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Why study kinesiology here: Sixth faculty member inducted as fellow into National Academy of Kinesiology

Janet Kiplinger Ciccone
September 23, 2021

Kinesiology PhD program ranks No. 10 in nation: Focht now a Fellow

Brian Focht, professor of kinesiology in the College of Education and Human Ecology, was inducted recently as a 2021 Fellow by the National Academy of Kinesiology. He was recognized during a ceremony on September 23 at the annual conference of the academy.

“Dr. Focht is very deserving of this award because of his significant contributions to the field of exercise psychology,” said Donna Pastore, one of Focht’s nominators and a professor of kinesiology in the college’s Department of Human Sciences. “He is a dedicated scholar and teacher, and Ohio State is fortunate to have him as a faculty member.”

Since joining the college in 2009, Focht has established himself as a leading exercise psychologist, particularly as it relates to his primary research focus: lifestyle/behavioral medicine interventions within a physical activity and dietary context.

His interest areas have, in recent years, focused on exercise oncology and weight management in chronic disease prevention and management and the effects of exercise on quality of life and psychological well-being.

Focht’s research team forms the Exercise and Behavioral Medicine Laboratory within the college, and he is an associate member of the Cancer Control Program at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital. He is also a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and a Fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine.

Focht’s nominators wrote of him, “Beyond the focal outcomes of interest, Dr. Focht assesses the theoretical mediators/mechanisms that are proposed to foster intervention effects…. A surprisingly low proportion of intervention efforts include this feature…. and as a result fail to offer the depth of understanding of intervention effectiveness necessary for successful extension or translation efforts.”

“By going to the trouble in his own work, Dr. Focht offers highly meaningful contributions to the exercise psychology and behavioral medicine knowledge base.”

The nominators were, in addition to Pastore - Tim Gavin, professor and head of the Department of Health and Kinesiology, Purdue University; Alan L. Smith, dean, Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services, Utah State University; and Nancy I. Williams, professor and head, Department of Kinesiology, Pennsylvania State University.

Focht joins five other currently active faculty in the college’s Department of Human Sciences who are Fellows of the academy: Jackie Goodway (2020), Donna Pastore (2017), Samuel Hodge (2016), Philip Ward (2015) and Carl Maresh (2005). The breadth of their expertise attracts graduate students to the program, which is ranked No. 10 nationally by the National Academy.

“Serving in the Exercise and Behavioral Medicine Laboratory under Dr. Focht has been a unique and rewarding experience,” said Zachary Chaplow, doctoral candidate and graduate research associate. “His lab adopts a holistic model of lifestyle intervention research, allowing for students and young professionals with diverse interests to pursue their passion.”

“Dr. Focht ensures lab members are provided with valuable opportunities to build practical skills working with participants to improve health and well-being, while also mastering occupational skills required for a successful future career.”

Research on interventions for knee osteoarthritis patients

Currently, Focht is wrapping up a five-year grant of $2.8 million from the National Institute on Aging, a division of the National Institutes of Health. Starting in 2016, he and Kevin Hackshaw, MD, of Ohio State’s College of Medicine, developed effective and sustainable interventions in health promotion and disease prevention activities for patients with knee osteoarthritis, especially those who are overweight.

Knee osteoarthritis is a primary cause of mobility disability in the United States. Obesity is a primary risk factor for its progression. However, access to comprehensive weight management programs for overweight patients with this type of osteoarthritis has been limited.

The study, Comprehensive Lifestyle Intervention Program for Knee Osteoarthritis Patients, included a randomized, controlled trial in collaboration with the Central Ohio Arthritis Foundation. The goal was to determine which of two exercise and dietary weight loss programs was more effective. One program is the foundation’s Walk With Ease.

The other program, developed by Focht, is shown by preliminary data to be a safe, effective approach that produces superior improvements in mobility disability, as well as weight loss, pain reduction and improved quality of life. It works for knee osteoarthritis patients as well as obese older adults at risk for mobility disability.

If Focht’s exercise and dietary weight loss program shows benefits over the Arthritis Foundation’s program, the results could alter the foundation’s approach to the management of the functional consequences and symptoms of knee osteoarthritis in communities nationwide.

The latest research: An intervention to reduce cancer risk among rural Ohioans

In April, the American Institute on Cancer Research awarded Focht and Electra Paskett, MD, of Ohio State’s Comprehensive Cancer Center, a grant to study a weight management intervention with exercise and dietary components for rural Ohioans who are overweight or obese.

The 15-week, telephone-based lifestyle intervention for people living in rural Ohio and experiencing obesity is expected to result in participant weight loss, as well as improved body composition, lipid profiles and inflammation biomarkers,

An Intervention to Reduce Cancer Risk and Health Disparities in Under-served Rural Populations will include a group-mediated activity especially tailored to the rural population. Recruitment is currently underway.

Prior research, service to college and field

In an earlier grant project, the IDEA-P trial, Focht showed that men on hormone therapy for prostate cancer may benefit significantly from hitting the gym with fellow patients and choosing more vegetables and fewer cheeseburgers.

While Focht’s comprehensive exercise and diet program in a group setting wasn’t the first to show that exercise is good for prostate cancer patients and survivors, it was the first to use this type of group approach and among the first to focus also on diet.

In addition to his faculty teaching and research, Focht serves his department as vice chair, providing leadership for faculty and research affairs. He is also chair for the department’s Human Development and Family Sciences Program.

He serves the field, for instance, as a standing member of the National Institutes of Health’s Lifestyle Change and BehavioraI Health Study Section, which reviews and recommends proposals for grants from the agency.

The National Academy of Kinesiology is an honorary organization composed of fellows who have moved the field of kinesiology forward through their distinguished and sustained contributions through scholarship and professional service.

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