Earlier this month I hit the road to attend my first American College of Sports Medicine conference in San Francisco, California. The conference was awesome – 6000+ attendees, and all sorts of great talks.
Here are a couple of the things that stood out for me, as well as a few pictures:
People actually talked to me at my poster!
I know that it may seem like common sense that people would come talk to you during your poster session. I can say from experience that this is *not* necessarily the case. But this time I had a good number of people who dropped by to ask questions or pick up a copy of my paper, which was especially nice since it was the final session of the conference, and a beautiful day for sightseeing. I was presenting data from my recently published systematic review, (which I hope to discuss here on the blog in the very near future) and was very excited that several people, including some folks I’ve wanted to meet for quite a while, dropped by to discuss my paper and the field in general (including one gentleman who really, really, hates cycling lanes…).
Recently the Sedentary Behaviour Research Network has begun branching out from the interwebs and into the real world, holding meetups at several recent conferences related to the study of human movement. This conference was no different, as Ernesto Ramirez organized a lunch meeting that was attended by 14 researchers from at least 3 different continents. It was a great opportunity to meet other researchers in this field of research, which is still in its infancy. It was very exciting to hear about some of the work that is currently being done around the world – there are some very cool projects coming down the pipelines that I can’t wait to discuss on the blog once they are published. Particularly interesting work is coming from the Premier League Health study in the UK, the Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns Study in Finland, and from the Baker IDI in Australia. If you are heading to a conference and would like to see whether any other sedentary behaviour researchers are interested in getting together for a meal or a beer, just head over to the SBRN website and leave a message on the list serve.
Why don’t sedentary behaviour researchers stand more?
At one of the sessions specifically devoted to sedentary behaviour, I noticed that a large number (I’d say roughly half) of the people in attendance chose to sit, rather than stand. That’s right – they were sitting down to learn about the health impact of sitting down. This was a “thematic poster” session, meaning that the audience moved from one poster to the next, as a group. Exactly the type of situation where it would make sense to stand, rather than sit, since you need to constantly shift positions anyway. There’s nothing wrong with sitting (I’m doing it right now) from time to time, but the fact that so many sedentary behaviour researchers chose to sit throughout this and other sessions (even after one researcher urged people to consider standing instead), even though it would have been more convenient to stand, shows just how entrenched sitting is in our culture.
Some of the best talks I attended were ones that I just happened to stumble into since there wasn’t anything happening related to my own work during the time slot. I heard a great talk on the impossible task of identifying people at risk for a cardiac event during endurance races (we can identify people who are at potential risk, but fortunately/unfortunately most of these “at risk” people will never have a cardiac event during exercise, which means that we’re really just scaring people away from exercise more than anything else), and an interesting debate on the benefits of stretching (as you might guess from our recent post on the topic, there isn’t much evidence supporting stretching, and not much in the pipeline since it’s not exactly a funding priority in most countries).
Since the conference was in San Francisco I also did the regular touristy things – taking in a Giants game (fantastic park to watch a ball game – especially compared to my memories of Expos games at Olympic Stadium) and renting a bike to cruise around town and across the Golden Gate bridge. Renting a bike is by far the best (and cheapest) way to see a new city, while also getting in some much needed physical activity. It is absolutely the way to go when you’re looking to relax at a conference.
I even had a chance to drop into the Public Library of Science headquarters to meet the folks who host our blogs and the others on our network. They were very nice, and just as importantly, they have standing computer stations – very cool! Not only that, but I got to have a beer with fellow PLoS blogger and professional science writer Steve Silberman, which was a real treat.
Thanks for the support!
Finally, I’d just like to thank the funders who made this trip possible. The Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Ottawa, the Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute, as well as the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Canadian Diabetes Association, both of whom support my PhD.
If anyone else was at ACSM this year I’d love to hear what you thought of the experience!