UI professor encourages active, healthy lifestyle

By David Rothmund

Dr. Wojtek J. Chodzko-Zajko’s workspace is far from ordinary.

Although a computer monitor is positioned at the top of his desk, a treadmill takes the place of his chair. In addition to his work as a Khan professor in AHS and the department head of Kinesiology and Community Health, he uses the time spent in the office to exercise. Every once in a while, he will stop what he is doing and do sets of pushups.

Chodzko-Zajko, an active father of three children under 3 years old, has found an exercise routine and diet that suits his schedule.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science from the University of London and a Ph.D. from Purdue University, he has focused his research on the different effects that exercise and physical activity have on health and quality of life. His decision to lead a healthy, active life is one that he said is all about “personal empowerment and self advocacy.”

Chodzko-Zajko has also served on the scientific advisory panel of aging and health for the World Health Organization, an agency that directs and coordinates authority for health within the United Nations.

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Ashley Torres, senior in AHS, has similar interests to Chodzko-Zajko. Both enjoy incorporating exercise into their daily routines. Torres said she likes to read while on the stationary bike.

She stated that “an active body activates your mind, and you absorb things better.”

Ever since the fifth grade, Torres made the decision to live a healthier life. In middle school, she fell in love with weight-lifting and cardio. Balancing academics and a healthy lifestyle is not easy, Torres said, but she utilizes her time wisely and never overlooks an opportunity to take part in physical activity. For example, rather than taking the bus to class, she walks.

Chodzko-Zajko also chooses to travel to work in an active way. Throughout his 14 years spent at the University, Chodzko-Zajko has enjoyed running to work rather than driving. When he has to travel around campus, he hops on a bike provided by the AHS department.

He stressed that there are many “healthy commuting opportunities” that are often overlooked by students and faculty, and he wishes the University would promote more of these. He compares creating an exercise plan to making a financial plan for the future.

“The idea (of) economic security makes you think of where you are now, and where you want to be in 20 or 30 years from now,” Chodzko-Zajko said. He said he would like people to do the same for their health because it adds a sense of security in their health for the future.

Although many students may find difficulty incorporating exercise into their daily routines, Campus Recreation worker Taylor Lombardo, senior in AHS, said she sees regulars come into the ARC at the same time each day.

She said it is important to start living a healthier lifestyle sooner rather than later because once a person gets older and loses the movement and strength in his or her legs and arms, it may become too daunting to begin a personal activity plan.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ “2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans” points out that individuals should do 60 minutes or more of physical activity throughout the day. These serve as the first publication of national guidelines for physical activity.

According to the guidelines, the three categories of physical activities are aerobic, muscle-strengthening and bone-strengthening. Adults should complete each category at least 3 days a week.

Despite the fact that some people have difficulties finding a suitable workout regimen, Chodzko-Zajko stressed that it is also “important for people to choose their own path and not listen to others.”

Block out the infomercials and celebrity fitness fads, because those routines may not fit your personal activity plan, he said. Additionally, Chodzko-Zajko compared living a healthier lifestyle to a nice restaurant with a large menu.

“There’s not one solution, there’s many,” Chodzko-Sajko said.

Those interested in learning misconceptions about healthy lifestyles can attend “How to Misread the Science of Health,” a speaking event featuring New York Times medical reporter and senior writer Gina Kolata. The event will be held Friday at 3 p.m. at the Alice Campbell Alumni Center.

David can be reached at [email protected].