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 is cross-trained in exercise physiology and epidemiology, with over a decade of experience in physical activity and chronic disease epidemiology. Her research portfolio consists of two key areas of inquiry. First, is the development and evaluation of methodological strategies to optimize the precision of physical activity and sedentary behavior measures for use in population-based studies. The second is to examine the role and timing of physical activity and physical fitness with risk of subsequent disease and disability using a life-course epidemiologic framework. The majority of her scholarly work targets the mid to late life transition as it represents a critical period when individuals are at immediate risk for chronic disease manifestation. Dr. Gabriel is a tenured Associate Professor in the Department of Epidemiology, Human Genetics and Environmental Sciences at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Public Health in Austin and holds adjunct faculty appointments at The University of Texas at Austin in the Department of Women’s Health (Dell Medical School) and Department of Kinesiology and Health Education (College of Education). She is also the Coordinator of Research for the Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living, and is a member of the Executive Committee. She has published over 130 peer-review articles and four textbook chapters (all first author); two of which focused on physical activity assessment methodology. She currently serves, or has served, as Principal Investigator (PI) on projects funded by the American College of Sports Medicine (2007-08), American Institute for Cancer Research (2010-12), American Heart Association (2014-15), and National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (2015-16), and National Institute on Aging (2015-16). Dr. Gabriel also collaborates with several multi-site longitudinal studies; providing oversight and support specific to: study design, data collection and data reduction and processing protocols, and statistical handling of physical activity related measures. These collaborations include the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA), Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC), and Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN) V. She is Co-Chair of the CARDIA Physical Activity and Fitness Working Group, and member of the SWAN Physical Functioning Working Group, the ARIC Physical Functioning-Aging Workgroup, the Jackson Heart Study Healthy Aging Working Group, and the ARIC-Jackson Heart Study Joint Physical Functioning Group. Dr. Gabriel is a Fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine and was a presenter and expert panelist for the Measurement of Active and Sedentary Behaviors: Closing the Gaps in Self-Report Methods workshop sponsored by the National Cancer Institute, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other national-level organizations.

In summary, she explains, “Physical activity is a powerful agent for primary and tertiary 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 behavior to optimize physical fitness and 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

Foot-based audit of streets adjacent to new light rail stations in Houston, Texas: Measurement of health-related characteristics of the built environment for physical activity research.

(Oluyomi AO*, Knell G, Durand CP*, Mercader C, Salvo D*, Sener IN, Gabriel K, Hoelscher DM, Kohl HW. BMC Public Health. 2019, 19:238.)

Prevalence and likelihood of meeting sleep, physical activity, and screen-time guidelines among US youth

(Knell G, Durand CP, Kohl III HW, Wu I, Gabriel KP. JAMA Pediatrics. 2019 February; PMID: 30715096. PMCID: PMC6450269. DOI: doi: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2018.4847)

Bikeability: Assessing the Objectively Measured Environment in Relation to Recreation and Transportation Bicycling

(Porter AK, Kohl HW III, Pérez A, Reininger B, Gabriel KP, Salvo D. Environ Behav.)

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)

Long term weight loss and metabolic health in adults concerned with maintaining or losing weight: findings from NHANES

(Knell G, Qing L, Gabriel KP, Shuval K. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 2018 November; 93(11):1611-1616. PMID 30119916. PMCID: PMC6526934. DOI: doi: 10.1016/j.mayocp.2018.04.018.)

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.