Darla M. Castelli

Darla M. Castelli

Professor and Graduate Advisor

Physical Education Teacher Education, Health Behavior & Health Education


Office & Hours

Office: BEL 722A
Friday: 9:00-11:00
Or by appointment



Courses of Instruction
KIN 395 Cognition & Exercise Across the Lifespan
EDC 385 Research on Teacher Education in Physical Education

Mailing Address
The University of Texas at Austin
Department of Kinesiology and Health Education
2109 San Jacinto Blvd.
Austin, Texas 78712-1415
UT Mail Code: D3700

Full Vita
download vita (pdf)



Darla M. Castelli, Ph.D. is a professor of physical education pedagogy in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Education at the University of Texas at Austin. She has been working with school-age youth in physical activity settings for more than 20 years, leading several physical activity interventions (e.g., Kinetic Kidz, FIT Kids1,FIT Kids2, Active + Healthy = Forever Fit, Fitness4Everyone). Dr. Castelli has received teaching awards in both the public school, Maine Physical Education Teacher of the Year, and higher education, University of Illinois Teaching Excellence Award. As a fellow in the AAHPERD Research Consortium and past Young Scholar award recipient from NAKPEHE and AEISEP, her research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, American Dietetic Foundation, and U.S. Department of Education. She has presented her work at U.S. Congress and Senate Briefings in Washington, DC in support of the FIT Kids Act. Dr. Castelli is currently a member of two Institute of Medicine committees on Fitness Measures and Health Outcomes in Youth and Physical Activity and Physical Education in the School Environment. She received a B.S. from Plymouth State University, a M.S. from Northern Illinois University, and a Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina.




2002 Ph.D. University of South Carolina, Physical Education Pedagogy/Technology


Representative Publications

Drollette, E., Evans, E., Castelli, D., & Hillman, C. (Published online on November, 2012). The negative association of childhood obesity to the cognitive control of action monitoring. Cerebral Cortex. doi:10.1093/cercor/bhs349.

Castelli, D. M., Brothers, R.M., Hwang, J., Nicksic, H.M., Glowacki, E., Harrison, M., & Van Dongen, D. (2013). Health indices and cognitive performance in emerging adults. Journal of Novel Physiotherapies, 4, 189. doi: 10.4172/2165-7025.1000189.

Kamijo, K., Khan, N. A., Pontifex, M. B., Scudder, M. R., Drollette, E. S., Raine, L. B., Evans, E. M., Castelli, D. M., & Hillman, C. H. (in press). The negative relation of excess adiposity to cognitive health in preadolescent children: perspectives on academic achievement. Obesity.

Erwin, H. E., Beighle, A., Carson, R. L., Castelli, D. M. (2013). Comprehensive school-based physical activity promotion: A review. Quest, 65(4), 412-428. doi: 10.1080/00336297.2013.791872.

Castelli, D.M., Centeio, E.E., & Nicksic, H.M. (2013). Preparing educators to promote and provide physical activity in schools. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 7(5), 324-332.

Chaddock, L., Erickson, K.I., Voss, M.W., Kencht, A.M., Pontifex, M.B., Castelli, D.M., Hillman, C.H., & Kramer, A. (2013). The effects of physical activity on functional MRI activation associated with cognitive control in children: A randomized controlled intervention. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 7(72). DOI:10.3389/fnhum.2013.00072.

Kamijo, K., Pontifex, M. B., Khan, N. A., Raine, L. B., Scudder, M. R., Drollette, E. S., Evans, E. M., Castelli, D. M., & Hillman, C. H. (2012). The negative association of childhood obesity to the cognitive control of action monitoring. Cerebral Cortex (online publication date 11-11-2012).

Hillman, C.H., Pontifex, M.B., Motl, R.W., O’Leary, K., Johnson, C.R., Scudder, M.R., Raine, L.B., & Castelli, D.M. (2012). ERPS to Academics. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 2S, S90-S98.

Castelli, D.M., Centeio, E.E., Boehrnsen, H., Barclay, D., & Bundy, C. (2012). School-university partnership: The Wizard, the warrior, and the wagoner. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, 83(9), 15-18.

Castelli, D.M. & Ward, K. (2012). Physical activity across the curriculum: Fostering the beneficial effects of a comprehensive school physical activity program. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, 83(6), 20-24 & 29.

Castelli, D.M.,Hillman, C.H., Hirsch, J., Hirsch, A., & Drollette, E. (2011). FIT Kids: Time in target heart zone and cognitive performance. Preventive Medicine, 52(1), S55-S59. PMID: 2128167.



Recent Awards

  • 2013 Longhorn Game Changer - Professor of Excellence
  • 2013 Dean's Faculty Fellow Award
  • 2012 Joe R. & Teresa Long Endowed Faculty Fellow
  • 2008 University of Illinois Teaching Excellence Award: Innovation in Undergraduate Instruction Using Educational Technologies
  • 2007 AAHPERD Research Consortium Fellow
  • 2007 IAHPERD Past-President’s Scholar Award
  • 2006 AIESEP International Young Scholar Award

Current Research Projects and Grants

Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and General Mills Foundation. Presidential Youth Fitness Program Evaluation Proposal. Castelli, D.M. (PI), Cance, J. (Co-PI), & Bartholomew, J. (Co-I). Process and Outcome Evaluation of the Presidential Youth Fitness Program. $688,000 (funded April 2012-2015).

National Association for Sport & Physical Education. Carson, R. L. (PI), Beighle, A (Co-PI), & Castelli, D.M. (Co-PI). A One-Year Study of CSPAP Implementation by Two Cohorts of Certified Directors of Physical Activity, $30,000. (funded January 2012).

NIH R01, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Hillman, C. (PI), Cohen, N. (Co-I), & Castelli, D.M. (Co-I): “The Effects of a Single Bout of Exercise on Brain, Cognition, and Scholastic Achievement”, $1,949,589 (funded January 2012). 

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Active Living Research: Building Evidence to Prevent             Childhood Obesity. Carson, R. L. (PI), Beighle, A (Co-PI), & Castelli, D.M. (Co-PI). Building the          Next Generation of Active Youth through Directors of Comprehensive School Physical Activity         Programs, $150,000 (funded January 2012).

NICH R01. Hillman, C., Castelli, D., (Co-I), Motl, R. ERPs to Academics: Exercise Effects on Cognition in School-aged Children, $1,474,887 (funded, Feb. 2008-2010).

Illinois Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance Jump Rope for Heart Research Grant, Castelli, D. M., (PI). MP3 for a Healthy Me: Podcasting Healthy Messages for Teens, $5044 (funded 2007-2008).

 Illinois Soy Association. Peterson, S. (PI), Chapman-Novakofski, K, Castelli D. (Co-I), Lloyd, L. "R.U. A. Healthy Kid 2?" A comprehensive, school-based intervention for Illinois young adolescents who are at-risk for Type 2 Diabetes. $200,000 (Dec. 1, 2009).


Research Interests and Expertise

Dr. Castelli studies the effects of physical activity on motor and cognitive performance in school-aged children. She is also interested in the relationship between metabolic risk factors and cognition and how physical activity can reverse its effects.

Boards, Committees and Associations

  • 2010-present, International Journal of Trends in Educational Research (IJOTER) editorial board
  • 2010, CDC Physical Activity Strategy 2 Implementation committee
  • 2010, National School Physical Activity Director’s certification task force
  • 2011-present, Journal of Teaching in Physical Education, editorial board
  • 2011-2012, Institute of Medicine committee on youth fitness
  • 2012-2013, Institute of Medicine committee on physical activity, fitness, and academic achievement