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 improve lifestyle factors to reduce health disparities in African Americans.

We have conducted studies in conjunction with several community entities. For example, we have worked with YMCAs, churches, community centers, and low-income neighborhoods. In addition, we utilize mobile technologies including smartphones and wearable devices, to support behavior change. Our interventions have targeted young children, overweight adults, African American men at risk for diabetes, and older adults at risk for developing dementia.

Our lab is currently studying the effect of physical activity on dementia in older African American adults. The study will recruit older African American adults 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 promoting brain health.

We are also studying the effect of a mobile phone intervention on physical activity levels in children. The 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. The intervention will be conducted over the course of three months.

Research in this laboratory is supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the BrightFocus foundation, the Louisiana Clinical and Translational Science Center.