Kelley Pettee Gabriel, PhD, MS, FACSM

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Associate Professor, Epidemiology, Human Genetics & Environmental Sciences
Coordinator of Research, Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living

Dr. Gabriel’s research program is concentrated in physical activity and chronic disease epidemiology. Maintaining this focus has allowed her to expand this growing field into new and exciting areas of research including: (1) developing assessment strategies using self-report and device-based (e.g., accelerometers) techniques that are suitable for population-based research, (2) identifying the biological mechanisms and dose-response relationships between physical activity and chronic disease biomarkers and outcomes, and (3) clarifying the role of physical activity during young adulthood and mid-life on the risk of chronic disease and disability in older adulthood. She comes to physical activity epidemiology from a background in Athletic Training / Exercise Science and Clinical Exercise Physiology. After earning her PhD in Epidemiology from the University of Pittsburgh, she completed her post-doctoral training at Arizona State University. In 2010, she moved to Austin to become faculty at UTHealth. In 2015, she became Associate Professor of Medicine in the Department of Women's Health at Dell Medical School.

Currently, Dr. Gabriel is working on several projects including the Houston Travel Related Activity in Neighborhoods (TRAIN) Study and is part of several multi-site, prospective cohort studies including the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA), Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study, and Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN). She is also a Principal Investigator on the CARDIA Activity Study and ARIC Physical Activity and Falls Study.

In summary, she explains, “Physical activity and exercise are powerful agents for primary prevention of chronic disease and disability. I strongly feel that it is my responsibility, as a physical activity epidemiologist, to “move the dial” on what is currently known about this vital behavior to reduce premature mortality and overall disease burden.”

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Current Projects

Houston TRAIN Study

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The Houston TRAIN (Transportation Related Activity in Neighborhoods) Study will examine the short and long-term effect of a new light rail transit (LRT) system on adults’ physical activity in Houston, Texas.

Recent Publications

Effect of media use on adolescent body weight.

(Cha EM*, Hoelscher DM, Ranjit N, Chen B, Gabriel KP, Kelder SH, Saxton DL. Preventing Chronic Disease. 2018, 15:E141. Doi: 10.5888/pcd15.180206)

Comparison of two generations of ActiGraph accelerometers: The CARDIA Study

(Whitaker KM, Pettee Gabriel K, Jacobs DR Jr, Sidney S, Sternfeld B; Med Sci Sports Exerc.; 2018)

The association between overweight, obesity, and low back pain in U.S. adults: a cross-sectional study of the 2015 National Health Interview Survey

(Peng T, Pérez A, Pettee Gabriel K; J Manipulative Physiol Ther.; 2018)

If you build it, will they come? A quasi-experimental evaluation of sidewalk improvements and changes in physical activity

(Knell G, Durand CP, Shuval K, Kohl HW 3rd, Salvo D, Olyuomi A, Gabriel KP; Transl J Am Coll Sports Med.; 2018)

The utility and cross-validation of a composite physical activity score in relation to cardiovascular health indicators: Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA)

(Gabriel, K., Pérez, A, Jacobs, D.R., Lee.J., Kohl, H.W. III, Hu, T., Sternfeld, B; Journal of Physical Activity and Health; 2018)

Recent News

Research reveals dangerous midlife switch of ditching activity to sit still

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People are falling into a trap of greater inactivity during middle age, according to new research from The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth), which calls for its findings to be considered in future national physical activity guidelines.

Higher Income Individuals Undertake Intense Physical Activity; More Sedentary

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New research paper co-authored by Center faculty Dr. Kelley Pettee Gabriel finds that higher income individuals are more likely to be “weekend warriors,” getting most of their activity on only a few days a week, and also spend more time in sedentary pursuits.