Active Aging Tips from the American College of Sports Medicine
By Wojtek Chodzko-Zajko
May 31 is National Senior Health and Fitness Day. Join researcher Wojtek Chodzko-Zajko, PhD, for a discussion about remaining active in your golden years.
The opinions expressed by Dr. Chodzko-Zajko are his and his alone. If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.
Moderator: Hello and welcome to WebMD Live!
Dr. Chodzko-Zajko: Thank you.
Moderator: Your guest today is Wojtek Chodzko-Zajko, PhD. Dr. Chodzko-Zajko serves on the American College of Sports Medicine Strategic Health Initiative on Aging and Exercise, and is a professor of exercise science in the School of Exercise, Leisure, and Sport at Kent State University. Chodzko-Zajko is editor of the Journal of Aging and Physical Activity and president of the International Society on Aging and Physical Activity. He served on the scientific advisory committee of the World Health Organization, which recently issued its guidelines for physical activity in older adults, and as chairperson of the Fifth World Congress on Physical Activity, Aging, and Sports.
If you don't mind, I'd love it if you could begin with a little background about yourself and how you first got involved in this.
Dr. Chodzko-Zajko: I'm a professor of exercise science at Kent State, and my main area of interest is physical activity and aging research. I edit a journal called The Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, and I am president of an international society called the International Society of and Aging and Physical Activity. My main interest is to study the relationship between regular physical activity and aging. I'm very interested in comparing older people who are active both physically and intellectually, and socially, with older people who are less active in those dimensions.
Moderator: So, what's taken you out to Indianapolis this week?
Dr. Chodzko-Zajko: I'm at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine, ACSM, and it is the meeting of researchers and clinicians who are interested in physical activity and sports medicine. There are many people interested in aging and physical activity who attend this meeting.
Moderator: What kinds of topics are being discussed in that area?
Dr. Chodzko-Zajko: In the area of aging and activity, there are hundreds of different presentations at the ACSM meeting, ranging from results of exercise physiology experiments about exercise and aging, to studies on public health and activity, on the psychological benefits of physical activity. A very broad range of different papers are being presented.
Moderator: Was there any research that had you particularly excited?
Dr. Chodzko-Zajko: I've been very interested in following the developments of research from the Centers of Disease Control, and the World Health Organization (WHO) in assessing active living throughout the world. Sedentary lifestyles, or physical inactivity are a major public health challenge in all countries of the world, and the WHO and CDC (Centers for Disease Control) are very interested in developing methods for assessing how active the population is in different countries
Moderator: How do Americans compare to the rest of the world, exercise-wise?
Dr. Chodzko-Zajko: Good question. In 1996, the U.S. surgeon general issued a report on physical activity and health, and estimated that for the older population only about 17% of people over 65 are regularly active. In some other countries, the reported figures for activity participation are a little higher, for example Japan and Canada, but it's not always easy to make comparisons for cultural reasons. The bottom line is, I think that in all countries, there is a need to increase participation levels and physical activity for all age groups. How to do this is a major issue in research and public health planning.
Moderator: Where can one find the healthiest senior population on earth?
Dr. Chodzko-Zajko: The older adult population is tremendously varied. In all countries, you will find individuals who are aging and in very good health, but will also find a poorer quality of life. I don't think it is especially helpful to identify a single country as the best. The major characteristics of aging, there are differences across the population, and those are apparent in all countries.
Moderator: Is there any single way to measure this -- like length of life, body fat?