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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. 

The Primary Publication for Youth Fit 4 Life (YF4L) was of ages 9-12 years. However, there is also a YF4L curriculum for ages 5-8 that is listed as a Publication for Review. It was tested over 9 months. The protocol for both can easily be adapted for physical education, camp settings, or to supplement sport activities that might have considerable sedentary time (e.g., baseball). Great care for age-appropriateness was taken in the 3.5-year development of the YF4L so I would caution against its use with adolescents beyond 13-14, or prior to age 5.

An implementation staff who have at least some interest in health and well-being is definitely favorable. Since this has not been the case for all interested in afterschool care employment, responsibilities for carefully administering YF4L should be included on a job description. Thus, related interview questions are also needed. Because of the protocol nature of YF4L, regular fidelity, or quality assurance, checks are built into the process and are required for successful implementation. That being said, a professional physical education staff is not needed for successful implementation.


Regardless of venue, improvements in physical activity, overweight/obesity, and the diet are obvious outcome measures. The protocol’s theoretical foundation concentrates on facilitating self-efficacy through empowering an array of self-regulatory skills to overcome barriers to desirable behaviors. These should also be assessed, and used to evaluate the generalization of increased physical activity and healthy eating well-beyond the confines of the YF4L program. Our team will always offer help with an evaluation model – especially to support the requirements of a grant or the conditions of external support. 

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. 

Updated: 01/14/2020 04:11:07