Behavioral risk study to evaluate, promote healthy lifestyle

According to the United Health Foundation, 28 percent of Arizona's population is obese, with a body mass index of 30.0 or higher, which leads to problems such as fatigue, loss of energy, diabetes and cardiovascular problems.

In an effort to understand how many people are leading an active lifestyle in Arizona, Barbara Ainsworth, associate director of the ASU School of Nutrition and Health Promotion and professor of exercise in the College of Health Solutions, will conduct a seven-day pilot behavioral risk study to evaluate people's behavior by using a pedometer.

“We are going to do a pilot study to see if we can mail people a pedometer and have them wear it for one week, so we can actually count the steps that they are doing,” she said. “We think this will give us more accurate data about walking behaviors.”

The study is in partnership with the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System conducted by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in all 50 states, in which the center calls and asks questions about a person's physical activity habits and they recall what they do.

The study will take place between May and December, targeting people 18 and older in Maricopa and Pima counties. Everyone who responds to the BRFSS study will be asked if they are interested in participating in the seven-day pedometer study, she said.

If ASU students are selected for the survey, they can benefit from wearing the pedometer because of the many opportunities from the student recreational center, through walking around campus or taking the stairs to classes instead of the elevators, she said.

Ainsworth has been devoted to promoting healthy living throughout her career. She has been involved in many studies that have benefited a large number of people, particularly one of an ASU staff member whose life changed when a study called ASUKI Step took place.

ASUKI was a contest in 2009 between the Karolinska Institute of Sweden and ASU to increase walking among University faculty and staff.

“There was one woman in the study, who had joined the program and was walking 10,000 steps every day,” she said, “She lost 40 pounds (in the) six-month study.”

Many other participants asked them to keep the study going because they were having so many benefits from it, she said.

Physical activity, nutrition and wellness graduate student Adrian Chavez, who is the president of Health & Wellness Entrepreneurs at ASU,said the study definitely raises awareness to see how active or inactive people are.

“I think it’s pretty clear that people aren’t as active as they should be,” he said. “When you have someone monitoring their behavior, people become more conscious.”

This year, his organization is planning several activities to get students involved in things such as hiking. Chavez said he believes there are many activities people can do to stay active.

“Physical activity doesn’t just happen at the gym,” he said. “It’s more of a lifestyle of moving, being physical in transportation (or) not sitting in front of a desk all day.”

Human nutrition sophomore Hana Lodhi, the president of the Student Nutrition Council, said the study is a great idea.

“I think it will help the community tremendously, just because it will motivate people and (they will) see that it can make a difference,” she said.

Her organization does various events at ASU, such as tabling to provide information about different foods and vegetables, to promote healthy eating habits.

“The other day we (focused on) avocado, so we brought all of the nutritional values of avocados,” she said.

Lodhi said a study like this could be beneficial, because it would motivate more people to go to the gym or be more active every single day.

Reach the reporter at or follow her on Twitter @loyadriana

Get the best of State Press delivered straight to your inbox.