Wojtek Chodzko-Zajko, PhD, is professor and head of the Department of Kinesiology and Community Health at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. For the past 15 years he has focused on the effect of exercise and physical activity on sensory, motor, and cognitive functioning in old age. In support of this research project, Chodzko-Zajko established ongoing longitudinal studies of exercise and aging at both Kent State University and the University of Alabama. He served on the World Health Organization’s Scientific Advisory Committee, which issued Guidelines for Physical Activity in Older Adults. He also serves on the American College of Sports Medicine Strategic Health Initiative on Aging and Exercise. Active Aging Community Center editors interviewed Chodzko-Zajko in August 2009.
Why did you choose a career in exercise and physical activity?
I have always been interested in physical activity, and when the opportunity arose to study for a PhD in this area, I jumped at the chance. The decision to become a faculty member was influenced by the tremendous number of role models I encountered while at Purdue University.
What research are you conducting now?
My primary interests are in how public policy decisions at the national and international level can influence health behaviors, with a particular interest in chronic disease prevention.
Why are you conducting this research? What are you hoping to accomplish with this research?
The proportion of individuals in most countries who chose to follow active and healthy lifestyles is disappointingly low. My work tries to address how policy initiatives can help to address these challenges. I hope that my work will provide increased opportunities for physical activity and healthy living for Americans.
You served on the World Health Organization’s Scientific Advisory Committee, which issued Guidelines for Physical Activity in Older Adults. What was the most interesting part of that work?
Working with a diverse team of public health experts from around the world and understanding some of the cultural complexities associated with physical activity promotion in different regions of the world.
What has been the biggest breakthrough in your career?
Working as director of the National Blueprint: Increasing Physical Activity Among Adults Age 50 and Older.
Based on your experience, what is the most significant advancement in your field? Why?
I believe that our growing appreciation that the promotion of healthy lifestyles requires more than simply "individual action" but requires significant structural, political, and environmental change is probably the most important advancement in research in our field.