Getting America Moving

Americans’ lack of physical activity is saddling the country with a heavy public health burden. Dr. Russ Pate’s research is aimed at getting America moving again, and he focuses on the problem where it starts — in children.


Dr. Russ Pate has spent a large part of his career looking for solutions to a public health crisis that many people simply don't see — although one aspect of it has become difficult to overlook.

"There's a huge public health burden that comes with low levels of physical activity, and an obvious manifestation of that is the obesity epidemic that we're in the midst of," says Pate, a professor in the department of exercise science and a faculty affiliate of the PRC. "But that doesn't even begin to capture the total public health burden."

It's the result of the embarrassment of riches, in a sense, that first-world development confers on a society.

"We've engineered a society that no longer demands very much physical activity," he says. "This is probably the first time in human history when we've ever really had this problem. We evolved to be hunter-gatherers. That's really what our bodies were designed to support, a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, and we've learned the hard way that our bodies don't do very well when we're inactive, when we don't live in a way that supports that hunter-gatherer DNA."

The data are rock solid, according to Pate. It's not just obesity, but chronic health problems that can take years to show up, from heart disease to type 2 diabetes to cancer. "Low levels of physical activity are a huge cause of morbidity and mortality in the developed countries of the world," he says.

As chair of the National Physical Activity Plan Alliance, he presented the nation's first "report card" on physical activity for kids to the Congressional Fitness Caucus in Washington, D.C., on April 29. The scores were not good: In 10 categories, there were two C's, two D's, an F and four incompletes. The high-water mark was a B-minus.

For more information, see the full study from the USC Times here.

Dr. Pate also recently earned the South Carolina Governor's Excellence in Scientific Research Award and the Governor's Excellence in Scientific Awareness Award this year, the first time one researcher has been honored with both awards.