Zan Gao, PhD

Associate Professor, Physical Activity and Health
Contact Information

Kinesiology

207 Cooke Hall
1900 University Avenue SE
Minneapolis, 55455

612-626-4639
gaoz@umn.edu

Graduate education faculty

Director, Physical Activity Epidemiology Laboratory

Dr. Zan Gao obtained his Ph.D. from Louisiana State University in 2007. He is a faculty at the School of Kinesiology in University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, specializing in physical activity and health. Dr. Gao’s research has primarily focused on promoting health through population-based physical activity interventions. In the past several years, Dr. Gao has given over 150 presentations at various international and national conferences. He has also published over 100 (including nearly 50 first authored) book chapters and research articles in peer-reviewed journals such as Obesity Review, American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, Journal of Physical Activity and Health, Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport (RQES), and the Journal of Teaching in Physical Education (JTPE). Dr. Gao has been the recipient of several international and national awards, including the 2008 National Association for Kinesiology and Physical Education in Higher Education Hally Beth Poindexter Young Scholar Award, 2009 American Alliance of Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance (AAHPERD) Mabel Lee Award, 2013 National Association for Sport and Physical Education Curriculum and Instruction Heitmann Young Scholar Award, and 2015 SHAPE America Leroy T. Walker Young Professional Award. Dr. Gao has been the principal investigator of National Institute of Health research grant, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Grant and AAHPERD Seed Grant. He also serves as a reviewer for many journals including, but not limited to RQES, JTPE, the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, the Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, and Journal of School Health, as the Section Editor for Measurement in Physical Education and Exercise Science, the Editorial Board Member for the JTPE and International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, and Editor-in-chief for Column-Research, Teaching, and Media in Kinesiology. He is currently the Fellow of American College of Sports Medicine, and the Fellow of AAHPERD Research Consortium. 

Personal Webpage     

About
Research Interests
  • Population-based physical activity promotion to fight childhood obesity
  • Application of modern technology (e.g., active video games, smartphone Apps) in interventions to promote physical activity and health
  • Psychosocial and behavioral correlates/determinants of physical activity behavior
  • Children’s motor skill, physical activity, fitness, cognition and academic achievement
  • Health disparities and physical activity
Academic appointments

2016 - present

Associate Professor of Physical Activity and Health,  School of Kinesiology, The University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN

2012 - 2016

Assistant Professor of Physical Activity and Health,  School of Kinesiology, The University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN

2010 -  2012

Assistant Professor of Exercise Science, Texas Tech University, Department of Health, Exercise and Sport Sciences, Lubbock, TX.

 2010 -  2014

Adjunct Professor of Sports Pedagogy, University of Utah, College of Health, Department of Exercise and Sport Science. Salt Lake City, UT.

2007 -  2010

Assistant Professor of Sports Pedagogy, University of Utah, College of Health, Department of Exercise and Sport Science. Salt Lake City, UT.

Selected Research Grants

  • Gao, Z., French, S.,  & Kunin-Baston, A.S.(2016-2018). Teach Exergaming and Activities on Cognition and Health in Preschoolers. National Institutes of Health (NHLBI-R56). $369,118. To be funded. (PI)
  • Gao, Z.Lee, H., & Zhang, R. (2016-2018). Improving Breast Cancer Survivors’ Disease Management Outcomes through Smartphone Apps and Online Health Community. University of Minnesota. $47,620. (PI)
  • Gao, Z., French, S., Hannan, P., & Kunin-Baston, A.S.(2015-2016). Effects of Home-based Exergaming Program on Preschool Children’s Physical Activity and Adiposity. University of Minnesota, Obesity Prevention Center. $50,000. (PI)  
  • Gao, Z. (2014-2015).Impact of Exergaming on Urban Children’s Physical and Psychosocial Health. University of Minnesota, Office of Vice President for Research Grant-In-Aid. Funded. $32,109. (PI)
  • Steinberger, J., Dengel, D., Gao, Z., Gilchrist, L., Hodges, J., Sadak, K. (2014-2015). Effect of a Home-based Fitness Intervention on Cardiometabolic Risk Profile in Pediatric Patients with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). University of Minnesota, Academic Health Center’s Small Grants Program. Funded. $30,000. (Co-I)
  • Gao, Z. (2013-2014). Impact of Exergaming on Children’s Cardiovascular Fitness and Classroom Behaviors. University of Minnesota, College of Education and Human Development. Funded. $5,000. (PI)
  • Gao, Z., Stodden, D., & Feng, D. (2012-2015). Impact of Interactive Video Games on Underserved Children’s Health. National Institutes of Health PA-10-070 Academic Research Enhancement Award (Parent R15: 1R15HD071514-01A1). Priority Score: 20. Funded. $432,225. (PI).
  • Gao, Z. (2011). Institute for Inclusive Excellence. Texas Tech University Office of the Vice President for Institutional Diversity, Equity & Community Engagement. $1,000. Funded. (PI)
  • Gao, Z., & Valdez, V.E. (2009-2011). Impact of Physical Activities on Urban Latino Children’s Physical Fitness, Self-esteem and Academic Performance. The University of Utah Interdisciplinary Seed Grant. $12,000. Funded. (PI).
  • Gao, Z., Montenegro, R., Valdez, V.E., Hannon, J.C., & Xiang, P. (2009-2011). Integrating Dance Dance Revolution to Promote Urban Latino School Children’s Physical Health and Academic Achievement: Project GAME. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Salud America! $74,041. Funded. (PI).
  • Gao, Z., Hannon, J.C., & Newton, M. (2010-2013). The Impact of Classroom-based Physical Activity (Take 10!) on Underserved Children’s Exercise Motivation and Physical Health. The University of Utah College of Health Research and Creative Grant Competition. $5,000. Funded. (PI).
  • Huang, C., & Gao, Z. (2009-2010). Effect of Aerobic Exercises on Children’s Exercise Determinants and Behaviors. The University of Utah PEAK Academy Graduate Research Award. $1,500. Funded. (Faculty Mentor).
  • Newton, M., Hannon, J. C., Gao, Z., & Paisley, K. (2009-2010). Predictors of Sportpersonship and Motivation in High School Athletes. The University of Utah College of Health Research and Creative Grant Competition. $6,200. Funded. (Co-I).
  • Richardson, G., Summerhays, J., Hannon, J.C., Compton, D., Ellis, G., & Gao, Z. (2009-2011). Tipping the Scales towards a Healthier Population: The Utah Blueprint to Promote Healthy Weight for Children, Youth, and Adults. The Utah Partnership for Health Weight. $200,000. Funded. (Co-I).
  • Gao, Z., Hannon, J.C., & Newton, M. (2008-2010). The Effects of Goal Setting on Overweight Students’ Physical Activity Levels and Performance in the Dance Dance Revolution Program. The University of Utah College of Health Research and Creative Grant Competition. $7,500. Funded. (PI).
  • Gao, Z., Hannon, J.C., & Newton, M. (2008-2010). The Effects of Curricular Activity on Students’ Situational Motivation and Physical Activity Levels in Physical Education. AAHPERD Research Consortium Seed Grants. $5,000. Funded. (PI).
Selected Awards and Honors
  • 2015 - SHAPE America Leroy T. Walker Young Professional Award
  • 2013 - Fellow, American College of Sports Medicine
  • 2013 - National Association for Sport and Physical Education Curriculum and Instruction Heitmann Young Scholar Award
  • 2011 - Fellow, American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance Research Consortium
  • 2011 - International Chinese Society for Physical Activities and Health Outstanding Service Award
  • 2010 - American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance Graduate Student Research Award (Mentee)
  • 2009 - American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance Mabel Lee Award
  • 2008 - The National Association for Kinesiology and Physical Education in Higher Education Hally Beth Poindexter Young Scholar Award
  • 2007 - American Alliance for Health, Physic
Education
Ph.D., 2003-2007, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA, U.S.
Major: Kinesiology
Minor: Experimental Statistics

M.Ed., 1996-1999, Beijing Sport University, Beijing, China
Major: Physical Education Teaching and Coaching

B.Ed., 1992-1996, Hunan Normal University, Changsha, China
Major: Physical Education
Curriculum Vitae [PDF]
Selected Publications
  1. Gao, Z., Chen, S., Huang, C., Stodden, D., & Xiang, P. (2016). Investigating elementary school children’s daily physical activity and sedentary behaviors during weekdays. Journal of Sport Science. (impact factor: 2.25)

    Gao, Z., Chen, S., Pasco, D., & Pope, Z. (2015). Effects of active video games on physiological and psychological outcomes among children and adolescents: A meta-analysis. Obesity Reviews, 16, 783-794. doi: 10.1111/obr.12287 (impact factor: 7.995) 

    Gao, Z., Chen, S., & Stodden, D. (2015). A comparison of young children’s physical activity levels in physical education, recess and school-based exergaming. Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 12, 349-354. doi: doi: 10.1123/jpah.2013-0392 (impact factor: 1.95)

    Gao, Z., & Chen, S. (2014). Are field-based exergames useful in preventing childhood obesity? A systematic review. Obesity Reviews, 15, 676-691. doi: 10.1111/obr.12164 (impact factor: 7.995)

    Gao, Z., & Chen, S. (2014). Response to letter: No clear evidence that exergames can prevent obesity. Obesity Reviews, 15, 694-695. doi: 10.1111/obr.12186 (impact factor: 7.995)

    Gao, Z., & Xiang, P. (2014). Effects of exergaming based exercise on urban children’s physical activity participation and body composition. Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 11(5), 992-998. (impact factor: 1.95) 

    Gao, Z., Zhang, P., & Podlog, L. (2013). Examining elementary school children’s enjoyment of traditional tag games versus interactive dance games. Psychology, Health & Medicine, 1-9. (impact factor: 1.53) 

    Gao, Z., Hannan, P. F., Xiang, P., Stodden, D., & Valdez, V. (2013). Video game–based exercise, Latino children’s physical health, and academic achievement. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 44(3S3), s240-s246. (impact factor: 4.28)

    Gao, Z., & Podlog, L. (2012). Urban Latino children’s physical activity levels and performance in interactive video dance games: Effects of goal difficulty and goal specificity. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine,166(10), 933-937. (impact factor: 4.25)

    Gao, Z., Xiang, P., Lochbaum, M., & Guan, J. (2013). The impact of achievement goals on cardiorespiratory fitness: Does self-efficacy make a difference? Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 84(3), 313-322. (impact factor: 1.26)

    Gao, Z., Huang, C., Liu, T., & Xiong, W. (2012). Impact of interactive dance games on urban children’s physical activity correlates and behavior. Journal of Exercise Science and Fitness. 10,107-112..

    Gao, Z., Zhang, T., & Stodden, D. (2013). Children’s physical activity levels and their psychological correlated in interactive dance versus aerobic dance. Journal of Sport and Health Science, 2, 146-151.