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GEAR Enrolls 100th Participant and Turns Early Recruits into Devoted Fans

2/24/2010

It's been a few short months since participants in the Miller School's Genetics, Exercise, and Research, or GEAR, study started working out and already they are seeing results.

"It's the best thing we've ever done," Bob Radziewicz, director of print and online journalism at UM's School of Communication, said of the free, customized 12-week exercise training program he and his wife just completed. "It really changed our lives, not just physically, but mentally, too. We're more confident and more self-assured about what we can accomplish."

For Radziewicz, 56, a swimmer in college, the one-on-one instruction turned out to be GEAR's best perk. Paired with Richard Belton, a GEAR research team member and former running back at Wake Forest University, Radziewicz said he finally learned how to work out correctly. He also dropped nearly four pants sizes.

"I realize now I didn't know what I was doing before," Radziewicz, faculty advisor to The Miami Hurricane, said. "I didn't know how to choose the right weight to get maximum effect, the right posture to target the muscles the machines are designed to reach, the right order to work out so you don't strain your body. Rich and the GEAR team have shown us how to do all that."

In hopes of identifying how people's genetic background influences their response to physical activity, the study, led by Dean Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., and genetic epidemiologist Evadnie Rampersaud, Ph.D., research assistant professor, is enrolling sedentary people between the ages of 18 and 65 and mostly from the UM community.

Sponsored by the John P. Hussman Institute for Human Genomics (HIHG), in collaboration with the Medical Wellness Center, GEAR just enrolled its 100th participant, a milestone that underscores just how enticing the research study's perks are.

"We never thought we'd have 100 people by February," said Jeff Farmer, who manages the study. "Friends are telling friends about all the training they're getting for free. We've gotten such great response, we're having to hire more staff!"

Indeed, it was word of mouth from colleagues that convinced executive assistant Maria Liranzo to become the 100th person to get into GEAR. She began her cardiovascular and weight training this week, just as the Radziewiczes completed their post-training fitness assessment with Karyn Meshbane and Ryan Dauer, other members of the GEAR research team.

"It's appealing because it's mutually beneficial," Liranzo said. "It's for research purposes, so you're contributing, but you're getting a free trainer and that really helps you stay committed."

Dean Goldschmidt said the research team often hears that sentiment.

"GEAR participants tell us they enjoy the support of the trainers, the opportunity to learn about their own fitness, and the feeling of contributing to science and therefore helping other people," the Dean said.

In addition to the one-on-one instruction and pre- and post-fitness assessments, GEAR participants receive two free blood tests and cholesterol screenings. All the services are free, but participants must be Wellness Center members, and come regularly to the medical campus.

Initially, Radziewicz and his wife Cathy considered the drive a deterrent, but now they welcome it.

"One of the things we debated was having to go all the way downtown," Radziewicz recalled. "It sounded like a real pain, but on the days we weren't there we really looked forward to it. We're hooked."

For Margaret Pericak-Vance, Ph.D., the director of HIHG and a key GEAR investigator, such testimonials already show the study's promise.

"The research will help us design better exercise programs, but that is just part of GEAR's potential," Pericak-Vance said. "Already, GEAR is improving the health of University employees, which, in the long term, has the secondary benefit of saving money. It is a win-win situation."

To learn more or to enroll, send an e-mail to GEARstudy@med.miami.edu, call 1-877-686-6444 or visit http://www.gear.med.miami.edu/. To learn more about the Medical Wellness Center, visit http://wellness.med.miami.edu.