Promoting Physical Health

ORI researchers are studying ways to keep people of all ages physically healthy. ORI’s work in chronic illness prevention began in the 1980’s with research to find ways to help people with diabetes manage their illness. The study and promotion of physical activity began in the 1990s with important longitudinal research on the factors which influence children and youth to become and remain physically active and with important clinical trials of the benefits of Tai Chi exercise for the elderly.

Current Research

Managing Chronic Illness

The mission of the ORI researchers studying chronic illness is to help people prevent and manage chronic and severe illness by changing their health-related lifestyle behavior. The research team has focused on the importance of diet, exercise, stress management, and social support in alleviating the symptoms of illnesses such as diabetes and coronary heart disease.

Promoting Health through Diet and Exercise

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 individual health, the availability of healthy food choices in neighborhood stores, the community adoption of a modified Tai Chi program to increase mobility among older adults, and longitudinal studies to examine physical activity patterns of youth. An understanding of these factors will help in the design of programs to improve American diets and to increase physical activity.

Environmental Factors that Affect Human Health

Research in this area examines how environmental factors that adversely affect human health can be mitigated through behavioral or structural changes.  

Linking Personality Traits to Health and Well-Being

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 oldest research topics at ORI. In a unique investigation, the research team is linking personality assessments from elementary school children 45 years ago to medical and psychological examinations of these same individuals, now middle-aged adults. The findings demonstrate a link between childhood personality traits and health behaviors that affect adult health outcomes.