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PERC hosts THEMES conference to develop national standards for exercise research

March 22, 2016 — Physical activity and exercise are critical components of health in children and adults. Surprisingly, there is little agreement among clinicians and researchers about the terms we use to define fitness or on approaches to measuring it. This lack of consensus makes clinical research involving more than one hospital or research university virtually impossible, and is a major obstacle in implementing the basic science of exercise to improve health in people all over the world.

UC Irvine’s Institute for Clinical and Translational Science (ICTS) has received National Institutes of Health resources to create a “harmonized” understanding of the key terms to use in physical activity and fitness assessment and testing. Institute director and pediatrician Dan M. Cooper, MD, is the project's principal investigator.

Building a set of data and terminology standards has the potential to transform clinical research and clinical practice using biomarkers and exercise as therapy, said Shlomit Radom-Aitzik, director of the UC Irvine Health Pediatric Exercise & Genomics Research Center (PERC) and the ICTS Human Performance Laboratory.

This effort kicked off March 22 with a conference to create national standards for measuring and describing exercise research and therapy. More than a dozen clinical experts in exercise medicine and sciences, as well as representatives of standards developing organizations, who gathered at PERC for the conference, titled THEMES, which stands for Terminology Harmonization in Exercise Medicine and Exercise Science.

The conference goals were to:

  • Work with clinical experts in exercise medicine and sciences in partnership with the Standards Development Organizations (SDOs) to create a national standardized set of terminologies
  • Ensure that the harmonized terminologies reflect the needs and interests of healthcare providers who use exercise testing in the clinical setting, as well as those of translational researchers engaged in more basic investigations of the biologic responses to physical activity.
  • Ensure that the terminologies are rapidly incorporated into standards that inform and govern usage, thereby contributing to a learning health system.
  • Work with clinical electronic medical records entities to include harmonized terms into patients’ medical records. This would allow future researchers to follow trends and study the impact of healthy lifestyles on a wide variety of health conditions and diseases.

THEMES conference attendees on March 22, 2016.

Conference attendees, from left to right, are Ronen Bar Yoseph, MD; Bareket Falk, PhD; Wendy Kohrt, PhD; Shlomit Radom-Aizik, PhD; Janos Porszasz, MD, PhD; Anita Walden; Abdul Malik Shakir; Kathy Sietsema MD; Helge Hebestreit, MD; Martha Gulati, MD; Dan M. Cooper, MD, and Martin Perlsteyn, MD.