PSU Profiles
Last Name

Liza Rovniak

TitleAssociate Professor
InstitutionCollege of Medicine
Address500 University Drive Hershey PA 17033
Mailbox: HU15

 awards and honors
2015 - OSLER Scholarship in Education Award, Penn State College of Medicine
2014 - Excellence in Research Award, Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and College of Medicine


Associate Professor of Medicine and Public Health Sciences


MPH, Health Promotion and Behavioral Science, San Diego State University, 2008
PhD, Clinical Health Psychology, Virginia Tech, 2003
BA, Psychology, McGill University, 1996


Liza Rovniak, PhD, MPH is an Associate Professor of Medicine and Public Health Sciences at Penn State College of Medicine. She obtained her PhD in Clinical Health Psychology from Virginia Tech, and her MPH in Health Promotion and Behavioral Science from San Diego State University. She completed postdoctoral training at the Center for Behavioral Epidemiology and Community Health, within San Diego State University’s Graduate School of Public Health. Dr. Rovniak’s research investigates how to engineer built physical and social environments to sustain physical activity and other health behaviors. Using an ecological framework, Dr. Rovniak conducts intervention and epidemiological research across diverse populations and settings (e.g., workplaces, physicians' offices, neighborhoods) to learn how to establish environments and policies that facilitate long-term behavior change. She has been Principal Investigator of six grants funded by the NIH and state-level funding, and some of her ongoing/recent research projects are summarized below.

Compact Pedaling Devices in the Workplace (NIH R21, Role: Principal Investigator):

We are investigating the feasibility of accomplishing simultaneous caloric expenditure and productive office work using a compact pedaling device designed to be pedaled at a standard desk. Strategies for increasing energy expenditure without requiring extra time investment are greatly needed, as most US adults report time-related costs of physical activity as a key barrier to participation, and spend over half of their waking hours in sedentary behavior. The primary specific aims of this research are to: (1) assess the feasibility of completing simulated office work activities in a lab-based setting while pedaling at different intensity levels among sedentary adults varying on age, gender, and body mass index (Study 1, n = 112); and (2) assess the feasibility of completing sedentary desk work in a field-based (office) setting while pedaling at a self-selected intensity level, as well as social and built environment influences on pedaling quantity (Study 2, n = 50). The proposed research builds upon established ecological models demonstrating the importance of proximal environmental influences on physical activity and sedentary behavior. The combination of lab- and field-based research will contribute to the internal and external validity of study findings, and help guide recommendations for integrating pedaling devices in sedentary office settings.

Engineering Online and In-Person Social Networks for Physical Activity (NIH K99/R00, Dean’s Feasibility Grant, Role: Principal Investigator):

Our interdisciplinary research team developed the Social Networks for Activity Promotion (SNAP) model to advance research on modifiable social influences on physical activity. Based on this model, we conducted a randomized controlled trial to explore how best to engineer social networks to sustain physical activity. Sedentary adults (n = 308) were randomly assigned to three groups: WalkLink+: prompted and provided feedback on online and in-person social-network interactions to expand networks for physical activity, plus provided evidence-based online walking program and weekly walking tips; WalkLink: evidence-based online walking program and weekly tips only; Minimal Treatment Control: weekly tips only. The effects of these treatment conditions were assessed at baseline, post-program, and 6-month follow-up. The primary outcome was accelerometer-measured physical activity. Secondary outcomes included objectively-measured aerobic fitness, body mass index, waist circumference, blood pressure, and neighborhood walkability; and self-reported measures of the physical environment, social network environment, and social network interactions. Results will contribute to greater understanding of how to conceptualize and implement social networks to support long-term physical activity (

In a related randomized controlled trial, we delivered intervention procedures similar to those described above to sedentary adults via cell phones, and also included a nutrition intervention. Results will contribute to better understanding of the effects of mobile prompts on activating physical activity and dietary change.

Other Interdisciplinary Research Projects:

1. Effects of a mobile app on promoting walking and cycling to work (Role: Co-Investigator, PI Melissa Bopp, PhD, Penn State Sustainability Institute).
2. Effects of Bluetooth-enabled pedometers and mobile-phone feedback on increasing physical activity (Role: Co-Investigator, PI Kristin Heron, PhD, Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute).
3. Contributions of Penn State Hershey Farmer’s Market to the Patient Centered Medical Home (Role: Co-Investigator, PI Daniel George, PhD).

Teaching and Mentoring:

Teaching: I teach PHS 505 (Public Health Program Planning and Evaluation) in Penn State’s Department of Public Health Sciences. This course teaches students how to design, implement, and evaluate public health programs to change diverse health behaviors.

Research mentoring: If you are a student or postdoctoral fellow interested in working with me on research projects, please send me an email with a copy of your CV.

 selected publications
Publications listed below are automatically derived from MEDLINE/PubMed and other sources, which might result in incorrect or missing publications. Faculty can login to make corrections and additions.
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  1. Sciamanna CN, Smyth JM, Doerksen SE, Richard BR, Kraschnewski JL, Mowen AJ, Hickerson BD, Rovniak LS, Lehman EB, Yang C. Physical Activity Mode and Mental Distress in Adulthood. Am J Prev Med. 2016 Nov 9.
    View in: PubMed
  2. Rovniak LS, Kong L, Hovell MF, Ding D, Sallis JF, Ray CA, Kraschnewski JL, Matthews SA, Kiser E, Chinchilli VM, George DR, Sciamanna CN. Engineering Online and In-Person Social Networks for Physical Activity: A Randomized Trial. Ann Behav Med. 2016 Jul 12.
    View in: PubMed
  3. Bopp M, Sims D, Colgan J, Rovniak L, Matthews SA, Poole E. An Examination of Workplace Influences on Active Commuting in a Sample of University Employees. J Public Health Manag Pract. 2016 Jul-Aug; 22(4):387-91.
    View in: PubMed
  4. Kraschnewski JL, Sciamanna CN, Poger JM, Rovniak LS, Lehman EB, Cooper AB, Ballentine NH, Ciccolo JT. Is strength training associated with mortality benefits? A 15year cohort study of US older adults. Prev Med. 2016 Jun; 87:121-7.
    View in: PubMed
  5. Rovniak LS, Sciamanna CN, George DR, Bopp M, Kong L, Ding D. Interest in Using Workplace Energy Expenditure Devices Among Primary Care Patients. J Prim Care Community Health. 2016 Apr; 7(2):96-101.
    View in: PubMed
  6. George DR, Kraschnewski JL, Rovniak LS, Vaughn L, Dillon J. Barriers to sustaining customer participation in hospital-based farmers’ markets: Insights from employees. Journal of Hospital Administration. 2015; 4(3):20-24.
  7. George DR, Rovniak LS, Kraschnewski JL, Hanson R, Sciamanna CN. A Growing Opportunity: Community Gardens Affiliated with US Hospitals and Academic Health Centers. Prev Med Rep. 2015; 2:35-39.
    View in: PubMed
  8. Kraschnewski JL, George DR, Rovniak LS, Monroe DL, Fiordalis E, Bates E. Characterizing customers at medical center farmers' markets. J Community Health. 2014 Aug; 39(4):727-31.
    View in: PubMed
  9. Sciamanna CN, Patel VA, Kraschnewski JL, Rovniak LS, Messina DA, Stuckey HL, Curry WJ, Chuang CH, Sherwood LL, Hess SL. A strength training program for primary care patients, central Pennsylvania, 2012. Prev Chronic Dis. 2014 Jun 26; 11:E107.
    View in: PubMed
  10. Kraschnewski JL, Sciamanna CN, Ciccolo JT, Rovniak LS, Lehman EB, Candotti C, Ballentine NH. Is exercise used as medicine? Association of meeting strength training guidelines and functional limitations among older US adults. Prev Med. 2014 Sep; 66:1-5.
    View in: PubMed
  11. Hovell MF, Adams MA, Hofstetter CR, Martínez-Donate AP, González-Pérez GJ, Rovniak LS, Boman-Davis MC. Complete home smoking bans and antitobacco contingencies: a natural experiment. Nicotine Tob Res. 2014 Feb; 16(2):186-96.
    View in: PubMed
  12. George DR, Rovniak LS, Kraschnewski JL. Dangers and opportunities for social media in medicine. Clin Obstet Gynecol. 2013 Sep; 56(3):453-62.
    View in: PubMed
  13. Rovniak LS, Sallis JF, Kraschnewski JL, Sciamanna CN, Kiser EJ, Ray CA, Chinchilli VM, Ding D, Matthews SA, Bopp M, George DR, Hovell MF. Engineering online and in-person social networks to sustain physical activity: application of a conceptual model. BMC Public Health. 2013 Aug 14; 13:753.
    View in: PubMed
  14. Rovniak LS, Denlinger L, Duveneck E, Sciamanna CN, Kong L, Freivalds A, Ray CA. Feasibility of using a compact elliptical device to increase energy expenditure during sedentary activities. J Sci Med Sport. 2014 Jul; 17(4):376-80.
    View in: PubMed
  15. George DR, Rovniak LS, Kraschnewski JL, Morrison KJ, Dillon JF, Bates BY. Medical center farmers markets: a strategic partner in the patient-centered medical home. Prev Chronic Dis. 2013 Aug 01; 10:E127.
    View in: PubMed
  16. Kraschnewski JL, Stuckey HL, Rovniak LS, Lehman EB, Reddy M, Poger JM, Kephart DK, Coups EJ, Sciamanna CN. Efficacy of a weight-loss website based on positive deviance. A randomized trial. Am J Prev Med. 2011 Dec; 41(6):610-4.
    View in: PubMed
  17. George DR, Kraschnewski JL, Rovniak LS. Public health potential of farmers' markets on medical center campuses: a case study from Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. Am J Public Health. 2011 Dec; 101(12):2226-32.
    View in: PubMed
  18. Rovniak LS, Sallis JF, Saelens BE, Frank LD, Marshall SJ, Norman GJ, Conway TL, Cain KL, Hovell MF. Adults' physical activity patterns across life domains: cluster analysis with replication. Health Psychol. 2010 Sep; 29(5):496-505.
    View in: PubMed
  19. Rovniak LS, Hovell MF, Hofstetter CR, Blumberg EJ, Sipan CL, Batista MF, Martinez-Donate AP, Mulvihill MM, Ayala GX. Engaging community businesses in human immunodeficiency virus prevention: a feasibility study. Am J Health Promot. 2010 May-Jun; 24(5):347-53.
    View in: PubMed
  20. Phillips-Guzman CM, Martinez-Donate AP, Hovell MF, Blumberg EJ, Sipan CL, Rovniak LS, Kelley NJ. Engaging local businesses in HIV prevention efforts: the consumer perspective. Health Promot Pract. 2011 Jul; 12(4):620-9.
    View in: PubMed
  21. Johnson-Kozlow M, Roussos S, Rovniak L, Hovell M. Colorectal cancer test use among Californians of Mexican origin: influence of language barriers. Ethn Dis. 2009; 19(3):315-22.
    View in: PubMed
  22. Johnson-Kozlow M, Hovell MF, Rovniak LS, Sirikulvadhana L, Wahlgren DR, Zakarian JM. Fidelity issues in secondhand smoking interventions for children. Nicotine Tob Res. 2008 Dec; 10(12):1677-90.
    View in: PubMed
  23. Zellner JA, Martinez-Donate AP, Hovell MF, Sipan CL, Blumberg EJ, Carrizosa CM, Rovniak L. Feasibility and use of school-based condom availability programs in Tijuana, Mexico. AIDS Behav. 2006 Nov; 10(6):649-57.
    View in: PubMed
  24. Rovniak LS, Johnson-Kozlow MF, Hovell MF. Reducing the gap between the economic costs of tobacco and funds for tobacco training in schools of public health. Public Health Rep. 2006 Sep-Oct; 121(5):538-46.
    View in: PubMed
  25. Plotnikoff RC, Spence JC, Tavares LS, Rovniak LS, Bauman A, Lear SA, McCargar L. Characteristics of participants visiting the Canada on the move website. Can J Public Health. 2006 Mar-Apr; 97 Suppl 1:S28-35, S30-8.
    View in: PubMed
  26. Spence JC, Plotnikoff RC, Rovniak LS, Martin Ginis KA, Rodgers W, Lear SA. Perceived neighbourhood correlates of walking among participants visiting the Canada on the Move website. Can J Public Health. 2006 Mar-Apr; 97 Suppl 1:S36-40, S39-44.
    View in: PubMed
  27. Rovniak LS, Hovell MF, Wojcik JR, Winett RA, Martinez-Donate AP. Enhancing theoretical fidelity: an e-mail-based walking program demonstration. Am J Health Promot. 2005 Nov-Dec; 20(2):85-95.
    View in: PubMed
  28. Rovniak LS, Anderson ES, Winett RA, Stephens RS. Social cognitive determinants of physical activity in young adults: a prospective structural equation analysis. Ann Behav Med. 2002; 24(2):149-56.
    View in: PubMed
  29. Winett RA, Anderson ES, Whiteley JA, Wojcik J, Winett SG, Rovniak L, Graves KD, Galper DI. Church-based health behavior programs: Using social cognitive theory to formulate interventions for at-risk populations. Applied and Preventive Psychology. 1999; 8:129-142.
  30. Winett RA, Roodman AA, Winett SG, Bajzek W, Rovniak LS, Whiteley JA. The effects of the Eat4Life internet-based health behavior program on the nutrition and activity patterns of high school girls. Journal of Gender, Culture, and Health. 1999; 4(3):239-254.
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