Physical Activity and Health Promotion Lab

Location: Room 164L and 164M Forker Building

Coordinated by: Professor Greg Welk

The Physical Activity and Health Promotion Lab conducts research on the assessment and promotion of physical activity and healthy lifestyles. The group is involved in a number of research initiatives and outreach activities but a few specific lines of research are highlighted below:

Evaluation of Accelerometry Based Activity Monitors

  • Evaluation of Research-grade activity monitors – This work has focused on evaluating the validity and utility of various accelerometry-based activity monitors (e.g. Actigraph, Axivity, Geneactive, etc….). Our team has expertise in pattern-recognition processing methods (using open-sourced methods) as well as the validation of these monitors using indirect calorimetry (e.g. Oxycon Mobile) and direct observation methods.
  • Evaluation of Consumer based activity monitors  – This work has explored the validity and utility of the many consumer – based activity monitors that are used in both research and practice settings (e.g. FitBit, Apple Watch, Garmin) as well as activity monitoring tools and apps on contemporary smart phones.

Evaluation of Physical Activity Patterns and Behaviors

  • Adult Research with Act24 – This ongoing work extends research from a previous NIH funded grant that evaluated measurement error in a 24 hour recall assessment (Physical Activity Measurement Survey). Ongoing work has examined behaviors using the online Act24 assessment tool managed by the National Cancer Institute.
  • Youth Activity Profile – This ongoing work focuses on developing and calibrating a self-report measure of physical activity to facilitate school based assessments of physical activity in youth. The team has developed calibration models and an online application has been developed for continued evaluation and future dissemination. (Visit the current website at to learn more)

Physical Activity and Health Promotion Programming in Youth

  • SWITCH (School Wellness Initiative Targeting Child Health) – This work builds from a 5 year USDA funded study to disseminate an evidence-based school wellness program to promote healthy behaviors in youth. Programming is now coordinated through partnerships with the 4-H program in Extension but ongoing research evaluates outcomes and impacts. (Visit the website at to learn more).
  • FitnessGram Health Related Fitness Program – This work focuses on developing and evaluating health related standards for the FitnessGram program as well as the evaluation of school-based programming related to FitnessGram (see the FITNESSGRAM website for more information).
  • Family Nutrition and Physical Activity Screening (FNPA) Tool – This work builds on a previous R21 research grant (and past work by two different Ph.D. students) focused on a behaviorally-based screening tool to identify home obesogenic environments that may predispose youth to obesity. The tool is used by collaborators in many settings across the country as well as collaborative work in central Iowa to test applications of the FNPA in clinical settings. (Visit the website at to learn more).

Physical Activity and Health Programming in Adults

  • Clinical Health Coaching Initiative – This work builds from ongoing research on facilitated health coaching and a linked training courses (KIN 494A/B: Practicum in Motivational Interviewing). Students that complete training through the course are linked to several IRB approved health coaching initiatives both on campus and in the community. Students first contribute to a campus-based program (Cydekicks) but can continue on and gain experience with clinical health coaching through partnerships with McFarland Clinic and the Walk with Ease project.
  • Walk with Ease – This work is a collaborative effort coordinated through the Iowa State Translational Research Network (U-TuRN) that involves the refinement and evaluation of an evidence-based adult activity program called Walk with Ease. Local programming is coordinated as part of the ExerCYse outreach program but the team also supports the state level deployment using telephonic health coaching methods.

Outreach and Service Learning Programming

  • Community Campus Partnership for Health (Community Programming) – This outreach program is focused on promoting mutually beneficial partnerships with community partners, county agencies and extension offices. The programming involves service learning partnerships as well as the coordinated use of a volunteer management tool called GivePulse that is deployed and managed for the entire campus. CCPH provides students with opportunities to learn about worksite wellness through service learning or internships (
  • Wellness Works (Worksite Wellness Programming) – This outreach program focuses on supporting and assisting local worksites  in building effective worksite programming. The group provides access to monitors and software as well as innovative behavior change programming. Wellness Works provides students with opportunities to learn about worksite wellness through service learning or internships (
  • ExerCYse (Clinical Programming) – This outreach work focuses on building visibility and support for physical activity programming on campus, in the community and in clinical settings. The programming is linked to the national Exercise is Medicine movement and is powered by a student organization (Exercise is Medicine at Iowa State) that provides students with opportunities to build leadership skills while serving the campus and the community (

The lab is equipped with a variety of accelerometry-based physical activity monitors but the majority of work in the lab is conducted with the Sensewear Mini armband monitor. A variety of health promotion software applications are also housed in the lab and used for different applications.

The 164L lab space is mainly used for student meetings and data processing. A network of computers are used for processing and analyzing data. The computers include typical research applications as well as statistical programs (e.g. SAS /SPSS), graphical programs (e.g. MedCalc) and bibliography tools (e.g. EndNote). An adjoining lab space 164M lab space is used for data collection and includes an Oxycon Mobile metabolic cart, a Monark exercise bike, a Treadmill, and various anthropometry equipment (e.g. stadiometer, scale, calipers, BIA devices).

A number of graduate students are currently working with Dr. Welk on various research and outreach projects conducted through the Physical Activity and Health Promotion Lab. See list below:

There are opportunities for undergraduate students to gain experience with research through formal or informal experiences. Students can enroll in mentored research experiences through KIN 290 or get credit for service learning through KIN 391 (Service Learning Leadership Experience. Students are also encouraged to enroll in the linked practicum courses offered through the lab (KIN 294A/B: Practicum in Adult Fitness Assessment or KIN 494A/B: Practicum in Motivational Interviewing). Additional information on Dr. Welk’s research and the Health Promotion and Exercise Lab is available on Dr. Greg Welk’s website.

Need More Information?

Greg Welk

103e Forker Building
534 Wallace Road
Ames, IA 50011-4008