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New York's health commissioner visits Buffalo to discuss fitness, obesity


New York State's acting health commissioner, Dr. Howard Zucker, marked the start of National Public Health Week on Monday by kicking off a statewide tour in Buffalo.Appearing at the William-Emslie YMCA, Dr. Zucker witnessed senior citizens participating in a senior fitness program known as Club 99.

"Regular physical activity can reduce the aches of arthritis, it can improve blood pressure control, reduce high blood pressure, all which clearly become problematic just from the natural aging process," Zucker said.

Leading the seniors in their exercises was Club 99's president, Richard Durwald, known as "Mr. Fitness." His colleague, Ann Marie Constantino, demonstrated some moves which especially impressed fellow club members and visitors when it was revealed she will celebrate her 93rd birthday this coming Sunday.

Constantino, when asked about her physical condition, pointed out that she and her brothers spent their entire lives staying active.

"We always did things, you know, walking and stuff like that," she said. "I've always been fidgety. I have to be doing something all the time. I shovel snow, I chop ice and all that. I still do."

Also in attendance were Erie County officials Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein and Deputy Commissioner of Senior Services Timothy Hogues to support Zucker's visit, which is one of several to promote taking steps to combat obesity. He will continue his tour Tuesday in Syracuse, where he'll meet with youth to discuss how they, too, can improve their health and lifestyle choices.

Zucker praised the seniors he visited in Buffalo, suggesting they could be influential.

"You have a generation here of seniors and if we can get them to get engaged with their grandchildren, or their nieces and nephews and grandnieces and nephews and get them engaged to do some sort of physical activity, it'll be great," Zucker said. "It would be an opportunity for them to be physically fit and be an opportunity for them to also do things that would increase their communication with the next generation."

Dr. Zucker added that physical activity need not be intensive to improve health. He identified activities such as walking and added that one need only spend up to 15 minutes daily to positively impact health.

YMCA Buffalo Niagara president Olin 'Buddy' Campbell addresses the audience Monday as New York State's acting health commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker visits to kick off a statewide tour as part of National Public Health Week. From left to right behind Campbell are: Richard Durwald, president of Club 99; Timothy Hogues, Erie County Deputy Commissioner of Senior Services; Dr. Zucker; Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein.
Credit WBFO.org

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Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.