Physical Activity & Ethnic Minority Health Laboratory


  • Robert Newton, Jr., Ph.D.


The goal of this laboratory is to study the impact of physical activity and inactivity on the health of ethnic minority populations.


African-Americans suffer disproportionately from various health conditions, including obesity, hypertension, and diabetes. Decreased physical activity and increased inactivity levels have been shown to be independent risk factors for the development of chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity. It also has been shown that African-Americans spend less time in activity and more time in inactivity than is recommended. Thus, African-American adults are prime targets for studying the relationship between physical activity/inactivity and chronic disease. The lab’s ultimate goal is to find effective behavioral strategies to increase physical activity and decrease sedentary behavior in ethnic minorities.

Our lab is currently studying the effect of physical activity on African American adult's health through the Aerobic Plus Resistance Training to Increase Insulin Sensitivity in African American Men (ARTIIS) study.  One major goal of the study is to determine the physiological effects of exercise training in this hard-to-reach population.  The study will recruit a large number of African American men to engage in exercise that includes both aerobic and strength training in accordance with national guidelines.  Another major goal of the study is to determine if a community-based intervention can be effective in retaining participants in the study.  In contrast to most exercise training studies that are conducted in the laboratory, men in our intervention will exercise in community-based exercise facilities run by the local recreation department. 

Our lab is also studying several different aspects of inactivity through the Sedentary Behavior in African- Americans (SeBA) study. We are assessing the energy cost of typical sedentary behaviors, including watching TV, reading, and typing, and their relationship to body composition. The goal of SeBA is to provide objective data on the energy cost of activities for African-American adults because metabolic rates differ among ethnic populations. We are also studying the relationship between objectively measured inactivity and risk factors for cardiovascular disease. For this study, we will utilize existing data from the Jackson Heart Study, an epidemiological study of cardiovascular disease risk in African-American participants.  Over time, we will be able to assess the relationship between these measures and actual cardiovascular disease occurrence. 

Our lab is also utilizing technology to assist in maintenance of behavior change. Mobile phones are becoming ubiquitous across the country, and technology is increasingly being utilized in health care. We developed an intervention that utilizes technology as well as addresses the lack of physical activity in the nation’s children. The P-Mobile intervention will be delivered to parents, via mobile phone, with the goal of increasing their children’s physical activity to the recommended levels. We will recruit families who have a designated child between the ages of 6 and 10 years old who is either overweight or obese. The intervention will be conducted over the course of three months. The P-Mobile and related technology intervention will be adapted to African-American populations. 

Research in this laboratory is supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the Clinical Nutrition Research Unit of Pennington Biomedical Research Center, and the Coca-Cola Foundation.