Susan Malone, New York University – Variety in Exercises

On New York University Week:  Should you change up your exercise routine?

Susan Malone, assistant professor of nursing, determines if doing different types of exercise can help you not get bored.

Susan Malone, PhD, is a senior research scientist at NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing. Her research focuses on bridging research in behavioral, biological, and environmental rhythms to chronotherapeutic interventions that mitigate type 2 diabetes risk and improve overall health. Motivated by her diverse clinical experiences, including in school nursing and outpatient diabetes education, her overarching goal is to promote health and prevent cardio-metabolic disease across the lifespan.

Malone has studied the relationship between several dimensions of sleep (duration, timing, chronotype, regularity), health behaviors, and body mass index in adolescents. She has also conducted several population-based studies examining relationships between these dimensions of sleep and chronic disease in adults and sleep disparities across ethno-racial groups. She is interested in understanding what factors make some people vulnerable and others resilient to sleep loss and disrupted circadian rhythms.

Among her honors, Malone received the Heilbrunn Nurse Scholar Award from Rockefeller University in 2014. She was the Research Poster Winner of the National Association of School Nurses Annual Conference in 2013.

Malone holds a PhD and MSN from the University of Pennsylvania and BSN from Georgetown University. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania.

Variety in Exercises

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You know the saying – Variety is the spice of life.

The idea behind this statement is that variety may help us stay on track to improving our health because we’re less likely to get bored with what we’re doing. Our research focused on evaluating this statement to see how habitual physical activity might benefit from some added spice. 

We analyzed data from a nationally representative sample of US adults to determine how being active in a greater number of different physical activities linked to meeting national physical activity guidelines. We found that people were more likely to meet these guidelines when they engaged in a greater variety of activity types.  People reporting two activities per month, like walking and cycling, were more likely to meet physical activity guidelines than people who just walked. The most active people reported five different types of activity per week. Bottom line- variety matters.

We think this is important because most US adults are physically inactive. Well-intentioned people struggle with initiating and maintaining physical activity habits and don’t realize that adding variety to the types of their activity may make it more sustainable. Walking is the most popular type of physical activity, but it may not be enough to keep us healthy over the long term.

These findings are interesting because it shows us that we must understand the nuances of habitual behaviors. US adults fail to meet national guidelines for many behaviors that are important for health. Just telling people to be physically active 150 minutes per week, to sleep 7-8 hours per night, or to limit sedentary behavior may not be enough.

Our research team’s overall goal is to identify the secret sauce for reaping the greatest health benefits from our behaviors around the clock – physical activity, sleeping, and sitting. 

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