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Edited by Charles M Tipton. Oxford University Press, 2003, £69.50, pp 510, hardcover. ISBN 0195125274
It is not often that one finds a systematic review of science history that reads like an exciting non-fiction novel, but Exercise physiology is just that. In fewer than 500 pages, a surprisingly in-depth story of the growth in the understanding of exercise physiology science is told. The authors trace the exciting journey of discovery—a journey that at times was painfully slow when centuries passed by in which no contributions to the field were made, and at other times when discovery and new ideas emerged with breath taking speed.
The splendid introductory chapter, Ancient and early influences, traces the development of the thought, ideas, and study of exercise physiology from Hippocrates to Austin Flint. The physiological concepts of Galen, the first sports medicine physician (he was physician to the gladiators at Pergamum), are described in depth—concepts that governed medical practice for nearly 1500 years. Among others whose ideas are described are Vesalis, Avencia, Descartes, Willis, and Boyle. Early thoughts on the training of athletes and of exercise physiology were confirmed or disproved and discarded. The chapter author skillfully fleshes out concepts and elucidates controversies.
As edifying the reading of the introduction is, the reader will find the chapters organised around major body systems physiology just as enlightening. Editor Charles Tipton, who also contributed the chapter on the autonomic nervous system, brought together 19 other distinguished scientists as chapter authors, several of whom have received the Olympic Prize in Sports Sciences and several others the ACSM Honor Award. The chapters trace the development of the science of exercise in the neuromuscular, cardiovascular, respiratory, autonomic, oxygen transport, aerobic metabolic, anaerobic metabolic, endocrine, temperature regulation, renal, and gastrointestinal systems. Among the scientists whose work is discussed in these later chapters are Henneman, Burke, A V Hill, Fick, Starling, Guyton, Asmussen, Astrand, Cannon, Zuntz, Selye, Ingle, Costill, and Lambert.
Each chapter includes a frank discussion of controversy and ideas with a skilful distillation of various conclusions. A bonus is the nearly encyclopaedic list of references, 1876 in all, a treasure of literature review.
The latest in the People and ideas series of the American Physiological Society, Exercise physiology is a superbly organised and splendidly written history of exercise physiology. The text will be a useful addition to the library of those sports medicine professionals interested in the history of the science of exercise.
Evidence basis 20/20