Professor James F. Sallis

Professorial Fellow
Behaviour, Environment and Cognition Program

Jim Sallis

Areas of expertise: promoting physical activity; policy and environmental influences on physical activity; built environments; behaviour and health; research translation

HDR Supervisor accreditation status: Full

ORCID ID: 0000-0003-2555-9452


James F. Sallis, PhD, is Professorial Fellow at ACU and Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health and Human Longevity Science, at University of California, San Diego. His primary research interests are promoting physical activity and understanding the role of policies and environments in physical activity, sedentary behaviour, nutrition and obesity. 

Professor Sallis was a pioneer in studies of built environment and physical activity, including such topics as community walkability, the design of parks, and facilities for safe bicycling. As Director of Active Living Research from 2001-2016 he helped develop an interdisciplinary field of studying the roles of environments and policies in physical activity through a US$40 million grant program, conferences, journal special issues, and research translation activities. He led or co-led a series of National Institutes of Health grants in the US on built environments, physical activity, and obesity among children, adolescents, adults, and older adults. Based on the US studies he co-founded IPEN (International Physical Activity and Environment Network), which is coordinating international studies of adolescents and adults in over 20 countries.

His early studies evaluated school-based studies of physical activity and healthy eating promotion, including the GRAD Study targeting university students before and after graduation. The SPARK Study in primary schools and the MSPAN Study in middle schools evaluated physical activity programs that have been widely disseminated on a commercial basis since 1990. His health improvement programs have been studied and used in health care settings, schools, universities, and companies.  His current focus is using research to inform policy and environmental changes that will increase physical activity and reduce obesity and chronic diseases.

Professor Sallis is the author of over 750 scientific publications, on the editorial boards of several journals, and one of the world’s most cited scientific authors. Thomson-Reuters identified him as one of the world’s most creative scientific minds of 2014, 2015, and 2016. He has received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the US President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition. He has received awards for scientific achievement from the International Society of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, American College of Sports Medicine, Society of Health Psychology, and Society of Behavioral Medicine. He is an elected member of the US National Academy of Medicine. He is Past-President of the Society of Behavioral Medicine.

Professor Sallis collaborates with Professor Ester Cerin and researchers in the Behaviour, Environment and Cognition Program to advance knowledge in the role of built environments in preserving cognitive function in older adults, as well as exploring mechanisms for the expected effects. He also mentors and provides career guidance to MMIHR’s PhD students and early career researchers.

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Select publications

Top ten

  • Sallis, J.F., Cerin, E., Kerr, J., Adams, M.A., Sugiyama, T., Christiansen, L.B., Schipperijn, J., Davey, R., Salvo, D., Frank, L.D., De Bourdeaudhuij, I., and Owen, N. (2020). Built environment, physical activity and obesity: Findings from the International Physical Activity and Environment Network (IPEN) Adult Study. Annual Review of Public Health, 41, 119-139.
  • Sallis, J.F., Bull, F., Burdett, R., Frank, L.D., Griffiths, P., Giles-Corti, B., and Stevenson, M. (2016). Using science to guide city planning, policy and practice: Achieving health and sustainable future cities. The Lancet, September, 31-41. Paper 3 in The Lancet Series on Urban Design, Transport and Health.
  • Sallis, J.F., Cerin, E., Conway, T.L., Adams, M.A., Frank, L.D., Pratt, M., Salvo, D., Schipperijn, J., Smith, G., Cain, K.L., Davey, R., Kerr, J., Lai, P-C., Mitas, J., Reis, R., Sarmiento, O.L., Schofield, G., Troelsen, J., Van Dyck, D., De Bourdeaudhuij, I., and Owen, N. (2016). Urban environments in 14 cities worldwide are related to physical activity. The Lancet, 387(no. 10034), 2207-2217.
  • Bauman, A.E., Reis, R.S., Sallis, J.F., Wells, J.C., Loos, R.J.F., and Martin, B.W. on behalf of the Lancet Physical Activity Series Working Group. (2012). Correlates of physical activity: Why are some people physically active and others not? The Lancet, 380, 258-271.
  • Sallis, J.F., Linton, L.S., Kraft, M.K., Cutter, C.L., Kerr, J., Weitzel, J., Wilson, A., Spoon, C., Harrison, I.D., Cervero, R., Patrick, K., Schmid, T., and Pratt, M. (2009). The Active Living Research Program: Six years of grantmaking. American Journal of Preventive, Medicine 36 (2Suppl.2), S10-S21. 
  • Sallis, J.F., Saelens, B.E., Frank, L.D., Conway, T.L., Slymen, D.J., Cain, K.L., Chapman, J.E., and Kerr, J. (2009). Neighborhood built environment and income: Examining multiple health outcomes. Social Science and Medicine, 68, 1285-1293. 
  • Sallis, J.F., Owen, N., and Fisher, E.B. (2008). Ecological models of health behavior. 465-486. In K. Glanz, B.K. Rimer, and K. Viswanath (Eds.), Health Behavior and Health Education: Theory, Research, and Practice, 4th edition. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Sallis, J.F., Cervero, R.B., Ascher, W., Henderson, K.A., Kraft, M.K., and Kerr, J. (2006). An ecological approach to creating more physically active communities. Annual Review of Public Health, 27, 297-322.
  • Craig, C.L., Marshall, A.L., Sjostrom, M., Bauman, A.E., Booth, M.L., Ainsworth, B.E., Pratt, M., Ekelund, U., Yngve, A., Sallis, J.F., and Oja, P. (2003). International Physical Activity Questionnaire: 12-country reliability and validity. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 35, 1381-1395.
  • Sallis, J.F., McKenzie, T.L., Alcaraz, J.E., Kolody, B., Faucette, N., and Hovell, M.F. (1997). The effects of a 2-year physical education program (SPARK) on physical activity and fitness in elementary school students. American Journal of Public Health, 87, 1328-1334. 

Select projects

  • Physical Activity Research Center (PARC). Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Co-director with N. Botchwey. Award number 73742. $100,000 total costs for planning grant. February 2016-August 2016. $2.9 million total costs for research grants. September 2016 -March 2019.
  • 2013-2017, National Institutes of Health, CRIME-PA: CRIme Measures Evaluations for Physical Activity Example, Principal Investigator, USD 3,100,000
  • 2012-2016, National Institutes of Health, IPEN Adolescent: International Study of Built Environments and Physical Activity, Principal Investigator, USD 2,823,300
  • 2011-2015, National Institutes of Health, 6 Year Study of Seniors Neighborhood Environments, Physical Activity & Function, Principal Investigator, USD 2,962,217
  • 2009-2012, National Institutes of Health, IPEN: International Study of Built Environment, Physical Activity, and Obesity, Principal Investigator, USD 2,100,000
  • 2007-2011, National Institutes of Health, Ecological Analysis of Activity, Eating, &Weight in Adolescents, Principal Investigator, USD 1,900,000
  • 2001-2016. National Program Office for Active Living Research Program. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. USD approx. 15,000,000

Accolades and awards

  • Identified as 238th most influential scientist in all fields (top 0.01%), based on analyses of multiple indicators of citations of scientific papers from 100,000 authors since 1970
  • Inaugural Mike and Terry Metzler Distinguished Lecture. Department of Kinesiology and Health. Georgia State University, 2018
  • Elizabeth Fries Health Education Award. Society of Public Health Education, 2018
  • Board of Directors, Rails to Trails Conservancy, 2018-2020
  • Active Design: Excellence in Thought Leadership. Center for Active Design, 2017
  • Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport Writing Award for 2016, from the Society of Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE America) Research Council Writing Award Committee, 2016
  • Elected to the National Academy of Medicine, 2016
  • Healthy Places Visionary Award. From the Urban Land Institute, San Diego and Tijuana Chapter, 2016
  • 2015 David Kessler Award for Extraordinary Contribution to the Public's Health. California Center for Public Health Advocacy, 2015
  • Gold Medal Oration and Medal. Dr. Mohan's International Diabetes Update, Chennai, India, 2015
  • Elected President of Society of Behavioral Medicine, with membership on Board of Directors, 2015 to 2017
  • Alliance Scholar Award. Society of Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE America), formerly American Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance, 2015
  • Most Creative Scientific Minds of 2014, 2015, 2016. Identified by Thomson-Reuters.
  • Lifetime Achievement Award. Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management; North Carolina State University, 2013
  • Bloomberg Manulife Prize for the Promotion of Active Health. Administered by McGill University, Montreal, Canada, 2013
  • Honorary doctoral degree Honoris Causa. From the Faculty of Physical Culture, Palacky University, 2012
  • Applied Obesity Research Award presented at Weight of the Nation 2012 at Pioneering Innovation Award ceremony, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2012
  • Elected Vice President, American College of Sports Medicine, 2011-2013
  • Lifetime Achievement Award. President's Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition, 2011
  • 2010 Albert W. Johnson University Research Lecturer and title ‘Distinguished Professor of Psychology’. Highest research award at San Diego State University. Lecture, 2010
  • Honorary degree of Doctor Medicinae Honoris Causa. University of Southern Denmark. Odense, Denmark. Awarded 2009
  • SBM Distinguished Mentor Award. Society of Behavioral Medicine, March 2003

Appointments and affiliations

  • Emeritus Professor, Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health and Human Longevity Science, University of California, San Diego
  • Professor Emeritus and Adjunct Professor, Department of Psychology, San Diego State University

Editorial roles

  • Acta Gymnica (Czech Republic), 2008-Present
  • American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 1997-2016
  • Annals of Behavioral Medicine, Consulting Editor, 1993-1996, 2000-2004
  • Health Promotion International, 1996-2002
  • Health Psychology, 1989-1994
  • Health Psychology Review, 2006-2019
  • Human Movement (Poland), 2004-2019
  • International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 2008-2011
  • Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 2003-2006
  • Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 1993-1995, 1999-2004
  • Journal of Transport and Health, 2013-2016
  • Latin America Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 2010-2015
  • Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 2005-2008
  • Medicine, Exercise, Nutrition, and Health, Epidemiology Section, 1991-1995
  • Obesity Insights, 2008-2019
  • Pediatric Exercise Science, 1992-2019
  • Preventive Medicine, 2015-Present
  • Psychology and Health, 1997-2000
  • Revista Brasileira de Ciencia & Movimento, (Brazil) 2000-Present

Guest editor of Special Issues and Supplements for Preventive Medicine, Environment and Behavior, American Journal of Health Promotion, Annals of Behavioral Medicine, Health & Place, Journal of Physical Activity and Health, Journal of Adolescent Health, Journal of Public Health Policy, American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Pediatric Exercise Science, and Journal of Health Education.

Public engagement

Print media

  • Atlanta Journal-Constitution
  • Associated Press
  • Globe and Mail (Canada)
  • Health Magazine
  • Honolulu Advertiser
  • Los Angeles Times
  • Monitor on Psychology
  • Montreal Gazette
  • Nature Medicine
  • New York Times
  • Newsweek Magazine
  • Philadelphia Inquirer
  • Prevention Magazine
  • Reuters
  • San Diego Union-Tribune
  • Seattle Times
  • Scientific American Body
  • Sports Illustrated
  • The Nation’s Health
  • Time Magazine
  • Wall Street Journal
  • Walking Magazine
  • Washington Post
  • USA Today

Electronic media

  • Australian Broadcasting Corporation
  • British Broadcasting Corporation

Local radio and television interviews: Denver, Edmonton (Canada), Jackson, MS, Montreal (Canada), New Orleans, Perth (Australia), Reykjavik (Iceland), Rockhampton (Australia), San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Catarina (Brazil), Toronto (Canada

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