health outcome from exercise.
The results of this study provide yet another reason that technologies developed by Valencell will have such a big impact on improving public health. Our lab has spent the past five years and several millions of dollars developing and validating sensor designs and algorithms that allow accurate measurements of not only exercise intensity but also continuous vital signs as people exercise. By seamlessly measuring people’s physical activity and vital signs in real time as they exercise, we can develop exercise programs tailored towards an individual’s unique physiological profile.