Dr. Richards’ research efforts focus on understanding and intervening on the individual, interpersonal, and environmental influences on physical activity behavior. Past studies have focused on the use of dog walking to increase physical activity and included the implementation and evaluation of two randomized controlled trials (funded by the American Kennel Club and the Human Animal Bond Research Initiative). These interventions demonstrated effectiveness in a similar manner and led to examining the impact of this intervention strategy in new settings and in new populations. A larger scale of this intervention, funded by Purdue Extension and named Get WalkIN’, was delivered through Purdue Extension Educators in sixteen Indiana counties. Due to this program success, Purdue Extension has implemented Dr. Richards’ intervention across the state of Indiana.
Dr. Richards’ research also involves examination of dyadic relationships in physical activity promotion. Findings from Dr. Richards’ dog walking studies highlight the importance of external support for increasing physical activity which led to development of a research team to examine other types of social partnering that could support behavior change. This interdisciplinary team conducted a pilot intervention (funded by the Kinley Foundation) examining the effectiveness of a couple-focused collaborative goal setting intervention to increase physical activity among older adults in committed relationships. This intervention increased activity an average of 60 min/wk while leveraging the strong association between couples’ physical activity behavior.
In addition, she serves in several leadership positions in the field of public health, including as a Board Member for the Indiana Public Health Association and past member of the American Public Health Association Action Board. She is one of seven individuals hired by Purdue University to promote research across disciplines in public health. Dr. Richards’ is a faculty associate for Purdue’s Center for Aging and the Life Course. In addition, she is a faculty partner for Purdue’s Center for Families. She actively mentors students interested in population health and public health nursing. She currently teaches Population Health and Public Health Nursing.