York researchers put dirt bike theory to the test

John Batasar is taking part in a groundbreaking York University study to determine the health and fitness effects of off-road motorcycle & all-terrain vehicle (ATV) riding, reported The Globe and Mail July 2.

The York research is the first comprehensive fitness probe of recreational off-roaders. The final phase of the three-year, three-part study is still under way but many participants report results that match preliminary findings from an earlier phase, suggesting trail riding requires physical exertion levels on par with running or calisthenics, wrote the Globe.

“When I brush my teeth I can now see my bicep pop,” says Sulan Ramdeen, a 23-year-old student who’s riding a dirt bike four days a week for the study. She runs for 30 to 40 minutes four or five times a week but says, “I feel more tired at the end of a ride” than a run.

“Balancing on an off-road vehicle is like sitting on a stability ball,” says Jamie Burr, a kinesiologist and exercise physiologist in York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science, Faculty of Health, who is conducting the research as part of his PhD. “Controlling the handlebars – especially through the whoops – is like doing bench press and seated rows or upright rows. Standing up and down would be like squats or deep knee bends. Standing on the pegs is like doing toe raises.”

The impact isn’t only on the body, participants say. “I’ve never been happier,” says Lauren Tannenbaum, 20, who’s riding a bike four days a week.

Burr has the 60 riders in the study divided into two groups, half on motorcycles, half on ATVs. Most are York kinesiology students but they range in age from 18 to 64 and include a Pilates instructor, an unemployed maintenance worker and a retired systems analyst. To qualify, they had to be new to riding and not exceptionally athletic.

Enthusiasts and advocates hope the results will legitimize the activity, which is often dismissed as reckless thrill seeking and equated with hooliganism, wrote the Globe. It was an inquiry and support from the Ontario Federation of Trail Riders (OFTR) that got Burr started on the research. The final phase is financed in part by the Canadian Off-Highway Vehicle (COHV) Distributors Council.

Burr says both organizations are taking a hands-off approach with the study. The results will be vetted by an independent panel of academics and peer-reviewed before publication. Groups such as the COHV and the OFTR would like to use the study to make off-roading eligible for the $500 federal Children’s Fitness Tax Credit. Favourable results might also help counter those who want motorized vehicles banned from the few trails that allow them.

Equity rally shakes up the field

While there weren’t any changes in the top spot, the bottom has a new dweller, wrote The Globe and Mail July 2 in a story about its My One and Only stock-picking contest. Suraj Gupta – our university student entrant and an undergrad at the Schulich School of Business at York University – picked beleaguered insurer American International Group Inc. He knew he was in for a rough ride when he made the pick.

“I don’t know if 12 months is adequate recovery time for the large investment return I am hoping for,” he said. “However, I am taking a gamble.”

Strike has students fretting about lost income

Since the summer of 2004, the sound of the Scrambler has meant money in the bank for York student Serena Lam, one of the more than 400 students who run the rides and concessions on Toronto’s Centre Island, wrote The Globe and Mail July 2.

These days, the Scrambler sits silent along with the rest of the Centreville amusement park and its many food stands, collateral damage in the labour war between municipal workers and City Hall. As a result, Lam is trying to shut out a more sinister sound that has filled the silence: the great sucking sound of lost summer income.

Lam, who worked her first summer on the island at 15 and has since been promoted to supervisor in charge of the Scrambler, was counting on earning up to $10,000 this summer on full-time wages plus 10 to 15 hours of weekly overtime. Her earnings are earmarked for her coming first year of global political studies at York University.

Checking the dog inside you

A couple that first met because of their mutual love for animals, now teach people how to be more like canine creatures, wrote the Innisfil Journal June 30.

Doug (a.k.a. Dr. J) and Sondra (Gartshore) Jernigan (BA ’68) live on the shores of Cook’s Bay, just south of the 11th Concession. Doug, a retired veterinarian from Kansas, and Sondra, a psychologist, are partners in a business dubbed Your Brain is a Border Collie.

After graduating from York University and obtaining a PhD in England, Sondra went to Kansas to work at the Menninger Foundation, a private psychiatric facility. “That’s where I met Doug, a native Kansan. I always had animals. My best friend told me about ‘the best vet’ in town. That was Doug.” The timing was right.

Stouffville valedictorian chooses York

The valedictorian was Tyler Morehouse, a student now enrolled at York University, wrote the Whitchurch-Stouffville Sun-Tribune June 30 in a story about Stouffville District Secondary School’s 2009 Commencement Exercises held June 25.

“You, our teachers, taught us to ask questions,” he said [and] “to challenge what we didn’t understand. You took us on journeys through the past; scrolled through the arts of the world and exposed the magic of modern technology.”

His peers accorded him a standing ovation.

On air

  • James Stribopoulos, professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, spoke about Canada’s wiretap laws on Radio Canada International’s “The Link” June 30.
  • David McNally, professor in the Department of Political Science in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, spoke about Canada’s Aboriginal Peoples in a review of programs aired by TVO’s “The Agenda” June 30.