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Aug. 2, 2013

Jim Pivarnik: Keeping America in shape

Aug. 2, 2013

Jim Pivarnik is a man who wears many hats. He is a professor in the departments of Kinesiology and Epidemiology and Biostatistics, and director of the Center for Physical Activity and Health. He serves as MSU’s research integrity officer and is a member of the President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition's Science Board.

When asked to write about my role as a member of a National Science Advisory Board to the President, I had to stop and think for a minute. I know that we do quite a bit, but rarely does anyone ever hear about us.

Stepping back a moment, we must begin with a paper published in 1953 that indicated the physical fitness of America’s youth was significantly lower than that seen in many European countries. As a result, then-President Dwight Eisenhower established the President’s Council on Youth Fitness in 1956.

After a number of iterations over the years, the current organization is now known as the President’s Council on Physical Fitness, Sports & Nutrition (PCPFSN), and is broadly related to the physical and nutritional health of all Americans. Many council members are well-known sports figures, such as co-chairs Drew Brees (NFL quarterback) and Dominique Dawes (Olympic gold medal gymnast). Perhaps you have seen one or more council members performing public service announcements about the role of physical activity and good nutrition on health.

So where do I come in? Well, I am one of 16 exercise and nutrition scientists appointed to the Science Advisory Board to the PCPFSN. Founded in 2003, the role of the Science Advisory Board is simple: Ensure the scientific merit and validity of messages and programs put forward by the PCPFSN.

Rarely are our members in the national spotlight, and that is fine by me. Although we meet occasionally in person in Washington D.C., most activities are performed via conference calls set up and administered by the fantastic PCPFSN staff members.  Activities range from developing and updating physical fitness tests, to writing and editing articles published in the PCPFSN Research Digest, to writing on the PRPFSN blog. 

For instance, I wrote two short pieces in the PCPFSN blog in 2012: One on physical activity during pregnancy and one focusing on resistance training in youth athletes.    Other members have done the same. 

The Science Advisory Board also is charged with developing focused messages to be delivered by the council, who will eventually put them in layperson’s terms.

So while not glitzy, I believe the role of the science board to be a most important contributor to developing appropriate messages aimed at the public’s physical and nutritional health. I am honored to be a member.

Pivarnik’s expertise was featured this week in The Atlantic and Huffington Post.

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