What to Expect at ALR2016 Conference

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July 13, 2015
By Amanda Wilson
What to Expect at ALR2016 Conference

Find out what you can expect at the Active Living Research Conference 2016 in this exclusive interview with conference chair, NiCole R. Keith.

What is the Active Living Research Conference and who is it for?

The Active Living Research Conference is an opportunity for people who are employed by traditional health-related industries (public health, healthcare, health and fitness, etc.), non-traditional health-related industries (city planning, social services, public policy, etc.) and academic institutions to share their efforts toward creating active living environments and policies to improve population health and wellbeing and to learn from one another.

Why do you feel there is a need for a conference dedicated to active living research?

There are several conferences that include topics on health, physical activity, policy, and the built environment but the Active Living Research Conference is the only meeting with these topics as its sole focus. It is a wonderful opportunity for researchers and practitioners to come together for three days and focus on ways to impact the environmental and population health of their communities without being forced to choose from a variety of other topics that may impact health. Additionally, professionals who may not customarily attend the same meetings attend this conference to discuss the importance of active living to personal, population, and community health.

What can people expect from participating in the Active Living Research Conference?

People should be prepared to be actively engaged from the start to the finish of this meeting. Presenters and other attendees are constantly in the process of reciprocal communication with one another. The conference is packed with informative and interactive presentations. There are also opportunities to be active scheduled into the program, including standing tables in the presentation rooms, active applause so that those who choose to sit have an opportunity to stand and clap between speakers, and exercise sessions (walking/jogging, biking, or group exercise) built directly into the program. Attendees leave with an arsenal of information without the usual physical activity sacrifice that comes with participating in a sedentary three day conference.

What can people expect from attending the Active Living Research Conference?

The conference is in a new venue. It has traditionally been held in San Diego’s urban or beach front environments. For the very first time, the Active Living Research Conference moves east to sunny Florida. People should still expect quality information and opportunities to be active. We are excited to expect the unexpected. This new location may yield participants who were not able to travel all the way to California but find Florida more accessible. This also may be the first time that rain has entered the discussion when planning for outdoor activities. The Florida tropics makes for an exciting new venue.

What does active living research mean to you?

Active living research involves the evaluation of how biking, walking, and other forms of active transportation and recreation impact population health, the environment, and the economy. Active living research also assesses how urban, suburban and rural planning and policies, as well as community engagement related to these topics, impact behavior change, health outcomes, community settings, and municipalities.

The conference theme is Equity in Active Living. Why is this and what does it mean to you?

Physical activity participation is necessary for both health promotion and disease prevention. The opportunity to be physically active is influenced by personal, social, environmental, and policy-related factors. Certain groups have less access to environments supportive of physical activity as well as opportunities to be physically active. The 2016 Active Living Research Conference theme was developed in response to these inequities. We would especially like to include presentations that address physical activity promotion in diverse groups who are most at-risk of physical inactivity. Addressing physical activity-related topics in groups such as persons with disabilities, those with limited physical or cognitive ability, sexual minorities, racial/ethnic minorities, those living in rural communities or other geographic locations susceptible to physical inactivity, older adults (> age 65 years), immigrants, and any group with religious, cultural, political states, experiences or ideologies that may limit physical activity participation are of particular interest to our program committee.

What are current trends in active living research and where do you think it’s going?

We are excited to see different sectors outside of traditional physical activity and public health researchers paying attention to the importance of active living in community development. Current trends involve a coalition of professionals from community planning and zoning, transportation, parks and recreation, public safety, health care, and faith based communities joining efforts to address community needs through physical activity participation. I expect to see this trend continue as community leaders begin to recognize the positive social, economic and environmental impact active living has on communities.

Tell us about your own research journey; where did you begin, where are you now, and why? Are there any projects you want to work on in the future? Where do you think your research will take you?

I was trained as a bench scientist at the University of Connecticut in the Department of Kinesiology at the time of Operation Desert Storm. The Department of Defense was interested in learning about whether the menstrual cycle and different contraception forms influenced women’s abilities to become trained and heat acclimatized. While we mostly focused on assessing physiologic responses to training, I very much enjoyed seeing our 18-22 year old participants flourish physically, socially, cognitively, and emotionally as they went through our mock basic training. I wish we would have measured those outcomes as well. At the time, it wasn’t part of my scientific training. Ever since, I have been interested in identifying ways to bring these types of physical activity opportunities to everyone so that all can experience the positive effects that come with physical activity participation. That work will continue.

Learn more about Dr. Keith in her online bio.

Why did you choose to become conference chair? What does this position mean to you? What does it feel like being chair of such a conference?

The Active Living Research Conference is such a high quality conference and it always has been. I am honored to serve as the chair of what I know will be another opportunity for professionals from all over the world to learn from one another. I have previously served on the ALR program committee and was amazed at the number of excellent abstracts from which we had to choose. With the support of Jim Sallis and his superb ALR staff, completing this work again as chair is quite a privilege and I am thrilled to do it.

What are you hoping to get out of the conference?

I expect to learn about the new and creative work students and professionals are doing related to active living. Every year is excellent, yet different. While I won’t know exactly what to expect until I get to see the abstracts and the information from the invited speakers, history tells me to anticipate an innovative program that is packed with information.

What about the conference are you most looking forward to?

I am most looking forward to the warm and positive energy that always accompanies the Active Living Research Conference. Attendees are always welcoming and engaging while presenters share their work and everyone learns new information. At other conferences, often times, attendees take off and skip sessions to work, recreate, or rest. At the Active Living Research Conference, recreation is built in and the food is ridiculously healthy and delicious. I recommend trying to get your work done before you arrive and resting at the end of the program each night. I am looking forward to every minute of this meeting.

Submit an abstract and register to attend ALR2016!

The call for abstracts and conference registration are now open. Deadline to submit an abstract for presentation is August 28th. Visit the Active Living Research Conference website for more information.

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