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Acupuncture for Athletic Performance?

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Evidence is still sparse, but acupuncture may improve both exercise performance and postexercise recovery, according to preliminary evidence published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (2013; 19 [1], 9-16).

Researchers from the University of Western Sydney in Campbelltown, Australia, conducted a research review of acupuncture studies on adults and found three trials that evaluated athletic performance and one that focused on recovery. Among the performance studies, one found that electroacupuncture increased peak power output, blood pressure and rate pressure product, which is a measure of the internal workload of the heart. The two other studies registered no effect.

The recovery trial saw positive effects from acupuncture—with reductions in heart rate, oxygen consumption and blood lactate compared with control and placebo conditions. Study authors noted that many limitations existed with these studies and urged that future research adhere to much more rigorous methodology.

Shirley Eichenberger-Archer, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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