While Todd Hagobian’s research through the years has been published in several journals, none of them had an impact like his latest, initially published in the Journal of Applied Physiology and written about in The New York Times.
That study — conducted through the Cal Poly kinesiology department — focused on the impact exercise has on appetites.
“That one article in The New York Times had more readers than all of my publications in all these peer review journals,” he said.
Hagobian, who grew up in Fresno, has been an assistant professor at Cal Poly’s kinesiology department since 2009. Before that, he was a post-doctoral research fellow at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
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An avid bicyclist, Hagobian lives in San Luis Obispo with his wife, Nicole — who also teaches kinesiology at Cal Poly — and their two children.
We spoke to him at his Cal Poly office about exercise and his latest research.
Q: What got you into this field?
A: Like anyone in this field, I probably started exercising a lot and wanted to learn more about it. And then I realized the field is much bigger than performance. So I moved away from performance and more toward obesity management treatment and chronic disease.
Q: I see where you rode like five hours at a time in college.
A: It was really after college when I started doing it. And it wasn’t really five hours a day. On the weekends it was up to five to six hours. And in the week it was anywhere from one to two or three hours.
Q: Your wife is a pretty serious runner.
A: My wife is actually the professional in this family. She’s been to three Olympic trials (as a marathon runner) and she’s a sponsored runner.
Q: Did you two meet at a gym?
A: We met in Colorado. She was getting her Ph.D., and I was out there doing research for the summer. We were both from California, but we didn’t know each other before. We just hit it off.
Q: What’s the best exercise for weight control?
A: Most people who exercise, walk. It’s 60 minutes per day for weight control. It’s between 30 and 60, but if you want to make sure to prevent weight gain, you really need as close as you can to 60 minutes every day.
Q: As far as working out, what’s more important, the appetite suppressant or burning the calories while you’re working out?
A: When you walk for 60 minutes, it’s not that many calories. We’re talking about 300 or 400 calories. But if you have a suppressive affect that lasts for day or two days, that adds up for a lot of calories.
Q: If I play basketball, I don’t get hungry afterward. But if I surf, I’m ravenously hungry. Is there a difference in what you do?
A: Some of the data suggests there are differences between some sort of swimming activity — whether it’s surfing or swimming — versus other activity. Most people speculate that it actually has to do with changes in body temperature — that when you walk, run, bike, play basketball, there are big increases in body temperature and the suppression of appetite whereas if you swim, (there isn’t). Because in the water you don’t get quite the increase in body temperature and you tend to eat more afterward. There’s not much data on that, but that’s what I think it’s moving toward.
Q: Are you getting a lot of feedback from people? Are people challenging you?
A: I would say early on — when the study came out — I got a lot of emails. Publicity, questions, clarifications, and they wanted to see the research article. It’s kind of subsided now.There was an ACSM — which is the American College Sports Medicine — meeting in San Francisco, and I presented there, and some researchers were challenging it. But, you know, that’s part of the whole business. I’m actually glad people are reading it.
Q: What’s your exercise routine now?
A: I do 30 minutes a day, five days a week. And that is consistent with the American College of Sports Medicine recommendations to reduce your risk for a chronic disease.
Q: Like an exercise bike?
A: Running, typically, and I’ve been biking a little bit on the weekends. If I bike, I ride up Prefumo Canyon I’m perfectly fine with that. I’m OK with cutting back on the workout, doing this enough to be healthy and active and spending time with my kids and working the rest of the time.
Q: Do you have a fitness idol?
A: If I had to have one, in terms of athletes, it’s Lance Armstrong. And then, in terms of football players, it’s Jerry Rice. Jerry Rice his workouts were legendary. Lance worked really hard, too.