The Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee is composed of 17 nationally recognized experts in the fields of physical activity and health. These distinguished individuals agreed to serve on the Committee in a voluntary capacity to review current evidence and make recommendations that will help inform the next edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. This post is part of a series of interviews with the Committee members to learn more about the men and women providing independent expertise and service to improve the health of the Nation.
Today, we are highlighting Dr. Loretta DiPietro, Professor and Chair of the Department of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences at the Milken Institute of Public Health at The George Washington University. On the Committee, Dr. DiPietro serves as the Chair of the Aging Subcommittee and as a member of the Cardiometabolic Health and Weight Management Subcommittee.
What sparked your interest in physical activity?
At a young age, I was drawn to physical activity; I loved being active and playing sports. In my family, I noticed differences between my mother’s relatives who seemed to be in constant motion versus my father’s relatives who were mostly sedentary. It seemed like my sedentary relatives weren’t living as long as my active relatives, and I hypothesized that their different life expectancies were due to their differences in physical activity. As an epidemiologist and experimental research scientist, I research successful aging, which means living a robust and healthy life and compressing disease as close as possible to the time of natural mortality.
What is your view of the role of physical activity in health?
I believe that our bodies are designed to move. Physical activity is a driving force for overall health and for successful aging. I study the positive effects of physical activity on bodily functions, including blood glucose regulation, energy intake, energy expenditure, blood pressure, metabolic function, and weight regulation. When it comes to staying physically active, I’m always on the move. I play field hockey and have for the past 50 years! I bolster my training by participating in workplace group exercise classes during my lunch hour.
What do you think are some of the barriers that prevent people from meeting the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans?
Most people say time is the biggest barrier, to achieving the recommended amount of physical activity outlined in the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. I encourage Americans to prioritize physical activity. If you have time to watch TV and sit for 14 hours a day, you have time for physical activity.
Everyone can incorporate more physical activity into their day-to-day lives by doing each of these four things:
- Taking the stairs
- Parking farther away when running errands
- Walking while on a conference call
- Scheduling it into the day
Additionally, schools and workplaces can do more to support student and employee health by incorporating physical activity into the day. In my ideal world, schools would make physical education a priority and workplaces would offer employees daily, 30-minute physical activity breaks.
The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion would like to personally thank each of the members for their dedication and service on the Committee. The Committee’s independent review of the scientific literature is the result of thousands of hours of work and will culminate with the submission of the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee Scientific Report to the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). HHS will use the report to develop the next edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.