45 preventive-health trainees converge on Concordia
This month, 45 of the country’s top preventive health trainees will flock to Concordia’s PERFORM Centre to participate in the week-long Canadian Institutes of Health Research Summer Program in Aging (SPA).
The SPA provides Canadian graduate students and postdoctoral fellows with advanced knowledge and skills that cross disciplines, institutions and geographical boundaries.
Under the thematic umbrella of “Physical Activity and Aging,” this year’s program will touch on three key topics: fundamental principles on the impact of physical activity; the impact of physical activity on cognitive aging and physical activity as a means to prevent dementia and age-related chronic diseases.
Lectures, workshops and training sessions will complement career-development and networking opportunities for attendees. The week will culminate with the 4th Annual PERFORM Research Conference, which will examine multidisciplinary approaches to studying physical activity and aging.
Graduate students Brittany Intzandt and Rachel Downey are the two Concordians taking part in the training, which begins May 15.
'SPA exposes students to new innovations in the field’
Intzandt is currently in her first year of an interdisciplinary PhD program focusing on kinesiology, neuroscience and psychology. She says the SPA will provide a unique opportunity for trainees to establish a network of contacts for future collaborations. It will also facilitate knowledge exchange and provide access to the expertise of other senior researchers.
“The program exposes students to new innovations in the field, while continuing to enhance current scientific and research foundations in physical activity and aging, increasing autonomy and success,” she notes.
“It’s also an excellent professional opportunity for graduate students.”
Intzandt says it’s important to study preventive health because the number of Canadian older adults is expected to rise. Costs to the health-care system due to aging-related complications, such as declining mental function, will also go up.
“Finding ways to improve components of aging, such as cognition, is important, as it allows researchers to advance strategies to continue to foster their effectiveness,” she explains.
“Studying preventive health provides more evidence that strategies to limit age-related decline work, therefore reducing the burden on the health-care system.”
One of Intzandt’s research objectives is to design effective physical-activity and cognitive-training programs for aging populations, particularly for those suffering from neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia.
‘Health problems negatively impact many aspects of our society’
Rachel Downey is a master’s student of psychology in the Faculty of Arts and Science.
She looks forward to the opportunity to network with other researchers in the field as well as expand her understanding of some of the technical methodologies underlying physical activity research.
“Health problems negatively impact many aspects of our society, from the burden on the affected individual and immediate caregiver to the economic demands associated with health care,” she says.
“This is especially pertinent in the aging population, as it continues to rise in number. Research that addresses and prevents health issues early may aid in recessing this negative cascading effect on society.”
After completing her master’s program, Downey hopes to pursue a career as a clinical neuropsychologist. She’d like to work with healthy older adults with cognitive complaints as well as patients with Alzheimer’s disease and traumatic brain injuries.
Want to learn more about the links between physical activity and aging? Attend the Annual PERFORM Centre Research Conference at Concordia on May 19. It’s free and open to everyone.