Dr. Jim Annesi joined the YMCA of Metro Atlanta in early 2000 as Director of Wellness Advancement. He is also Professor of Health Promotion, and Community Health Promotion Research and Development Liaison, at Kennesaw State University’s Wellstar College of Health and Human Services. He was previously on the faculties of Rutgers University and The College of New Jersey, and held clinical and research positions at the Veterans Affairs Health Care System, Trinitas Medical Center, and Enhanced Performance Technologies. He was elected as a Fellow of The American Academy of Health Behavior in 2011, and The Obesity Society and the American Psychological Association in 2014.
Dr. Annesi’s research program includes approximately 135 peer-reviewed publications related to health behavior change theory and methods applied to exercise adherence, weight management, and the effects of physical activity on mental health, self-image, and other quality-of-life factors. His recent findings on the linkages between physical activity, psychosocial changes, and sustained weight loss form the theoretical bases for an emerging system for the large-scale treatment and prevention of obesity in both adults and children – with an emphasis on maintaining healthy weights. His study articulating some of these findings was the “most read” article in the journal Behavioral Medicine for the years 2012-2013. His research in the late 1990’s initiated the use of “virtual reality” into exercise behavior change.
Dr. Annesi also authored over a hundred articles and chapters for health promotion practitioners, and 3 books that translate scientific research for applied use. His evidence-based programs, THE COACH APPROACH, Youth Fit 4 Life, Start For Life, and The Health and Fitness Experience, are presently used within a variety of preventive medicine, community health promotion, university, and academic medicine settings in the U.S., United Kingdom, Canada, Italy, and Japan. Their research and development have been supported by agencies such as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service, U.S. Department of Education, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Canadian Interior Health Authority, along with numerous private foundations.
Questions & Answers
The Start For Life protocol is pretty much intended to be delivered, as is. We tried to make it appealing to teachers who had little or no previous experience in physical education or health promotion methods. Although Start For Life was tested with initially with African American children of ages 4 and 5, its curriculum was intended for ages 3-5. It also might be applied to all ethnic/racial groups. It is not, however, intended for ages other than 3-5 years.
Engaged teachers are quite helpful for success. However, its strong quality assurance component helps realign teacher behaviors when necessary. Challenges might be when teachers view physical activity as being burdensome, rather than fun, healthful, and well worth the effort. Teachers also may view instructing in self-management skills as new to them.
As mentioned above, methods to ensure the fidelity of the program and its proper implementation is one of its key components. Periodic use of objective observers using the (provided) scoring forms adds consistency to this valuable activity.
My current research program is focused on exercise adherence, the physical activity-mood change relationship and how that impacts body image and emotional eating, and the effects of exercise on maintained weight loss (through its associated psychosocial changes, rather than just caloric expenditure). Although my research program crosses most age groups, there is the consistent theme of empowering individuals with the self-regulatory skills needed to overcome commonly occurring barriers to maintenance.