Momentum Center | Driving Discovery to End Childhood Obesity


Dr. Dale Ulrich

Dr. Dale Ulrich is a professor of Health & Fitness and Movement Science at the University of Michigan School of Kinesiology and the Director of the Center on Physical Activity and Health in Pediatric Disabilities. He received his Bachelor of Science in Health and Physical Education, his Master of Education in Physical Education and Special Education, and his Ph.D. in Kinesiology, majoring in Adapted Physical Activity and minoring in Measurement & Evaluation.

Currently, Dr. Ulrich is working on three main projects. One involves collecting new national norms on the Test of Gross Motor Development – 3rd edition (Ulrich, 2018), where he collects norms on 1200 children aged 3-10 years nationally, with an exciting update that he only needs 12 more three-year-old females living in the north eastern states. His second main project is completing a study to validate the instructional sensitivity of the Test of Gross Motor Development. The third project is working on a pilot study funded by the School of Kinesiology to investigate if they can produce a more physically active infant.

Dr. Ulrich’s pursuing of childhood obesity research has come through his research on infants with Down syndrome and locomotor skill onset. Much of Dr. Ulrich’s research in the past 25 years has involved infants and children with Down syndrome in an effort to discover innovative approaches to get infants with this syndrome to walk earlier than is common (e.g. 24-28 months). Early motor interventions by Dr. Ulrich and his colleagues have succeeded in reducing the delay in walking onset and producing a more physically active infant with Down syndrome. In the Down syndrome population, obesity is more prevalent and begins to emerge earlier. Results of a series of early intervention projects consistently demonstrate their functional and health benefits. Through this, they decided to see whether early motor interventions implemented in this population may generalize to infants in the general population who are at risk for the early onset of obesity.

What Dr. Ulrich enjoys most about his job is being able to work with graduate students early in their careers in an effort to stimulate quality research to answer important questions. He has been very successful in securing continuous federal funding for the past 17 years to train doctor and post-doctoral students to conduct evidence-based research to improve functioning in infants and children with developmental disabilities. To this end, since arriving at the University of Michigan in January 1999, he has mentored 12 students who are now in faculty positions in North America!

If he had unlimited time and resources to explore a research question and given that he and his colleagues have successfully published papers in an effort to establish a protocol for measuring physical activity in infants, Dr. Ulrich would want to establish a national baseline measure of infant physical activity during the first year of life and validate cut points for sedentary, light, moderate, and vigorous physical activity. Once established, they could then get very serious about testing new methods of producing a more physically active infant and see if they can begin to mediate rapid weight gain in infants which leads to early onset of obesity by age 2.

Dr. Ulrich appreciates the Momentum Center and its cross-disciplinary nature because he has learned a great deal of knowledge listening to and interacting with colleagues during meetings and seminars, in addition to learning more thoroughly about nutrition and working with families in the home.

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