Hilton Endowed Chair

Dean Helen LeBaron Hilton Endowed Chair 

I-Min Lee

About half of all adults, or 117 million people, have at least one chronic health condition according to the latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A Harvard Medical School researcher will explain how physical activity can reduce the rate of chronic illness during the Hilton Chair Lecture at Iowa State University.

I-Min Lee is a professor of medicine and a leading researcher on the role of physical activity in preventing chronic diseases and enhancing longevity. Her free, public presentation, “Physical Activity: Wonder Drug for Chronic Disease Prevention,” starts at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 29, in Benton Auditorium, Scheman Building, Iowa State Center.

In a 2012 paper published in the journal Lancet, Lee and her colleagues established that reducing the rate of physical inactivity by 25 percent could prevent more than one to three million deaths worldwide every year. They estimated that physical inactivity causes 6 percent of the burden of disease from coronary heart disease, 7 percent of type 2 diabetes, 10 percent of breast cancer, and 10 percent of colon cancer.

The risk of premature death from a sedentary lifestyle is similar to that of smoking, Lee said in an interview with the BBC. The study also found inactivity is a common factor in chronic illnesses, such as heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.

Warren Franke, a professor of kinesiology and publicity chair for the Hilton Lecture, says there are many misconceptions about the benefits of physical activity.

“People often think of exercise as it relates to weight loss, but the benefits of physical activity are far greater,” Franke said. “Dr. Lee’s research clearly demonstrates that effect. Her work also shows that any activity is better than nothing. People don’t realize how little it takes—it doesn’t have to be ‘exercise’ to be beneficial.”

Lee has served as an expert panelist for such groups as the American College of Sports Medicine, American Heart Association, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, for which she wrote the scientific report on the 2008 physical activity guidelines. Her most recent research has focused on women’s health in collaboration with Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the National Cancer Institute.

Lee’s lecture is sponsored by the Helen LeBaron Hilton Chair Endowment, the College of Human Sciences and the Committee on Lectures, which is funded by Student Government.

History

Helen LeBaron Hilton served as dean of what was then the Iowa State University College of Home Economics from 1952-1975. LeBaron Hilton was an advocate of the status of women and the well-being of children. In 1993 LeBaron Hilton bequeathed $1.4 million, establishing The Helen LeBaron Hilton Chair, the largest fully endowed faculty chair fund at Iowa State University at the time.