Asso­ciate Pro­fessor of Health Sci­ence Carmen Cas­taneda Sceppa is bringing her exper­tise to two of North­eastern University’s most impor­tant com­mu­nity part­ner­ships, which is saying some­thing, con­sid­ering she has almost lit­er­ally written the book on exer­cise and good nutri­tion for three national health organizations.

In 2006, Sceppa’s research was one of two evidence-​​based studies used by the Amer­ican Dia­betes Asso­ci­a­tion to adopt new exer­cise guide­lines for people with diabetes.

Based on those same research find­ings, she was invited by the Amer­ican Heart Asso­ci­a­tion and the Amer­ican Col­lege of Sports Med­i­cine to serve on a panel to dis­cuss the ben­e­fits of exer­cise in older adults. The resulting report led both orga­ni­za­tions to revise their guide­lines for daily exer­cise in 2007.

Now, Sceppa is engaged in the Stony Brook Ini­tia­tive pro­gram Health Kids, Healthy Futures, aimed at com­bating child­hood obe­sity through a part­ner­ship among North­eastern, the Boston Red Sox and Children’s Hos­pital Boston. The community-​​based health ini­tia­tive also involves the Boston Public Health Com­mis­sion and the Boston Cen­ters for Youth and Fam­i­lies, and Action for Boston Com­mu­nity Devel­op­ment Head Start programs.

Working with Jes­sica Blom-​​Hoffman, pro­fessor of coun­seling and applied psy­chology, and Meredith Harris, pro­fessor and chair in the phys­ical therapy depart­ment, the mes­sage of good nutri­tion and phys­ical activity will be instilled in young chil­dren, their fam­i­lies and care­givers through var­ious pro­grams and activ­i­ties, said Sceppa, who came to North­eastern in Jan­uary 2008.

If we can influ­ence good nutri­tion and fit­ness in the young, we stand a better chance for these healthy lifestyle choices to be adopted for life,” she said.

In addi­tion, she is embarking on an effort to encourage exer­cise and better nutri­tion through col­lab­o­ra­tion with Boston-​​based La Alianza His­pana, a non­profit agency serving the Latino com­mu­nity. She will apply her find­ings to senior and com­mu­nity cen­ters run by La Alianza His­pana by cre­ating oppor­tu­ni­ties and pro­viding tools for people who use those facil­i­ties to improve their lifestyle.

If we could put exer­cise in a pill, it would give us tremen­dous ben­e­fits,” she said. “My find­ings have shown exer­cise and good nutri­tion is pre­ven­ta­tive, and is also helpful in man­aging dia­betes and obesity.”

New guide­lines sug­gest an indi­vidual should per­form 30 min­utes of daily mod­erate exer­cise five days a week, and that those looking to lose or main­tain body weight, need 60 to 90 min­utes of more vig­orous exercise.

Sceppa, who holds an M.D. from a med­ical school in Guatemala, became an expert on the ben­e­fits of exer­cise and good nutri­tion after studying their pos­i­tive effects on research par­tic­i­pants. “First, I studied the phys­i­o­log­ical changes that occur in older adults, such as loss of muscle mass and increase of fat, and how these common fac­tors can lead to dis­eases like obe­sity, dia­betes and car­dio­vas­cular prob­lems,” she said.

When she intro­duced reg­ular exer­cise, which included weight-​​bearing rou­tines, and added good nutri­tional stan­dards, she found that the overall health of older adults improved, and with patients already coping with dis­ease, she found their dis­eases were better con­trolled, she said.

We found that our patients with dia­betes needed less med­ica­tion to con­trol their dis­ease when they exer­cised and ate well,” Sceppa said. “The ben­e­fi­cial effects were greater than taking dia­betes meds, because they not only improved their dis­ease but their overall phys­ical and mental health.”