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James Skinner

Last modified: Wednesday, May 21, 2003

IUB exercise physiologist says being active and fit not the same

Being active is not the same as being fit when it comes to exercise, according to James Skinner, a nationally recognized exercise physiologist at Indiana University Bloomington.

Skinner recently discussed genetics, health and fitness during a presentation at the IU School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, where he is a professor of kinesiology. He has been studying exercise physiology for more than 30 years.

"The process of being active is more important than the product of being fit," Skinner said. People with a low heart rate may think they are fit, "but this may be due to genetics and not any exercise program they follow," he explained. Two people can have the same level of fitness but be quite different in their activity. For example, he added, one person can be sedentary but genetically more fit, while the other can be genetically less fit but more active.

He said regular exercise is important when it comes to health. "Intensity of exercise is more important in training for fitness, but frequency is more important for health because there are benefits from being active on a regular basis," he said.

Skinner is a principal investigator on the largest fitness study ever supported by the National Institutes of Health. IU and four other universities are in the 11th year of the study of nearly 750 people.

The project findings from the nearly $30 million study have resulted in more than 100 published articles, and Skinner anticipates that another 150 articles will be published before the study is complete.

Skinner is a past president of the American College of Sports Medicine and is active with the International Federation of Sports Medicine and the International Council of Sport Science and Physical Education. He lectures throughout the world on exercise physiology.

Skinner is currently conducting his research near Phoenix, Ariz. He can be reached there at 480-659-5861 or