Physical Activity Epidemiology Laboratory

Coordinated by Professor Duck-chul Lee (DC Lee)

The Physical Activity Epidemiology Lab conducts human research on the effects of lifestyle physical activity, sedentary behavior, resistance and aerobic exercise training, cardiorespiratory fitness, and muscular strength, on various health outcomes such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity, cancer, sarcopenia, and cardiovascular disease morbidity and mortality in adults and older adults. Methodologically, this research involves a comprehensive epidemiological approach that includes both large observational (cohort) studies and randomized controlled trials of exercise.

Research Topics

Big Data Analyses on Physical Activity and Chronic Disease Prevention and Longevity

Our lab investigates the effects of physical activity on the development of chronic diseases and mortality using a large projective cohort studies such as the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study (ACLS) in over 80,000 men and women with 35 or less years of follow-up. We have published over 50 papers using several big cohort data, and one paper published in JACC in 2014 on leisure-time running and mortality has been featured in over 350 major media outlets around the world including US national TV (‘NBC’ & ‘ABC’), and magazines including ‘The New York Times,’ ‘CNN,’ and ‘The Washington Post’. Currently, we are working on over 20 research projects using several national and international big cohort data including the ACLS. These studies will have direct impact on the development of public health policy and guidelines (e.g., US and WHO Physical Activity Guidelines).

“Running 5 Minutes a Day Has Long-Lasting Benefits.” The New York Times. 7/30/2014.
Clicking graph enlarges image.

Youtube Video on running and mortality

Longitudinal Cohort on Physical Activity and Aging Study (PAAS) in Older Adults

“Physical Activity and Aging Study (PAAS)” in older adults to investigate the associations between physical activity/fitness and chronic disease and longevity.

In 2015, our lab has launched a prospective cohort study on physical activity and aging to examine the associations of objectively measured physical activity, fitness, and sleep with the development of chronic diseases (e.g., heart attack, stroke, cancer, sarcopenia) and longevity in older adults, funded externally. We assess comprehensive health and fitness measures including cardiovascular function, dementia screening, body composition and bone density (DXA scan), blood lipids profile, physical fitness, and functional ability tests. We finished baseline data collection in 304 older adults in May 2016 as our first cohort. We now continue to follow the existing participants, and add new participants each year to establish a longitudinal prospective cohort study on physical activity and health in older adults. Participants would visit our lab once per year (two lab visits each year), and some individuals may come less often than annually. This cohort study will add important evidence to develop guidelines about the optimal amount of physical activity and fitness to prevent and delay chronic diseases and increase independence and longevity in older adults. In 2013, we conducted another observational study to examine muscle-strengthening activities (e.g., weight lifting and carrying heavy loads) in daily life on cardiovascular disease risk factors (e.g., blood pressure, waist circumference, etc.) in over 450 middle-aged or older adults

Randomized Controlled Trials of Exercise Training on Chronic Disease Risk Factors

Technogym Wellness System to automatically monitor exercise training from a study funded by a $3.4 million NIH grant.

One of our specific research interests in the lab is to investigate the health benefits of resistance exercise such as weight lifting, independent of and combined with aerobic exercise. The current Physical Activity Guidelines have primarily focused on aerobic exercise for health benefits, but little is known about the health effects of resistance exercise. To conduct exercise intervention studies, we established a Technogym Wellness System, a computer-based automatic exercise monitoring system, in the lab. Using this innovative system, we completed an 8-week randomized controlled exercise trial in 69 overweight/obese adults in 2015, which was funded by the college at ISU. This study was designed to compare the relative contribution of aerobic and resistance exercise training to arterial stiffness, inflammatory markers, and other emerging cardiovascular disease risk factors. We used this pilot study for an NIH R01 grant application, which was funded in July 2016. We plan to submit NIH grant applications to conduct other exercise intervention studies on several other health outcomes.

Current Research Projects

Comparison of the Cardiovascular Benefits of Resistance, Aerobic, and Combined Exercise (Cardio-RACE)

We are currently inviting participants, so if you are interested in this 1-year free personalized exercise program, please call: 515-294-7223, or email:, or visit the Cardio-Race website.

Principal Investigator: Lee, DC.  Source: NIH (NHLBI) R01 (1R01HL133069-01) (July 2016 ~ June 2021).  This research is to investigate the comparative effectiveness of the cardiovascular benefits of resistance, aerobic, and a combined exercise by conducting 1) a large cohort data analysis using the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study and 2) a 1-year randomized controlled trial in 400 adults who are at high risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.

Physical Activity and Aging Study (PAAS)

Principal Investigator: Lee, DC.  Source: Biospace.  This research is to investigate the associations of physical activity and fitness with chronic diseases and longevity in older adults by conducting a prospective observational study.

Lab Equipment

Technogym Wellness System, DXA scanner, SphygmoCor devices to measure central hemodynamics (aortic stiffness and central blood pressure), InBody 720 body composition analyzer, 24-hour heart rate monitors, over 150 accelerators, and many more health and fitness equipment.

  • View video on the benefits of running.

  • Contact Information

    Duck-Chul Lee
    251 Forker
    534 Wallace Road
    Ames, IA 50011-4008

  • If you are interested in working in the Physical Activity Epidemiology Lab, please contact Professor Lee. Additional information on Professor Lee’s research is available here.

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