Limestone Professor's Research Team Develops Daily Lifestyle Physical Activity Plan

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Monday, September 18, 2017 - 2:30pm

Limestone College’s Dr. Felicia Cavallini, Professor of Physical Education, is part of a research team that had a manuscript recently published by the Journal of Physical Activity Research.

The research, peer-reviewed article, published earlier this month, is entitled “Introducing MyHouse Activity and MyWork Activity: A Paradigm Shift Towards Lifestyle Physical Activity Supported by Evidence from a Focus Group Study.”

The manuscript derived from a Canadian focus group study to examine people’s beliefs, outlooks, and attitudes toward physical activity and exercise. In spite of countless attempts to increase the physical activity level of the Canadian population, according to the Canadian Health Measures Survey, only 15 percent of Canadian adults obtain the recommended 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per week.  Because the United States shares similar results with Canada, this was the perfect opportunity to problem-solve on both sides of the border.

To that end, the research team has developed “MyHouse Activity” and “MyWork Activity” signage that highlights ways to get at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week at home and at work, along with two or more strength exercises that engage all major muscle groups, as recommended by the United States Physical Activity Guidelines.

The Canadian focus group study is a result of Cavallini’s 11-month Fulbright Scholar Student/Research Grant in Canada. It was then that she became confident that lack of exercise actually has more to do with modifying everyday physical behavior and less to do with finding the time to sweat it out in a gym.

“The evidence collected from this study clearly suggests most people are not as interested in working out in a gym or engaging in the traditional forms of exercising such as jogging, lifting weights, or using elliptical or other exercise machines,” Cavallini said. “Rather, the results indicate a strong preference for making physical activity part of a daily lifestyle, be it in and around the home, at work or through active transportation.

“If there is a widely held conviction that individuals can achieve 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity per week through leisure, active transportation and home and work responsibilities, then physical educators, exercise science specialists, health educators, and other professionals in the fields of medicine and public health have an obligation to educate and inform the public in ways in which this can be done,” she added.

The newly completed MyHouse Activity” and “MyWork Activity” graphics have been placed in all the buildings on the Limestone College campus. The Radiology Oncology Department at the Gibbs Cancer Center in Spartanburg has the signage in all of its examination rooms, and the University of Guelph is using them as well. The research team hopes to nationalize the visuals in both the United States and Canada.

The collaboration of researchers for this study include Dr. Angie Kolen from St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia; Dr. Xuemei Sui and Dr. Steven Blair from the University of South Carolina in Columbia; and Dr. Lawrence Spriet from the University of Guelph in Guelph, Ortario, Canada.

This study is currently being replicated in South Carolina and Cavallini said she hopes to return to Canada to replicate the study in the Halifax, Nova Scotia area in the near future.

In June of this year, Cavallini took part in two research presentations at the International Society for Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity in Victoria, British Columbia.

From Aug. 30, 2014, through Aug. 1, 2015, Dr. Cavallini served at the University of Guelph as a Visiting Research Chair in the Human Health and Nutritional Sciences Department, and her primary focus was on physical activity and exercise.

“Initially, the purpose of our research was to investigate those specific underlying barriers behind the popular, yet misleading, ‘I don’t have time’ excuse,” Cavallini explained. “But what started off examining ‘lack of time’ barriers behind 80 percent of Canadians still not meeting the recommended 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a week became way more meaningful and significant than what we originally thought.”

While many people appreciate the significance and the benefit of exercise, an overwhelming number of those surveyed said that engaging in physical activity is a more natural, realistic, and enjoyable part of their day than exercise. They preferred to participate in more vigorous physical activity such as energetic yard work, brisk walking, or forcefully raking leaves.