Exercise Physiology

6th Form Scientists attend Christmas Medical Lecture at Royal Preston Hospital

What has Bradley Wiggins got to do with Medicine?

On 10th October, Bradley Wiggins was knighted by the Queen for his services to cycling. That evening, twelve 6th Form scientists, along with students from other local schools and colleges, enjoyed the Royal Preston Hospital’s Christmas Lecture about ‘Exercise Physiology’.

‘What is your VO2 max?’
‘What is your Anaerobic Threshold?’

These were 2 of the questions posed by the Lecturer, an anaesthetist, who went on to link physical fitness to recovery rate after a major operation. He quoted a study from 20 years ago which showed that patients who were physically fit (shown by their high VO2 max and Anaerobic Threshold values) had a much higher chance of recovery from major operations and were at a much lower risk of heart failure. Continued research in this area has confirmed a correlation between fitness and recovery rate and patients are now tested for fitness before a decision is made to operate.

A demonstration followed, in which a very physically fit, 16 year-old cyclist undertook a grueling 20 minute trial on an exercise bike which is used for testing the physical fitness of patients. A number of physiological parameters were monitored, including breathing and heart rates, blood pressure, oxygen use, carbon dioxide release and VO2 max. From these values it is also possible to calculate whether fats or carbohydrates are being respired for energy and when anaerobic respiration begins. At the end of the test, the power output of the cyclist had reached 400W and this was compared to Bradley Wiggins’ power output which averages at 440W for a 40km cycle ride!

Our students, many of them potential medics, also had the opportunity to ask some medical students about the application process to medical school. Sik Yeng Chan, a former pupil, now in her 3rd year of Medicine at Manchester University gave some very good advice, including the need to demonstrate dedication and a genuine interest in Medicine by carrying out volunteering work in a caring environment, such as a hospital or care home. We were also given some insight into the roles of an anaesthetist who, as well as administering anaesthetics and monitoring the patient throughout an operation, is also involved in the critical care of patients and communication with relatives. Anyone interested in this profession must complete 5 years at medical school, followed by a further 10 years study and training to become a consultant.

The lecture was appreciated by all and we learnt that being physically fit has even more advantages than we previously thought. We look forward to next year’s exciting topic!