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  • Tips for Presenting an Award-Winning Poster at an ACSM Regional Chapter Meeting

    by Caitlin Kinser | Sep 26, 2022

    Woman talking to a man and pointing to a research posterAs graduate students, we spend tireless hours collecting data, gaining knowledge about our field, and learning new laboratory techniques (often into the wee hours of the morning). Conferences provide us an opportunity to finally showcase our hard work. Presenting your research at conferences is one of the best opportunities to tell your story as a graduate student.  

    This spring I presented a poster at the Rocky Mountain ACSM Regional Chapter meeting and was ultimately named the 2022 ACSM President’s Cup winner at the national annual meeting. However, long before I presented my poster at the Regional Chapter, I went through several iterations of red-inked proofreads. I learned a lot about what to do and what not to do. If you are planning to present a poster at an ACSM regional chapter meeting, consider these tips to increase the effectiveness of your presentation.

    Read every part of your poster out loud (even the references).

    Making errors when creating a poster is inevitable, but reading your poster out loud helps you catch these errors. Remember, your research should tell a story. As you read your poster out loud, listen and make sure your poster is clear and easy to follow from start to end. 

    Use fellow students as resources.

    Research is rarely completed alone, and therefore you should not complete your poster alone. Rely on your fellow students to proofread. Often other people can catch errors that you might miss, especially if you created the poster while sleep deprived (we have all been there!).

    Create a visually appealing poster.

    It is important to create a poster that stands out among the competition. Breaking up the text on your poster with scientific images is a key way to make your poster stand out. Consider supplementing your introduction section with an image demonstrating your aims and hypotheses or consider implementing a protocol schematic into your methods section. An excellent resource is BioRender. It is free and has thousands of relevant life-science icons.

    Set aside extra time to print your poster.

    Often when you print your poster, you will catch formatting errors or blurry images that you did not see on your computer screen. It is immensely helpful to have extra time to fix and re-print your poster when any of these issues arise. It is worth the time to fix these issues before you leave for your conference.

    Be familiar with the judging rubric.

    Seek out the judging rubric specific to the conference. For the ACSM regional chapter, the judging rubric equally weighs significance, innovation, project design, ability to respond to questions and poster design/presentation skills. It is important that you spend time working on each part. It is tempting to focus solely on the visual aspect of the rubric, but the oral aspect of the rubric is equally important.

    Craft a compelling elevator pitch.

    An elevator pitch is a quick (~30 second) synopsis of your research story that appeals to your audience.  Once you get the attention of your audience, you can go into detail about your experimental design and relevant results. When you are at the conference, there will come a point in time where the judge will approach your poster and ask you to explain your project. If done well, this is a moment where you can shine.
    lightbulb iconTIP: Implement the “ABT” formula (ABT=And, But, Therefore) to nail your elevator pitch. The “ABT” formula is a universal story structure which is highly successful in scientific communication. Use the word “and” to set up the scientific story by establishing a few facts. Next, use the word “but” to establish the problem or a gap in knowledge. Finally, use the word “therefore” to suggest the solution that your research attempts to address; you can think of this as your purpose statement.

    Field questions from people with a variety of backgrounds.

    The judges assigned to your poster will likely have diverse scientific backgrounds. Therefore, when preparing for your poster presentation, practice fielding questions from people with a variety of backgrounds. Present your poster to your mom, your classmates, your professors–heck, you could even present your poster to your crazy neighbor. Consider how someone from an industry perspective might perceive your research compared to someone from a molecular science perspective. Not only will this prepare you for any question you may receive, but it will also allow you to consider your research from a broader viewpoint.

    Make sure your poster adheres to the ACSM Regional Chapter guidelines.

    Every conference has slightly different poster guidelines. Make sure you follow the guidelines closely. Be familiar with specific poster requirements like the size requirements, inclusion/exclusion of an abstract and recommended sections headers. This is a small, but crucial, way to demonstrate your attention to detail.

    Ultimately, presenting your research at conferences is a fun opportunity to showcase your work and knowledge. When done well, a poster presentation can help you build a reputation as a highly rigorous scientist with impeccable research skills and attention to detail. Good luck as you prepare for ACSM regional chapter meetings!

    Watch Sophie's Winning presentation: "One Week of Time-Restricted Eating Improves Markers of Cardiometabolic Health in Healthy Adults."


    Sophie Seward, MS, is a Ph.D. candidate at Colorado State University in the Sleep and Metabolism Laboratory. She is specifically interested in the impact of lifestyle interventions to improve cardiovascular health such as exercise, diet, heat therapy and sleep in people at risk for cardiovascular impairments. She is the winner of the 2022 Presidents Cup at the ACSM Annual Meeting, representing the Rocky Mountain chapter. 
  • Capitalizing on Accelerometry to Measure Performance Fatigability in Older Adults

    by Greg Margason | Sep 23, 2022

    Capitalizing on Accelerometry to Measure Performance Fatigability in Older AdultsFatigability is not a new concept in the exercise physiology realm. Researchers have long paired physical activity measures with ratings of perceived exertion or contractions of isolated muscle groups during tasks to quantify self-reported or muscle fatigability. Of late, the term “fatigability” has evolved and is widely used in aging research to represent a whole-body trait of an individual’s vulnerability to fatigue anchored to standardized physical task(s) of specific duration and intensity. This represents a sensitive prognostic marker of deleterious aging. More severe fatigability is associated with lower physical activity levels, higher chronic inflammation, greater cardiovascular burden and brain atrophy. Importantly, older adults manifesting more severe fatigability are at greater risk for functional limitations, mobility decline, frailty and even death.

    Fatigability is highly prevalent, with more than one in four older adults ≥ 60 years of age reporting feeling more severe physical fatigability in their everyday life. Sensitive and validated tools exist to measure perceived fatigability (i.e., what an individual thinks they can do). A common method is to rate one’s perceived effort following a standardized physical task or via self-administered questionnaire (e.g., Pittsburgh Fatigability Scale) that includes physical activities ranging across type, intensity and duration. Another construct of fatigability, performance fatigability (i.e., what an individual does do), is quantified as decline in velocity or decrement in performance during a physical task (primarily walking-based). However, the assessment of performance fatigability lacks validated objective measurements. With advances in technology and statistical methods, we can now detect detailed features of walking patterns with wearable devices. Thus, we developed the Pittsburgh Performance Fatigability Index (PPFI) to objectively quantify performance deterioration during in-lab walking tasks using accelerometry.

    Our study, published in the October 2022 issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise®, described the derivation of the PPFI using wrist-worn tri-axial raw accelerometer data. Conceptually, PPFI quantifies the percentage of cadence decline during a walking task from participants’ own maximal cadence. We applied PPFI in a study of 63 older adults (mean age 78 years, 56% women) and calculated PPFI scores during fast-paced and usual-paced 400-meter walks. The PPFI scores from both types of walks were associated with physical function, gait speed, chair-stands speed, physical fitness and mobility. Collectively, these findings revealed that PPFI is a valid and sensitive objective measure of performance fatigability for older adults.

    The novelties of the PPFI include the objectiveness of quantifying granular-level slowing down and the ability to compare scores across various in-lab walking tasks. Using accelerometry makes it easier to measure performance fatigability in large population-level studies, and more importantly it enables an early detection of minimal performance decrement to inform clinical decisions. Additionally, utilizing accelerometry opens up the potential to continuously monitor fatigability in real-world settings as older adults tend to over-perform in the lab. Objectively measuring performance fatigability “in the wild” may better represent what one can actually do. Including PPFI in future studies and clinical practice can deepen our understanding of causes and potential therapeutic targets to ameliorate the adverse effects of fatigability in older adults to prevent disablement, mitigate disease burden and promote healthy aging.

    Nancy GlynnNancy W. Glynn, Ph.D., is an associate professor of epidemiology and director of master’s degree programs at the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health. She is a physical activity epidemiologist with advanced training in exercise physiology. Dr. Glynn’s work focuses on novel methods of measuring fatigability and physical activity in older adults to understand their role in the disablement pathway. She designed and validated the novel Pittsburgh Fatigability Scale, a widely used tool to measure perceived physical and mental fatigability in older adults that is currently available in 16 languages. Dr. Glynn is a member of ACSM and serves as chair of the Aging Interest Group.

    Yujia Susanna Qiao
    Yujia (Susanna) Qiao, Sc.M.
    , is a doctoral student in the University of Pittsburgh Department of Epidemiology. She is trained as an epidemiologist and specializes in accelerometry, physical activity, physical function and aging. Her research interests center on wearable technology for human health and performance monitoring. Her dissertation work focuses on utilizing accelerometer-derived gait patterns to understand the disablement pathway. She plans to graduate in 2023 and is excited to apply her current research to real-world big data.

    Viewpoints presented in SMB commentaries reflect opinions of the authors and do not necessarily represent ACSM positions or policies. Active Voice authors who have received financial or other considerations from a commercial entity associated with their topic must disclose such relationships at the time they accept an invitation to write for SMB.

  • 11 Tips for Instructors Bringing Students to ACSM Regional Chapter Meetings

    by Caitlin Kinser | Sep 22, 2022
    11 tips or students attending ACSM regional chapter meetings

    One of the best parts of being a faculty mentor is taking students to regional conferences. You get to show them inspiring scientific content and introduce them to peers and colleagues who share their passion for sports medicine and exercise science. 

    If you’re planning to take students to an ACSM regional chapter meeting, consider these tips to help maximize their conference experience. 

    1. Review the conference program beforehand. 

    Conferences can be overwhelming, but reviewing the program before you attend helps set you up for success. This is especially important for first-time attendees. Discuss the different types of sessions (e.g., symposium, tutorial, thematic poster) with your students and help them choose which sessions they want to attend. You can even highlight a few presentations that you personally plan to attend or that you think would be good for your students to check out. 

    2. Have your students think about their goals for the conference. 

    Ask your students why they are attending the conference and what they hope to accomplish there. Having goals will allow them to be more intentional with their meeting experience. 

    3. Help them develop a personal “elevator pitch.” 

    As faculty, we all have our own “elevator pitches.” We’ve been doing our work for a while and understand what role we play in the advancement of our field. Our students, however, are relatively new to the discipline and may not know exactly who they are as professionals and what they hope to accomplish. Ask your students to think about who they are, what they’ve accomplished, and what they hope to do next in the context of our field. 

    4. Remind them it’s okay to step out of one presentation to attend another. 

    Often, there are several interesting presentations going on at once. Remind your students it’s perfectly fine to step out of one presentation to attend another. Just try to be respectful — sit in the back or close to the aisle, and try to move when the speakers are switching. 

    5. Encourage them to show up to their lab mates’ sessions. 

    Remind your students that friendly faces in the audience help calm nerves, and that they’d want the same support. 

    6. Remind them to talk with the conference’s student representatives. 

    The student representatives are great contacts. At SEACSM, our student reps help answer questions about where sessions are located and also put on a 5K —and this year we are looking to do a student bingo game to help encourage students to meet peers and other conference attendees. 

    7. Ask your students to identify one or two presenters they would like to network with personally. 

    Networking is one of the most important things students can do for their careers because you never know when you’ll meet someone again, especially in our field! Encourage your students to meet one or two new people, learn more about their research and find common ground. Encourage them to talk about research, but also try to make a personal connection — finding something they have in common outside of academia can help students feel more at ease and like they belong. 

    8. Encourage them to say yes to opportunities that might arise. 

    You never know where one “yes” will lead you. Encourage your students to make connections with researchers outside of your school. It could jumpstart their career. 

    9. Remind your students to follow up with people they connected with. 

    While making connections at the conference is important, you need to follow up on them. Make sure your students find a way to connect with contacts after the conference, whether via LinkedIn or email. Faculty should also consider creating an easy way to provide people with their contact information, like a QR code that links to a PDF that includes their abstract, email address and Twitter handle. 

    10. Check in with your students. 

    Conferences can be a little overwhelming. Take the time to check in with your students and see how they feel the event is going. 

    11. Finally, remind them to have a great time!

    Learn About Regional Chapter Meetings

    Bhibha M. Das, Ph.D., MPH, FACSM, is a public health and physical activity practitioner and researcher with over a decade of experience in the field. Prior to joining academia, she spent four years working with communities, including underserved and rural ones, to develop, implement and evaluate physical activity promotion programs and policies. Dr. Das’s research agenda focuses on physical activity promotion as the cornerstone for improvements in quality of life in a variety of populations. Das earned degrees in public health and kinesiology from the University of Illinois and is currently an associate professor in the Department of Kinesiology at East Carolina University as well as a fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine® (ACSM). She also serves as member-at-large in the Southeast Chapter of ACSM (SEACSM). 

    Katherine (Katie) E. Spring, M.S., is a doctoral candidate in Dr. Danielle Wadsworth’s Exercise Adherence and Obesity Prevention Lab at Auburn University. While at Auburn, she has been elected to serve as student representative for SEACSM as well as ACSM’s Student Affairs Committee. She received her master’s and bachelor’s degrees from Mississippi State University. Prior to attending Mississippi State, she received her associate’s degree from Holmes Community College, where she also played for the college tennis team. Her research primarily focuses on the effects of physical activity and play on physical, behavioral and learning outcomes in young children. 

  • Combating Obesity as a Family

    by Greg Margason | Sep 22, 2022
    Combating Obesity as a Family

    Obesity is one of those diseases that just breaks my heart. After almost 24 years in the health care field, I have not personally witnessed a reduction in this “lifestyle” disease, and the official statistics in the U.S. and worldwide don’t reflect that much progress has been made toward prevention. There are many reasons why obesity remains pervasive, and in many cases it occurs within families — parents, children and often extended family members. When talking about children, the age range is up to 18 years old, and I’m going to do my best to be as inclusive as possible, recognizing that developmentally, there are differences.

    My infamous soundbite is that diet and exercise are the least invasive, least expensive and most effective ways of preventing and treating obesity. One of the biggest challenges that we health care professionals have is the abundance of misinformation and so-called experts that perpetuate fads around food, diet and even exercise. Wellness professionals spend quite a bit of time correcting these inaccuracies. Here is what we do know: Parents should lead by example, adopting and practicing healthy lifestyle habits and behaviors. We can learn from the centenarian or longevity regions of the world: eat predominantly plant-based foods with small amounts of animal-sourced protein, participate in physical activity daily, get a good night’s sleep, minimize stress, have loving relationships, be a part of a community, have a purpose, and avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.

    Children can be picky eaters — and so can adults. It can take up to 10 exposures to a food before a child may like the food. I always tell families, “Do not be a short-order cook.” You are not a diner offering 500 items on a menu each day. However, when trying new foods, make sure there is at least one thing that everyone is willing to consume at the meal. Most important — this is for the whole family — try to eat food closer to the way it’s found in nature, and cut back on processed foods. Beverages should be predominantly water, 100% fruit juice or milk — no soda, and avoid non-nutritive sweeteners. A great way to develop important life skills is to let your children help you with meal preparation. Stop bribing children with sweets or desserts like cakes, cookies, candy or ice cream!

    However, if a child is overweight or obese, do not discuss their body weight with them unless they bring it up. Developing positive self-esteem in children can be challenging. One of the worst things adults can do is criticize their own bodies or let their children see or hear them talking about their body weight. Limit technology time, and try to ensure your children get at least eight hours of sleep each night. Sleep is when the body can rest, repair and renew cells!

    Let’s get moving — together! Remember, when discussing movement, let’s use the less-threatening term “physical activity” rather than “exercise.” Assuming everyone is ambulatory, there is no reason to sit or lay down all day long. Assuming kids have not been raised with the TV or technology as their sole source of entertainment or babysitting, most have a lot of energy and love to run around and play. Physical activity as a family includes all movement, even chores around the house: cleaning and yard work count! Try taking a walk together, turning on music and dancing. Better yet, especially in a public playground, get on the swings and pump your legs, try to get across the monkey bars, climb up a ladder and then use the ladder to get back down. Children can walk, jog, bike, board or skate — and so can adults! Take a hike, go to a park that has trails — some even have fit trails with specific exercise stations. Track your steps, and let your kids do the same. Determine the distance and make a game out of it — how many steps would it take to walk across the country? — and determine your family’s progress.

    Don’t always park in the closest spot in a parking lot. Get your children accustomed to walking! Teach your kids to take the stairs instead of the elevator, assuming it’s safe. Safe places to walk and play are important. If it can’t be done outside, doing it indoors is the default. Encourage children to PLAY! Until high school, my son’s favorite “subject” was gym or PE. If you have the means, enroll them in sports or classes like dance, yoga or martial arts. Virtual reality arcades have fabulous games that get everyone up and moving! Let kids take the dog out for a walk rather than just letting your pooch loose in the back yard.

    My philosophy has been that it is much easier to prevent overweight and obesity than it is to treat them. Modeling appropriate lifestyle behavior choices is foundational. It does not guarantee that your child will always mimic your actions, but at least you are doing it for yourself and exposing your children to it. Physical activity is not about weight — it’s about building bones and muscles, improving cardiopulmonary function, improving mental health, helping with sleep and maintaining appropriate blood sugar and cholesterol.

    Let’s give our children the foundation for a lifetime of good health — the habits and behaviors established by the age of 20 impact one’s health over 40!

    Related Content: 
    Resource | ACSM Sports Medicine Basics: Childhood Overweight & Obesity
    Blog | Physical Activity: A Key Lifestyle Behavior for Prevention of Weight Gain and Obesity
    Pronouncement | Physical Activity and the Prevention of Weight Gain in Adults: A Systematic Review

    Felicia Stoler
    Dr. Felicia Stoler, DCN, M.S., RDN, FACSM
    , is a registered dietitian nutritionist, exercise physiologist and expert consultant in disease prevention, wellness and healthful living. She has a bachelors from Tulane University (N’89), a masters in applied physiology and nutrition from Columbia University and doctorate in clinical nutrition from Rutgers University. Felicia is Fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine, a Fellow of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, a Diplomate in Lifestyle Medicine (ACLM); and a Council member of the True Health Initiative. She authored ACSM’s Sports Medicine Basics on Childhood Obesity.

  • Student Loan Cancellation: What You Need To Do Sooner Than Later

    by Caitlin Kinser | Sep 21, 2022

    student loan cancellation: what you need to knowIn August, President Biden announced that many federal student loan borrowers would be eligible for loan cancellation. While more details on implementation are expected in the coming weeks, here’s what we know now. 

    Borrowers making less than $125,000 per year individually or $250,000 per year for married couples are eligible to have up to $10,000 in student loans cancelled. Borrowers that received a Pell Grant as part of their student aid package are eligible for up to $20,000 in cancellation. 

    All loans must be federal student loans to qualify, including subsidized and unsubsidized Direct loans, Parent Plus loans and graduate school loans. Private student loans aren’t eligible for cancellation. There is no employment requirement or minimum number of payments required to receive this student loan cancellation. 

    To get cancellation, you’ll need to submit an online application, expected to launch in October. Sign up here to receive email updates when the form is ready online. Loans are expected to be cancelled within 4-6 weeks of application. Applying by Nov. 15, 2022, should ensure that your loans are cancelled and any remaining balance re-amortized before loan payments resume in 2023. 

    If you’re one of the 9 million people who made payments during the pandemic forbearance (March 2020 to Dec. 31, 2022), you can request a refund for those payments and then apply for student loan cancellation. Contact your loan servicer to request a refund. 

    Visit to check your loan balances, find your loan server, update your contact information and see if you were a Pell Grant recipient. 

    PSLF 2.0 — It’s worth a second look  

    If you expect to still have a loan balance after receiving the cancellation described above, consider the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. We’ve all heard the struggles of the PSLF program over the past 10+ years. I’m here to tell you to ignore what you’ve heard. Recent changes to the PSLF program have temporarily expanded eligibility to qualify for loan forgiveness; however, this opportunity ends Oct. 31, 2022 so act quickly. 

    Some of the basic requirements remain the same — you have to be working full time in public service (nonprofit, government, public universities, etc.) for a qualifying employer and have made 120 payments on your Direct Loans or Direct Consolidation Loans. 

    The most important temporary change now credits payments that previously didn’t count toward the required 120 payments. This includes payments made on a variety of federal student loan types, payments under any repayment plan, late payments and more. Additionally, forbearance periods and economic hardship deferment may also be credited toward your total payment count, including the pandemic forbearance period. Periods of default and in-school deferment still don’t qualify. 

    Even if you haven’t qualified for PSLF before, it’s worth your time to explore the temporary eligibility expansion and see if you qualify for loan forgiveness, but you must act now before the expansion expires. 

    Tips for PSLF success 

    I personally went through the PSLF process a few years ago after completing all of the requirements for the original eligibility. While it was a difficult process then, the lessons I learned can help you with today’s PSLF. 

    • Read all the details. The PSLF website has a lot of information, and it can seem overwhelming. Read it anyway. 

    • Follow the instructions exactly. There have been stories of people getting rejected for not following the date format or something equally miniscule. Don’t let that be your story. 

    • Get hand-written signatures, not digital signatures. 

    • Be a squeaky wheel and your own advocate. If you call your loan servicer and you’re not getting the information or progress you need, ask for a supervisor firmly and politely. You may need to ask more than once. 

    • If you run into a roadblock, ask your loan servicer if there’s an escalation team that can review your account to clarify which payments qualify. 

    • Keep meticulous notes through every step. Note who you talk to, when, what they said, and any steps or dates they give you. 

    Finally, don’t forget the pandemic forbearance expires on Dec. 31, 2022. If you still have a loan balance at that time, you will need to resume loan payments. Even if you don’t qualify for student loan cancellation or PSLF, you may benefit from changes to repayment plans, discretionary income thresholds, and interest rate coverage

    Gretchen Patch, MPH, CPH, is ACSM's Senior Director of Strategic Health Initiatives and Partnerships. Her public health expertise has guided the ACSM American Fitness Index report since 2018 and helped to lead ACSM's strategy to protect its staff and members throughout the pandemic.