Network Physiology of Exercise: Beyond Molecular and Omics Perspectives

Sports Med Open. 2022 Sep 23;8(1):119. doi: 10.1186/s40798-022-00512-0.


Molecular Exercise Physiology and Omics approaches represent an important step toward synthesis and integration, the original essence of Physiology. Despite the significant progress they have introduced in Exercise Physiology (EP), some of their theoretical and methodological assumptions are still limiting the understanding of the complexity of sport-related phenomena. Based on general principles of biological evolution and supported by complex network science, this paper aims to contrast theoretical and methodological aspects of molecular and network-based approaches to EP. After explaining the main EP challenges and why sport-related phenomena cannot be understood if reduced to the molecular level, the paper proposes some methodological research advances related to the type of studied variables and measures, the data acquisition techniques, the type of data analysis and the assumed relations among physiological levels. Inspired by Network Physiology, Network Physiology of Exercise provides a new paradigm and formalism to quantify cross-communication among diverse systems across levels and time scales to improve our understanding of exercise-related phenomena and opens new horizons for exercise testing in health and disease.

Keywords: Dynamic couplings; Exercise-related processes; Horizontal integration; Intra-individual co-variability; Multivariate time series analysis; Network Physiology; Physiological interactions; Vertical integration.

Publication types

  • Letter