Committee Member Spotlight: Featuring Dr. Jakicic

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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. John Jakicic, a professor in the Department of Health and Physical Activity and Director of the Physical Activity and Weight Management Research Center at the University of Pittsburgh. On the Committee, Dr. Jakicic is the chair of the Cardiometabolic Health and Weight Management Subcommittee and is a member of the Exposure, Promotion of Physical Activity, and Sedentary Behavior Subcommittees.

What led to your interest in physical activity?

Ever since I was a kid I loved playing sports, especially baseball. In fact, as an adult I was invited to Major League Baseball Spring Training twice. Consequently, I pursued physical activity out of personal interest and later realized how important it is to health and well-being.

Tell me about some of your recent research

Last fall I authored a paper published in JAMA that studied whether participants who were enrolled in a weight loss intervention and provided with wearable technologies would maintain weight loss more effectively than a control group without the technology. Surprisingly, we found that the addition of wearable technology to a standard behavioral intervention did not offer an advantage: the control group in our study lost more weight than those given the devices. This is an important area to study because wearable technology is relatively new and people have the perception that they can buy a device and it will change their behaviors. I have also been studying the energy expenditure of vinyasa yoga. Yoga is one of the oldest forms of exercise, and is experiencing a surge in popularity, yet it has not been given the same attention in the exercise science literature. From a broader public health perspective it is important to understand how yoga may affect cardiovascular health, strength, mindfulness, and stress management.

Explain your view of the role of physical activity in health.

My view is pretty simple: an object in motion stays in motion, and an object at rest stays at rest unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. All movement is beneficial, we need to find ways to encourage Americans to move more, move often, and move vigorously. We need to encourage people to think outside the box; just ten minutes of physical activity can be an effective towards meeting the recommendations. When people realize they can accrue the benefits of physical activity in such a short amount of time, they may realize time is not the barrier they perceived it to be.

What do you think are some of the challenges/barriers that prevent people from meeting the Guidelines?

I think many adults do not make their health a priority; instead they are focused on taking care of their children, or their parents. Many people feel that if they cannot exercise in the gym they should not even bother or they have unrealistic expectations when it comes to physical activity and weight loss. Changing the parameters around priorities and expectations will take time. As health professionals, we must promote a standard people believe they can achieve, and popularize the health benefits of physical activity.

What tips would you give Americans who are trying to be more physically active?

All physical activity will benefit you. When given the opportunity to be active—take it. You do not have to track your heart rate or play competitive sports to get the benefits of physical activity. Whatever activity you choose, make sure you enjoy it. I like going on long runs because it reduces stress and helps me clear my mind. In the summertime, I like working in my yard, cutting grass, and landscaping.  When it comes to physical activity: to each their own.

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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.

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