- Career perspective
- Open Access
Career perspective: Charles M Tipton
© Tipton; licensee BioMed Central. 2015
Received: 12 February 2015
Accepted: 16 February 2015
Published: 17 April 2015
This invited autobiographical article pertains to 52 years as an exercise physiologist of which 16 years were devoted to being an active emeriti. Although the career pathway was circuitous in nature, once resolved, it included preparation of future exercise physiologists; reducing the health hazards associated with the “making of weight” by scholastic wrestlers; using animals (rats and dogs) as the model system with a myriad of experimental procedure for obtaining insights and understandings of various exercise training mechanism in one-G environments, and in simulated μG environments. From the results, we have concluded that (a) inactivity, as represented by immobilization, is the most undesirable physiological state an animal should experience and (b) movement, as represented by training, will have an intrinsic adaptive influence on select biological tissues that, in some situations, can be independent of autonomic and hormonal influences.
I am extremely honored by the invitation to be included with the distinguished investigators that have proceeded me in presenting a Career Perspective. However, my pathway to becoming an experimental exercise physiologist was circuitous at best and lacked much of the serendipity experienced by Professor Peter Wagner . Readers must realize that my primary involvement with extreme environments has been associated with 36 years of service on 11 different national committees devoted to evaluating research proposals concerned with the countermeasures necessary to offset the deleterious physiological consequences of microgravity with space travel and its exploration. These involvements culminated in the 2011 Decadal Study report to Congress [2,3]. A secondary role has been 12 years of NASA-supported research devoted to investigating the effects of simulated weightlessness [tail suspended, non-hindlimb weight bearing of head-down rodents] on physiological functioning. They resulted in 28 peer-reviewed publications and a 1995 NASA invitation from NASA Life Sciences Director Joan Vernikos to measure pre- and post-VO2 max values on rats flown in microgravity. Unfortunately, the measurement never occurred because of a last-minute change in the allocation of floor space within the spacecraft.
The circuitous pathway
The critical years of my high school education occurred during World War II, a time period when qualified science, mathematics, and physical education teachers were unavailable or reluctant to be located in remote rural areas while those individuals with expertise in agriculture were available and deferred. The end result was a vocational high school education with a major emphasis in agriculture and animal husbandry that had major deficiencies in mathematics plus the chemical and physical sciences. Another result during my senior year was being (a) selected to lead the daily calisthenics in the physical education period and (b) designated to organize class indoor-outdoor sporting events.
Because of deficiencies in visual acuity, I was rejected for duty by the Armed Services during the war years; however, after becoming 18 years of age, I was accepted by the Army and served 2 years in the Army of Occupation in Japan (1946–1948). The Army sent me to “school” to become a physical fitness instructor, a duty I performed not only for stateside basic training camps but also for an infantry company in Japan (25th Division). After discharge (1948), I became a Physical Education Major at the University of Maryland where I remained for 2 years before transferring to Springfield College in MA. Two years later, I graduated with a BS in Physical Education (1952). Subsequently, I obtained a Teaching Assistantship at the University of Illinois and completed an MS dissertation in Physical Education under the supervision of Professor Thomas K. Cureton, Director of their Physical Fitness Laboratory.
Unexpectedly, after 2 years of teaching and coaching in the high schools in rural regions of Illinois, I found the experience was not rewarding, challenging, or satisfying. Hence, the decision was made to pursue a Ph.D. degree. Later, I accepted an Assistantship in Health Education with the responsibility to provide exercise therapy for disabled students at the University of Illinois with Professor Howard Hoyman as my advisor. The degree had prerequisites necessary for acceptance into medical schools; thus, the early years at the university were devoted to becoming a undergraduate science major while securing the necessary advanced courses for graduation purposes. To meet the needs of a growing family, it was necessary to supplement my income with part-time employment. Fortunately for financial and personal reasons, I became acquainted with Professor Darrell M. Hall of the College of Agriculture who had research responsibilities associated with the Extension Service that was funded by the United States Department of Agriculture.
One of Professor Hall’s main duties was to direct the research activities of the Extension Service which involved the health projects of Illinois 4-H Clubs. They included physical fitness testing in most of Illinois 101 counties. Therefore, my summer responsibilities for the next 5 years required me to lead a testing team to conduct one or more 4-H Physical Fitness sessions/day, explain the results to participants and parents, and to perform a statistical analysis of the results . It was this experience, under his tutelage, that stimulated my interest in conducting physiological research and to seek scientific explanations for the results. After completing a 1-year theory and laboratory course in Mammalian Physiology directed by Professor Frederick R. Steggedra and a semester of a theory and laboratory course in Comparative Physiology directed by Professor C. Ladd Prosser, I became passionate about a future in physiology and, with Professor Hall’s encouragement, requested a transfer to the Department of Physiology with Professor Steggedra as my mentor. Happily, it was approved.
Professor Steggedra was an outstanding advisor who was supportive and caring in all phases of the degree process. Moreover, he instilled in me a great love for surgical research. However, the Illinois faculty member who inspired me the most by his intelligence, integrity, and comprehension of science and physiology was Dr. Robert E. Johnson, formerly from the Harvard Fatigue Laboratory .
After completing my dissertation research on the mechanisms of the bradycardia of training in rats, I accepted the opportunity in 1961 to become an Assistant Professor of Research at Springfield College with the responsibilities of teaching the theory and laboratory courses in Exercise Physiology and conducting the research projects of grants awarded to Professor Peter V. Karpovich. In essence, it was a post-doctoral experience before such appointments became expected for graduating physiologists. From this experience, important insights were gained on how to conduct laboratory research while acquiring an admiration of Professor Karpovich’s ability to evaluate and analyze experimental data. Two years later, a joint appointment offer from the University of Iowa to become an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physical Education-Men, College of Liberal Arts, and in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics, College of Medicine, was accepted with the funding provided by the College of Liberal Arts.
Career academic and research contributions
Like other universities, after that date, the Physical Education—Men’s Department at the University of Iowa changed its name to Exercise Science and had modified the Ph.D. requirements for specialization degrees. However, two potential national contributions emerged from the establishment of a program emphasizing exercise physiology; namely, helping to change the perception that (a) graduate programs in Physical Education were able to produce qualified individuals to conduct exercise physiology research and (b) enhancing the names changes of Departments of Physical Education to Departments of Movement Science, Kinesiology, Exercise Science or Exercise and Sport Sciences or combinations thereof.
Human research contributions
Evaluation of the Hall Method to predict the minimal wrestling weights of non-finalists and finalist wrestlers (1968–1969)
Actual body weight (lb)
Predicted Hall body weight (lb)
133 ± 1.7
133 ± 1.4
The historical record associated with the search for a minimal wrestling weight (MWW) for scholastic wrestlers
These investigations include The Iowa Wrestling Study (IWS: 1968–1988), the Midwestern Wrestling Study (MWS: 1986–1991) and the Wisconsin Wrestling Minimal Weight Project (WPWMWP: 1989–1998)
The IWS includes certification results from 8,900 students, questionnaire findings from 582 students, body measurements from 2,536 subjects, and visitations to approximately 55 high schools. Salient findings were [39-42].
Approximately 40% of the students receive certification to wrestle in weight classes between 119–139 lb (54.06–63.19 kg) whereas 57% of the students become certified to wrestle in weight classes 112–145 lb (50.90–65.90 kg). Consequently, the weight class system creates conditions favoring undesirable practices. A recommendation to have matches with more than one individual per weight class was ignored
Performance will not change because of losing weight.
Other wrestlers and the coach should be consulted on how to make weight
Local physicians will seldom or never be consulted on how to make weight
If there is more than 9% of one’s body weight to lose, it is acceptable to use a rubber suit and to exercise in the heat.
We have learned the following:
Scholastic wrestlers do not lose weight in a systematic manner, most of it is lost in the final days of certification 
The individuals who lose the highest percentage of their body weight are the youngest and located in the lower weight classes [39,41]. Of 747 wrestlers, 8% will lose 10% of their body weight in a few days, and one or two will lose 20% or more in the same time period 
Urinalysis finding indicate finalists are dehydrated before and during the competition as demonstrated by elevated values for specific gravity, osmolarity, potassium, proteins and ketones. The data also showed glomerular filtration rates were reduced 
Although we have recommended a MWW be one with no less than 5% fat , we found that 33% of the contestants (N = 47) had fat percentages lower than this value. All were in weight classes lower than 131 lb (54.94 kg) and all were among the youngest of the competitors 
Since the IMS or IHSAA was unresponsive to our report and its recommendations , we (Tipton, Oppliger, Tcheng) organized the MWS and combined forces with investigators from the states of Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Ohio. They were interested in the MWW concept and were active with their respective state associations to implement such a program. Select results were the following :
Developed a scholastic wrestler data base from 860 individuals that included stature, body diameters (n − 7), body circumferences (N = 10), body skinfolds (N = 9), body density, and fat-free mass (FFB).
Used the statistical expertise of Thorland, Lohman, and Tcheng to perform cross validations of 16 different equations plus 9 new ones. We found that the skinfold equation of Lohman  was the equation of choice because it had the lowest constant and total errors .
The availability of a practical MWW equation had an impact on an individual (Herrmann) associated with the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) and on two physicians associated with the University of Wisconsin (Harms and Landry), all of whom were deeply concerned about the problems of “making weight.” They invited Dr. Oppliger from the University of Iowa to join them and collectively initiated the Wisconsin Wrestling Minimal Weight Project (WWMWP ).
WWMWP advocated a 3-year trial period beginning in 1989 using the Lohman equation for a minimum wrestling weight of 7% fat that allowed no more than a loss of 3 lb (1.36 kg) per week which had the full support of Wisconsin Dietetic Association and the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. However, the Wisconsin Wrestling Coaches Association was not supportive of the project 
In 1991, WIAA mandated all high schools with wrestling programs follow the procedures established by the WWMWP. Besides having the support of parents, wrestlers, administrators, and various associations, it also became accepted by the coaches. It is of interest that by 1994, there was a 6% increase in the number of individuals who became certified .
These developments had minimum impact on Iowa officials or on members of the Wrestling Rules Committee of the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFSHSA)
In 1997, three collegiate wrestlers died in their attempts to “make weight” . According to Casperson , an employee of the Center for Disease Control (CDC), it was the CDC that “encouraged” the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) to instantly modify the rules for the making of weight by collegiate wrestlers
In 2005, the NFSHSA mandated that beginning with the 2006–2007 competitive season, all states that implemented a program pertaining to a minimal wrestling weight for high school students that included a body weight that has no less than 7% fat for males and 12% for females would allow no more than a 1.5% loss in body weight per week, while permitting finalists to gain 1 lb (0.45 kg) per day during tournament competition .
Animal research contributions and their insights
A profile of the animal research activities of Charles M. Tipton (1960–1998)
Animal research activities
Rodents (rats, both sexes and all studies (N = approximately 1,900)
Mongrel dogs (males only, cardiovascular and connective tissue studies (N = approximately 80)
Non-human primates (Galgo senegalenis, both sexes, systolic blood pressure and connective tissue studies (N = approximately 25)
Experimental animal studies
Development of exercise protocols and tests for dogs and rats
Investigations on the bradycardia of training
Right and left unilateral vagectomized
Isolated hearts (Langendorff)
Investigations on the influence of chronic exercise on systolic blood pressure
Normotensive, non-human primates
Normotensive , rats
Normotensive and aging (2 years)
Normotensive and a high fat diet
Normotensive and injections of desoxycortosterone acetate (DOCA)
Hypertensive because constriction of the renal artery
Dahl salt sensitive hypertensive rats
Dahl salt resistant hypertensive rats
Spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR)
SHR and high calcium diets
SHR and low calcium diets
SHR and IS
SHR and adrenal demedullation (DM)
SHR, IS, and DM
SHR and Strokeprone (SHR-SP)
SHR-SP and static exercise
SHR and post-exercise hypotension
Investigations on the influence of acute and chronic exercise on the oxygen transport system
Investigations on the influence of inactivity (immobilization) plus acute and chronic exercise on ligaments
Hormonally deprived [Hyphx and thyroidectomized (Thyrx)]
Hyphx and replacement hormones [adrenal corticorticotrophin (ACTH), growth hormone (GH), interstitial-cell-stimulating hormone (ICSH), and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH).
Investigations on the influence of simulated microgravity on select physiological systems
Normal with both hindlimbs non-weight bearing
Normal with a single hindlimb non-weight bearing
Hyphx with both hindlimbs non-weight bearing
Insights: exercise and training
Using immobilization as an extreme example and non-weight bearing by hindlimbs via tail suspension as a moderate example of inactivity, it is apparent that lack of physical activity or exercise has a deleterious physiological effect. However, when the effects of chronic exercise are evaluated by measurements pertaining to reductions in exercise and resting heart rates; lower heart rates after atropine injections; lower exercise and resting systolic or mean blood pressures; increased tissue mass; decreased adipocyte dimensions; elevated tissue strength; higher levels of cytochrome oxidase activity; changes in tissue transmitter concentrations; improved run times; and enhancement of the work performed and in augmented VO2 max values, the results demonstrate that trained rats will exhibit changes at select time periods throughout the experiment (Table 3). Furthermore, we suggest that the process of training in animals will have an intrinsic adaptive influence on select bodily tissues that can occur in animals from the various experiment groups that indicates, in some circumstances, an independence from autonomic and hormonal influences (Table 3).
Insights: exercise and resting bradycardia
Despite its long history of investigation, the explanation for the bradycardia in training remains unresolved. In fact, it has been the “the big question” that our laboratory has been seeking to answer since 1960. The main insight from our animal studies is that it can occur in the eight different experimental groups  listed in Table 3. Even though it was not present in the adrenalectomized animals at every time period, lower heart rates were observed after 30–40 days of training; after injections of atropine; and during a 9-min sub-maximal exercise test . We were extremely surprised to learn that lower heart rates were not a characteristic of the isolated hearts associated with a Langendorff preparation  as we felt it was an internal adaptation. While we support the concept that cholinergic influences are increased by training whereas sympathetic influences are decreased with chronic exercise , we cannot ignore the data favoring intrinsic changes in the SA node . Even though our laboratory has failed to identify the responsible mechanisms, we continue to speculate that a combination of non-neural acetylcholine and the presence of latent pacemakers are contributing to the cholinergic effect.
Insights: exercise and blood pressure
Results from normotensive animals leave little doubt that training will markedly lower resting and acute exercise blood pressures [20,21]. However, it has been our experience when training genetic models of hypertension; (a) training will never normalize resting or exercise pressures and (b), training animals in excess of 40%–60% VO2 max will result in elevated, not lower, pressures . Of the ten hypertensive groups that were trained by dynamic aerobic exercise, five failed to exhibit lower resting blood pressures. Two were pertained to the kidney (renal constriction and Dahl SS rats) , one to consuming a high Ca++ diet, one to being SHR-SP, and one to being IS (sympathectomized) and DM (adrenal demedullated) . Frankly, we were surprised by these negative results and have no meaningful explanation for them. Since SHR-IS rats have exhibited lower resting pressures with training, we suggest that the adrenal medulla is necessary for a training effect to occur in these experimental animals . Because SHR-SP animals were unresponsive to dynamic aerobic exercise, we investigated whether static (isometric) exercise would increase the incidence of strokes as demonstrated by histological analysis . Despite media statements and the fact that MBPs approached 290 mmHg, we were unable to prove that static exercise per se would elicit strokes . Furthermore, we have learned that deaths of SHR-SP populations were not always from the result of strokes . With acute exercise, we found that SHR groups will exhibit evidence for post-exercise hypotension , a finding that is among the first for animals but known to occur in humans for over a century . To explain resting reductions in systolic blood pressure with aerobic exercise, we favor the resetting of baroreceptors, reductions in sympathetic tone, increased lumen area, and decreased total peripheral resistance [20-22].
Insights: chronic exercise and the oxygen transport system (VO2max)
Because of ineptness during the early years, our laboratory was unable to perfect a suitable chamber to measure the oxygen consumption of exercising dogs. However, this changed in 1979 with the availability of a suitable chamber for assessing exercise performance and work accomplished or for training status of rats . In essence, the “gold standard for rats has arrived.” Since that date, every experimental rat group listed in Table 3 has been measured before, during, and after the experimental period to determine whether a trained state existed. As for responsible mechanism, we endorse the perspective advanced by Snell, Levine, and Mittchel in that it is the result of factors that insure maximal heart rates, stroke volumes, cardiac outputs, and maximal systemic a-v O2 differences . Our laboratory takes great pride in being among the first to demonstrate trained hypophysectomized rats have significantly higher VO2 max values than their non-trained controls . One aspect is certain; training can result in select adaptations in the absence of hormones from the anterior pituitary gland.
Insights: chronic exercise and its influence on ligaments
In the 1960s, a controversy prevailed concerning the effects of exercise on ligaments in animals . Consequently, our laboratory, with the assistance of the College of Medicine Machine Shop, developed the equipment to measure the strength of ligaments [31,32]; specifically, the medical collateral ligament of the knee joint. Strength measures were identified as either separation force or junction strength because intact ligaments separate from the bone at the site between non-mineralized and mineralized fibrocartilage . In the spectrum of activity, we have evidence that inactivity is associated with weaker ligaments and training with significantly stronger ones [31,33]. In addition, the inactivity caused by protracted immobilization is absolutely the worst physiological state for intact and especially for repaired ligaments. In fact, we have demonstrated in dogs that a repaired ligament that was not immobilized was significantly stronger than those that were immobilized ; presumably, because the dog was judicious in using minimal weight bearing by the experimental leg during the 6-week recovery period. Training by dogs will gradually increase the strength of repaired ligaments but is unable to achieve normalization in 12 weeks and unlikely in 26 weeks . Similar results were obtained with hypophysectomized rats that had either intact or repaired ligaments [33,34]. When replacement hormones were administered, testosterone, ICSH, and TSH enhanced the strength of intact ligaments whereas TSH had no impact on repaired ligaments. Besides immobilization, ACTH, TSH, and thyroxine administration were associated with weaker ligaments . For repaired ligaments, training plus testosterone and ICSH will enhance strength whereas immobilization plus ACTH, TSH, and thyroxine were identified with lower strength values . We believe that training and immobilization are affecting collagen metabolism at the junction between non-mineralized and mineralized fibrocartilage as well as at the repair site. However, we failed to determine whether their influence was affecting the equilibrium relationship between synthesis and degradation .
Insights: simulated weightlessness and exercise performance (VO2 max)
Although the ultimate goal was to measure the VO2 max of rats before, during, and after exposure to conditions of microgravity (μG), we were pleased to be considered for before and after measures. When that opportunity did not occur, our laboratory conducted simulated weightlessness studies with tail-suspended rats. When humans are exposed to sustained periods of μG, VO2 max and exercise performance will decrease . When both non-trained (NT) and trained (T) rats were suspended, the T exhibited greater reductions than the NT; but both groups exhibited significantly lower values . Moreover, both groups showed significantly slower run times and marked reductions in the mechanical efficiency of running , changes due, in part, to the atrophy experienced by the skeletal muscles. Interestingly, suspension of Hyphx animals had no significant effect on VO2 max values even though significant atrophy occurred in the soleus and plantaris muscles and they exhibited significantly slower run times .
To assess the importance of weight bearing on tissue mass, we designed a suspension apparatus that allowed for single-leg weight bearing (20% of body mass) . At the end of 14 days, weight bearing prevented the loss of mass in the soleus, plantaris, and gastrocnemius muscles and maintained iliac blood flow but was unable to retain citrate synthesis activity. On the other hand, the freely hanging leg exhibited significant loss of muscle mass and reductions in iliac blood flow and in the activity of aerobic enzymes .
Like millions of others, I was affected by the conditions of World War II and would not wish to experience those conditions again. My major regret from that era was not being convinced of the importance of an education that emphasized rigorous courses in mathematics plus the biological, chemical, and physical sciences. Besides my graduate students, the individuals whom I have admired and have influenced me the most (in alphabetical order) have been Professors, Jerry A. Dempsey, V. Reggie Edgerton, Philip D. Gollnick, Allan R. Hargens, John O. Holloszy, and Carl V. Gisolfi. Of the insights, none have acquired the significance of the 1970 formation of the Iowa-Washington State Alumni and Friends Group that added Arizona after 1984. In 2015, the 45th meeting of this group will be held at the ACSM Convention in San Diego. This meeting is significant, because to me, personal relationships are far more important than scientific findings.
Thank you for allowing me to present a perspective on my career.
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