Our lab pursues interdisciplinary research integrating the effects of exercise and physical activity on the mind, behavior, and health with a focus on the aging process.
Older adults are the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population with more than 36 mil adults over the age of 65 (AOA, 2006). Interestingly, Pennsylvania is second only to Florida in the number of older adults living in the state. With advancing age, there is an increase in the prevalence of chronic diseases often leading to compromised physical, psychological, and emotional functioning. Physical activity is one health behavior shown to have the potential to reduce, or prevent altogether the age-related decline in physical function, to enhance psychological well-being, and improve quality of life. In spite of these benefits, only a small proportion of older adults engage in physical activity at levels sufficient to accrue these benefits.
We apply a biopsychosocial approach and study aging from a lifespan perspective, including both middle-aged and older adults as the target populations. Current research in the lab examines how chronic physical activity and acute exercise affect health and well-being indicators in women as they transition through menopause. We also study the factors that impact physical activity engagement in older adults and its health-related outcomes.
What types of questions do we seek to answer?
- What are the mechanisms through which physical activity enhances psychological well-being and quality of life (QOL) as we age?
- What are the factors underlying individual differences in physical activity behavior and its emotional consequences?
- How best to structure physical activity programs to maximize adherence and health and psychological benefits?
We use a variety of methods in our research. These include traditional psychological methods such as surveys or interviews as well as other objective and physiological measures:
- accelerometry for objective assessment of physical activity
- maximal graded exercise testing for assessment of cardiorespiratory fitness
- blood and urine collection for neuroendocrine assays
- DEXA for body composition assessment
- sternalskin conductance for objective assessment of menopausal hot flashes
- personal digital assistants (PDAs) for assessment of momentary mood, symptoms, and stress