Pittsburgh Professor discusses contemporary perspectives of physical activity  

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In recognition of Hearth Health Month, Uconn Institute for Collaboration on Health, Intervention, and Policy invited John M. Jakicic, PhD, to give a presentation on "Contemporary Perspectives of Physical Activity". The lecture took place from 12:20-1:30 in the J Ryan building.  Photos by Erin Knapp/The Daily Campus

In recognition of Hearth Health Month, Uconn Institute for Collaboration on Health, Intervention, and Policy invited John M. Jakicic, PhD, to give a presentation on “Contemporary Perspectives of Physical Activity”. The lecture took place from 12:20-1:30 in the J Ryan building. Photos by Erin Knapp/The Daily Campus

Dr. John Jakicic, a distinguished professor from the University of Pittsburgh, was brought to the University of Connecticut Thursday by the Institute for Collaboration on Health, Intervention and Policy (InCHIP) to talk about the importance of physical activity increasing health and its impact on well-being.  

Dr. Jakicic serves as a professor and chairperson of the health and physical activity department at the University of Pittsburgh. He has accumulated over 200 publications in his career and is currently serving as the principal investigator at the Pittsburgh Clinical Center for the Multi-center Molecular Transducers of Physical Activity Consortium. This is the largest investment the National Institute of Health (NIH) has made to a study looking at the pathways by which exercise endorses health, said Linda Pescatello, a Board of Trustees distinguished professor.   

“His research focuses on the energy expenditure intake and the influence these factors have on weight regulation and viral behavior pathways by which physical activity impacts health related outcomes,” said Pescatello. 

Pescatello highlighted the importance of Jakicic’s work, which he hopes will broaden the general understanding of physical activity on health.  

“This molecular transducer study will help us understand better what are the things that are happening deep down in the body,” Jakicic said. “This will help us understand why activity is good for us and more importantly, why and how activity has such a variability across individuals.”  

In 1995, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said people should engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity at least five days a week. 

“The field of health and physical activity has transformed from performance-based programming to somewhat rehabilitative means, to now prevention and more public health related initiatives,” Jakicic said.  


Dr. Jakicic serves as a professor and chairperson of the health and physical activity department at the University of Pittsburgh. He has accumulated over 200 publications in his career and is currently serving as the principal investigator at the Pittsburgh Clinical Center for the Multi-center Molecular Transducers of Physical Activity Consortium.  Photos by Erin Knapp /The Daily Campus

Dr. Jakicic serves as a professor and chairperson of the health and physical activity department at the University of Pittsburgh. He has accumulated over 200 publications in his career and is currently serving as the principal investigator at the Pittsburgh Clinical Center for the Multi-center Molecular Transducers of Physical Activity Consortium. Photos by Erin Knapp /The Daily Campus

Jakicic highlighted the separation between age groups when it comes to the physical activity guidelines of 2018. For preschool-aged kids and adolescents, there is a push to encourage active play through enjoyment as the day progresses. The guidelines promote growth, development and encourage types. For adults and the elderly, guidelines encourage people to sit less and move more while focusing on aerobics and muscle strength rather than enjoyment.  

Jakicic said there is no ideal form of physical activity for every individual and for every health benefit. By looking at the guidelines presented, individuals can see there is variability and there is not one perfect mode of activity the people should be doing.  

“I don’t think we’re ever going to find the perfect mode of activity the people should do to accrue health benefits, but we can get them to do things that are going to increase muscle strength and endurance, get them to do things that are going to increase their cardio respiration capacity and stimulate their brains,” Jakicic said. “All of these can’t be achieved with one activity so I think we need to move the field forward and stop focusing on what the perfect activity is but maybe the better combination of these activities that are going to incorporate most of these health benefits.”  

Jakicic said that there needs to be a greater focus on multimodal interventions, not single-modal activity. He suspects that people are stuck on the idea of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity being the only way to be healthy, but he studies how the threshold of physical activity can vary from person to person.  

Activities like how many steps you take a day or whether you are sitting or standing are good for health but the effects differentiate based on what outcome a person is interested in, Jakicic said.  

“We have work to do in this realm, we have to understand the spectrum of activity, we have to understand stationary, sedentary, light, moderate, vigorous, sleep. All of these interfaces with one another, we need to understand how time bouts are accumulated with it,” Jakicic said.  

Jakicic said physical activity, sleep and sedentary behavior are all individual rationales related to health that need to be intertwined.  

“These activities encompass our 24-hour day, we have to understand whether the patterns we see change in the temporal pattern, not just the change in the total volume matters when it comes to certain health outcomes,” Jakicic said 

In his current study on molecular transducers, there is a tighter focus on the patterns that may arise and vary within people.  

“The work we are moving towards is trying to understand the 24-hour spectrum, the timing of the day and the change in the temporal pattern around a variety of health outcomes that we’re very interested in that include cardiovascular, cardio metabolic, diabetes, and cancer, those kinds of things,” Jakicic said. “All this seems to be very important and as we think about where we’re going and our training opportunities here, I think for educational purposes we are thinking of our educational opportunities as programming opportunities and evidence-based practice that circle around each other.” 


Naiela Suleiman is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at naiela.suleiman@uconn.edu

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