Leah Elizabeth Robinson

Leah Elizabeth Robinson

Leah Elizabeth



Associate Professor
Auburn University

Professional Bio

Dr. Robinson received her B.S. in Physical Education and Biology from North Carolina Central University (Durham, NC; 2000). She completed both her M.S and Ph.D. from The Ohio State University (Columbus, OH; 2002; 2007). Her advanced degrees are in Exercise Science and Human Motor Behavior.

Dr. Robinson is a certified Physical Education teacher who is devoted to understanding the underlying factors that influence motor skill development, physical activity participation, and weight status in preschool- and school-age children. Her academic background provides the opportunity for her to understand the underlying physiological, environmental, and psychosocial factors that affect children’s participation in movement and physical activity, along with interventions to promote movement and physical activity.

Since joining the faculty at Auburn University in 2007, she has worked collaboratively with the local school district and head start centers. Dr. Robinson has received several seed grants to support various research projects that examine psychosocial influences on physical activity and motor skills in preschool- and school-age children. This past fall, she served as Co-Investigators on a NIH grant sponsored by the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (1R03HD058792-01A1). The grant investigated the effects of school-based physical education program on physical activity participation in K – 2nd graders.

Dr. Robinson is well published and has received several national honors/recognitions for her scholarship. She also completed a completed a two-year summer research fellowship with the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to study cardiovascular health disparities (SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, NY).

Project Description

Regular participation in physical activity aids in reducing childhood obesity and is a national priority. More than 95% of children are enrolled in schools, providing a viable community setting for engaging children in daily physical activity. To help combat the obesity epidemic, the US government issued a mandate, under the Child Nutrition and Women Infants and Children Reauthorization Act of 2004, requiring school districts participating in the National School Lunch Program to create a Local Wellness Policy. In 2009, the state of Alabama Board of Education implemented a physical education policy to promote school-day physical activity. Specifically, schools must abide by maintaining the minimum course content outlined in the NASPE guidelines and schools serving K-6th graders must provide daily, physical education for a minimum of 30 minutes per day by a certified physical education instructor along with a recess or lunchtime activities in addition to physical education time. This policy change is a direct attempt by the state Board of Education to engage children in more physical activity during school hours; however, these policies are not implemented by the legislation. The extent to which the policy is implemented, the barriers associated with the implementation of the policy, and the impact of the policy on children physical activity and weight has not been assessed. This aim of this study isto investigate the role of state and school mandated physical activity policies on students’ school-day physical activity behaviors.

Why I Applied to New Connections

I was motivated to apply Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Active Living Research-New Connections program to have the opportunity to network with other junior investigators with similar research interests. As a tenure-tracked Assistant Professor in a research-intensive university, it is important to my professional development and research career growth. The New Connections Programs will strengthen my skills as an independent researcher. The New Connections program will contribute to my research scholarship. More importantly, I anticipate that the New Connections Program will be valuable for future collaborations and intellectual discourse as it relates to physical activity in pediatric populations along with risk factors (co-morbidities) associated with physical inactivity and obesity. The program will enable for me to expand my research skills in the area of physical activity assessment and qualitative methodology. My mentors and collaborators are: Dr. Danielle D. Wadsworth (Auburn University), Dr. David R. Bassett, Jr. (University of Tennessee “” Knoxville), and Dr. Jeffery S. Hallam (University of Mississippi).

What New Connections Means for my Career

The New Connections program will help me establish a professional support network that is vital to increasing my chances of becoming a successful, independent researcher. As a grantee, I have been truly amazed by the support given to support the research agenda of junior investigators. In addition to financially supporting our research, the New Connections and Active Living Research staff are genuinely interested in mentoring us as we mature as researchers. The program will allow me to make invaluable contacts with colleagues across the country, as well as tapped into professional development and research resources. I look forward to expanding my professional and research contacts along with my research skills through the New Connections program.

Research Interests

My research agenda focuses on environmental and behavioral influences on motor skill development, physical activity, and cardiovascular health in pediatric populations and the implementation of interventions to promote motor skills and physical activity in these individuals. At a time when childhood obesity is at epidemic proportions and many children are physically inactive, it is essential that we identify ways in to promote movement and motivate physical activity in children and youth. I believe that in order for children to be physically active and healthy, they must be competent movers. If a child does not possess competence in these prerequisites, they will be unable to apply them across their lifespan and will not actively engaged physical activity. The theoretical underpinning of my work is derived from Newell’s Constraints Model and Social Ecological Framework. Using both approaches to guide methodological decisions, my research agenda is to understand the constraints of motor development and to implement effective interventions in schools that promotes motor development and physical activity. Future directions will focus on facilitating behaviors within the home and family. To date, my research has shown that young children for under-resourced (medical, environmental, socio-economic) areas face significant barriers to physical activity, timely motor development, and the ability to engage in an active and healthy lifestyle. These barriers place them at-risk of poor health and the onset of adult- related illnesses (i.e., hypertension, type II diabetes). The developmental trajectories of these children are of concern because theoretically they may become physically inactive that contributes to an increase risk of obesity and life course diseases. Thus, early interventions that yield significant and positive improvements are essential.


Kinesiology, Exercise Science

Populations Served

The target population for this preliminary project will investigate state mandated physical education policies in under resourced communities in the Black Belt region of the United States. The Black Belt region is a crescent-shape region of prairies and dark soil that extends from southwest Tennessee through Mississippi and then east through Alabama. The region is characterized as a low socio-economic area where residents have less access to preventive and healthcare services (Bennett, Olatosi, & Probst, 2008). Additionally, the Black Belt region has a high concentration of African Americans, who commonly face severe poverty, low educational attainment, poor health care, and adverse cardiovascular health outcomes (Wimberley and Morris, 2003). Specifically, these individuals demonstrate a higher prevalence of diabetes, hypertension, stroke, physical inactivity, and obesity. To date, no studies have been identified that investigate school physical activity policies that are designed to promote physical activity in the Black Belt Region. The population will be elementary schools located in Macon County School District (Macon County, Alabama).

Honors and Awards

2011 The Ohio State University New Leader Award (2011)

2011 Fellow Status in AAHPERD Research Consortium (National)

2010 Affiliate African American Collaborative Obesity Research Network (AACORN) (National)

2010 Mabel Lee Award (National, AAHPERD)

2010 Lolas Halverson Motor Development and Learning
Young Investigator Award (National; AAHPERD)

2009 Hally Beth Poindexter Young Scholar and Keynote Lecturer (National; NAKPEHE)

2008 National Institute of Health –National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Cardiovascular Health Disparities Research Fellow (National)

2008 Early Career Award (Auburn University)

2006 Young Professional Award (National, AAHPERD)

2006 Phi Lambda Theta Research Award (National)

2006 Kluka-Love Award for Young Scholars, Honorable Mention (International)

2005 Holmes Scholar(National)



Rudisill, M. E.,Robinson, L. E., and Yi, S. (in press). Adolescence growth and development. In D. Cothran (Ed.),Learning for a Lifetime: Effective Secondary Physical Education Programs.

Robinson, L. E.& Wadsworth, D. D. (2010). Chapter 8: Music and movement/physical activity. In N. R. Robinson & S. N. Hall (Eds.), Integration: Music Connections to Enhance the Elementary Classroom Instruction.Dubuque, IA: Kendall Hunt Publishing.

Williams, K., Payne, G., & Robinson, L. E. (2010). Chapter 3: Motor development. In B. Mohnsen (Ed.), Concepts and principles of physical education: What every student needs to know. Reston, VA: National Association for Sport and Physical Education.

Peer Refereed Articles
Robinson, L. E. (in press). Relationship between perceived physical competence and motor competence in children. Child: Care, Health, and Development.

Robinson, L. E. (in press). Effect of a mastery climate motor program on object control skills and perceived physical competence in preschoolers. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport.

Robinson, L. E.,Wadsworth D. D., & *Peoples, C. M. (in press). Correlates of school-day physical activity in preschoolers: A preliminary study. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport.

Robinson, L. E.& Wadsworth, D. D. (2010). Stepping toward physical activity requirements: Integrating pedometers into early childhood settings. Early Childhood Education Journal, 38, 95 – 102.

Goodway, J. D., Robinson, L. E., and Crowe, H. (2010). Gender differences in fundamental motor skill development in preschoolers from two geographical regions who are disadvantaged. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 81, 17 – 24.

Robinson, L. E., & Goodway, J. D. (2009). Instructional climates in preschool children who are at-risk. Part I: Object control skill development.Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 80, 533 – 542.

Robinson, L. E., Rudisill, M. E., & Goodway, J. D. (2009). Instructional climates in preschool children who are at-risk. Part II: Perceived physical competence. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 80, 543 – 551.

Robinson, L. E.,& Goodway, J. D. (2006). Is your school a “no child left ‘on their’ behind” school? Tips to promote an active school environment. Principal, 86, 1 – 4.

Robinson, L. E.,Devor, S. T., Merrick, M. A., & Buckworth, J. (2004). The effects of land versus aquatic plyometrics on power, torque, velocity, and muscle soreness. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 18, 84-91.

Other Personal Links


The Details
  • New Connections Status: Junior Investigator
  • Award Year: 2011, Active Living Research
  • RWJF Team/Portfolio: Childhood Obesity
  • Project Name: The Role of School and Physical Education Policy on Children’s Physical Activity in Alabama’s Black Belt Region.

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