For the past academic year Dr. Gary Liguori, Department Head, Health and Human Performance, had a packed schedule that included a flight to Wuhan, China where he presented at the Global Fitness Summit, and a trip to the White House for a meeting with Michelle Obama as part of her “Let’s Move” initiative and his partnership with Chattanooga based educational play and recreation solutions company, PlayCore.
Liguori presents in Wuhan, China
The Global Fitness Summit was a collaborative effort between Wuhan University and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), which Liguori is affiliated with. Liguori was one of only two people sponsored by ACSM to attend and present at the Summit.
He gave three separate presentations, with hundreds of attendees in the audience, on:
- metabolic syndrome
- using high intensity interval training (particularly in populations with chronic disease like heart conditions or diabetes)
- health risks associated with excessive sedentary behavior
Each presentation was accompanied by an interpreter, making presenting interesting, Liguori explained.
“The enthusiasm of all the participants was really a highlight for me. It was great to see everyone there share this passion and really want to increase their knowledge, and to take that back with them. Language is a minor barrier when we’re all working towards an outcome,” Liguori said.
Presenters at the Summit also came from China and Korea, offering their perspectives and expertise for global ideas and change.
“It’s interesting to hear how things are done in China, and think how that might be implemented here.” Liguori continued, “That sharing of information is one of the biggest things that came out of this.”
Beginning in 2008, kickstarted by the Beijing Olympics, the Chinese government decided to put a lot of time, money, and resources into making the population healthier. This Summit was a direct outcome of that initiative.
In addition to the ongoing issue of pollution in China, dense populations and cities lacking the needed infrastructure have a negative impact on physical activity; there just isn’t the space or opportunity for adopting a healthy lifestyle.
Liguori compared the city of Wuhan to Chattanooga, how despite the differences in population, the two communities truly have some similarities: communities like-minded in active lifestyles. Although, we each have our contrasting approaches. Where Chattanoogan takes advantage of the various outdoor activities and amenities in our region, Wuhan inspires physical activity differently.
“Wuhan is a sport campus, and in fact, at 6 A.M. every morning students are required to be up and outside doing physical activity.”
Although that is a culture we wouldn’t be quick to adopt, we can each learn a lot from one another.
Liguori guest at White House for First Lady’s ‘Let’s Move’ initiative
This meeting was an opportunity to bring together all the partners from around the country that have contributed to Let’s Move. Most are nonprofits, with a few selectively chosen corporate partners.
“In Chattanooga, we are fortunate that PlayCore is one of those partners. PlayCore does a lot of things, one of them is advocating for outside recreation, which fits into the initiative.” Liguori continued, “Since I’ve been at UTC, our department has partnered quite a bit with PlayCore on projects like installing adult fitness zones that help adults be more active too.”
Launched by First Lady Michelle Obama, Let’s Move is a comprehensive initiative “dedicated to solving the challenge of childhood obesity within a generation so that children born today will grow up healthier and able to pursue their dreams.”
The group of roughly 75 members were addressed by Michelle Obama as she described the initiative’s proud accomplishments and its tentative plan moving forward. Afterwards, they were split into small groups of members from across the country, facilitated by a White House staff member, as they put their heads together to discuss next steps and best practices for the initiative. Each group was organized into different advocacy disciplines; Liguori’s group focused on community and school initiatives.
“We spent a good part of the afternoon in small groups talking about how to continue the work of the Let’s Move initiative… we worked to identify bigger issues, like finding mechanisms to increase opportunities for activity to schools. That’s something that’s decreased in the last couple of decades, and we wanted to see if there were ways to reverse that trend. The emphasis on testing has decreased the emphasis on physical activity, so how can we change that?” Liguori said.
Liguori explained how his group focused their solutions on changes to policies. They explored ways for schools to implement more physical activity in before and after school programs as well as during the day. They also discussed how to include changes to surrounding community and neighborhood environments so that non-motorized transportation is accessible and safe.
“I want to acknowledge and say thank you to PlayCore for inviting me to partner with them there. They are a great partner to the University in general,” Liguori added.