Promoting Physical Health

ORI researchers study ways to keep people of all ages physically healthy. This research area includes the study and promotion of physical activity among youth and the elderly, research on how personality affects physical health and wellbeing, an examination of the causes of childhood obesity, and development of programs designed to prevent obesity onset.

Current Research

Physical Health across the Age Span

ORI’s research in this area examines both individual and community-level strategies for improving diet and exercise. Areas of inquiry include the effect of the built environment on health, the effects of healthy food choices and physical activity in schools, studies to examine physical activity patterns of youth, and the community adoption of a modified Tai Chi program to increase mobility and reduce falls in the frail elderly. An understanding of these factors will help in the design of programs to improve people’s diets and to increase physical activity.

Obesity Prevention

ORI scientists are examining ways to prevent unhealthy weight gain and the onset of obesity. Few obesity prevention programs have reduced risk for weight gain over the long term and those that have are very intensive, making dissemination difficult and costly. Current studies in this area include using objective brain imaging to examine the brain’s response to food cues, whether a brief food response training intervention produces lasting body fat loss, and testing an obesity prevention group intervention that is based on a highly effective dissonance-based eating disorder prevention program.

Personality, Health, and Aging

Personality research at ORI has had a major influence on the development of a unifying framework for the many different ways of describing personality characteristics, and it is one of the earliest research areas at ORI. In a unique investigation, the research team is linking personality assessments from elementary school children 50 years ago to medical and psychological examinations of these same individuals, now middle-aged adults. Of particular interest is the association between personality and cognitive resilience, and age-graded cognitive declines that develop into mild impairment and Alzheimer’s disease.