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Peter James
, MHS, ScD


With the wide availability of wearable fitness trackers, people have been increasingly measuring the number of steps they take per day, striving to obtain those 10,000 steps. But what is the significance of 10,000 steps? And is counting steps really a good measure of physical activity? I recently attended the International Society for Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity (ISBNPA) Annual Meeting in beautiful Victoria, British Columbia where I was fortunate to gain more insight into the step counting phenomenon.

 
 
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Whatever your take on the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Syrian refugee crisis, or the bailout of Wall Street, there is probably at least one area where we can (mostly) agree that the Obama Administration has earned high marks over the past 8 years – Obesity. Michelle Obama, with her “Let’s Move” campaign, has been a champion for healthful dietary choices and physical activity, with a strong focus on obesity prevention in children. As great as this has been for those of us who research, treat, or are generally passionate about obesity, the era is now coming to an end. Entering the heart of the 2016 presidential campaign, I often find myself wondering – how will Obama’s successor deal with this important issue? Will the nation’s current laser focus on health and wellness fade into the background as a new family, with new issues to promote, moves into the White House?

 
 
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Working on Project Viva for the past few years, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and completing study visits with dozens of moms and their children. In addition to collecting in-person physical measurements like height, weight and waist circumference, we also administer questionnaires to our participants to capture their behaviors outside of the visit room. One of the most common questions our teen participants ask about their questionnaires -- aside from “What’s margarine?” -- is how to respond to the question “How often do you have gym class?”. Most of our participants attend gym for only a semester of the school year, and even during that semester, may not have gym class every day. Which got me wondering: how physically active (or inactive) are American teenagers, and what is the future of physical education in the United States?

 
 
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by Emily Oken, MD, MPH

As I write this post, I am walking on my ‘TreadDesk’.  For those who might not have heard about such a thing, treadmill desks are slow treadmills that are designed to fit underneath a standing desk, to allow you to walk while you work.  Their recent surge in popularity is likely due to growing evidence that sedentary time, i.e. time spent sitting, is a strong predictor of higher risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and premature mortality.  Interventions to improve physical activity via walking have been shown to result in improvements in a number of cardiovascular risk factors, including lower blood pressure, blood glucose, cholesterol, waist circumference, and body mass index (for example, see this recent study).

 
 
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At an early age, my father stressed the importance of cardiovascular exercise to me. He was looking out for me, both as a physician and as a father who likely passed on his high-risk genes for cardiovascular disease. He ensured that my brother and I were physically active and getting our heart rates up every day, which mostly consisted of running or biking, or cross-country skiing in the winter. As I grew older, I kept this tradition of daily cardiovascular exercise in my routine so that I can hopefully continue to fight my higher genetic risk of cardiovascular disease.

 
 
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by Marie-France Hivert, MD


Is it better to go for a run after work or to be walking all day at work? Well, it depends what benefits we want to get out of it. If you’re preparing for your next race, walking around in the office is not likely to help you much. But walking, standing, and simply moving around might be more important for maintaining health.

 
 
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by Nicole Witham

“6 floors today. I definitely climbed more than that. Let’s see, once in the morning, a couple flights in the afternoon, then...oh. Well, I did walk to the coffee maker more than usual today. That must count, right?” That is my internal dialogue after wearing my physical activity monitor for the day and noticing my sub-par activity.

 
 
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by Marie-France, MD


NIH funding is declining, leading to less support for large observational cohort studies. Over the last several decades, these types of studies have allowed us to understand determinants of metabolic and cardiovascular diseases. But, does opportunity knock for a new paradigm of cohort study? This is the bet that the Health eHeart Study is taking.

 
 
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by Marie-France Hivert, MD, MMSc


I am so conscious about the health benefits of exercise that some days I feel like an exercise "addict." It turns out that I'm not alone. There are plenty of people who have the same urge that I do, who are excited about going up and down stadium steps, jogging 10 miles, or making the gym part of their daily routine. Sometimes we have a goal, but sometimes we do it just because it feels good.