December 18th-20th 2014


Lili Ji
Director, School of Kinesiology - Professor and Director, Laboratory of Physiological Hygiene and Exercise Science


  • Ph.D., 1985, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • M.S., 1982, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • B.S., 1976, East China Normal University


Research statement

The balance of free radicals and antioxidants plays a critical role in life. Reactive oxygen and nitrogen intermediates are generated from normal cellular processes as well as in certain pathological states, which could fulfill essential biological functions but also elicit serious threat to health. Numerous diseases are now identified to be related to oxidative stress caused by insufficient antioxidant defense. A central paradigm of my research is to study how this delicate balance could be affected by rigorous physical activity, during aging and in some diseases. There is strong evidence that moderate levels of exercise combined with proper nutrition are essential for health and longevity. I have been fortunate to be able to conduct research in this exciting field of biological science during the past 25 years. Moving my laboratory to the University of Minnesota opens new opportunities and I am looking forward to working together with graduate and undergraduate students and collaborating with faculty and researchers across campus.

Exercise and Nutrition Are Medicine 
Strenuous exercise is associated with increased oxygen consumption and free radical production. Tissues actively involved in exercise, such as skeletal muscle, liver and heart, are exposed to an increased oxidative challenge. Yet, serious damages to these tissue due to exercise are rare because organisms are capable of adapting to elevated levels of free radicals by increasing antioxidant defense. In fact, some reactive oxygen and nitrogen species (such as hydrogen peroxide and nitric oxide) can serve as signaling molecules to active the adaptive processes. Nutrition serves a critical role in this paradigm as deficiency of essential antioxidant nutrients renders the body to high risks of oxidative damage, whereas supplementation of certain antioxidants offer increased protection. However, overload of exogenous antioxidants could backfire by offsetting natural adaptive response and removing exercise benefits. Selective supplementation of a broad spectrum of phytochemicals has proven to be a smart way to enhance antioxidant protection while avoiding depletion of “good” reactive species.

Free Radicals, Antioxidants and Aging
There is strong evidence that aging is caused by free radical reaction with the cellular components of human body throughout the life. Increased free radical generation and subsequent modification of the macromolecules underlie many age-related degenerated problems such as sarcopenia, Alzheimer diseases, cardiopulmonary disorders and cancer. One of my strong interests is to seek physiological and nutritional strategies that could enhance antioxidant defense and prevent age-related health deterioration. We use both animal and human subjects to study mechanisms causing these problems and to explore strategies to benefit older people. We emphasize regular physical activity that has been shown to enhance antioxidant defense and maintenance of proper nutritional intake throughout the life span.

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