By Dorene Internicola
NEW YORK (Reuters) - TV viewers know him best as the dashing Dr. Oz, Oprah Winfrey's plain-talking protege in surgical scrubs.
Now the star of the Dr. Oz Show, Mehmet Oz, has reached the mellow age of 50 and has teamed with AARP Magazine to create a six-month plan for increasing longevity among the 50-plus population.
The charismatic cardiothoracic surgeon rose to fame shocking audiences with show-and-tell displays of decaying lungs and rotting livers to press his message -- take care of yourself, or else.
These days his message has not changed, but his method bears a distinct trace of easy does it.
Oz's regimen includes 18 stretching, strength and balance exercises, most of which can be done on the living room floor, along with dietary guidelines and checklists.
The linchpin is a daily 30-minute walk. Oz's fans will also recognize his characteristic calls to meditate and drink green tea.
"It's very gentle, very basic for someone who is starting out and not terribly healthy to begin with," said Gabi Redford, editor for AARP magazine, which focuses on quality of life issues for the 50-and-over age group.
"At the end of six months, if you can do all of these things, follow the diet, ramp up exercise, manage stress, we guarantee that blood pressure, healthy cholesterol, and blood sugar, will improve," said Redford, whose magazine reaches 35 million readers.
For Dr. Wojtek J. Chodzko-Zajko, an expert with the American College of Sports Medicine, inactivity is a matter of national concern.
"You have the highest levels of obesity and inactivity disorders that we've ever seen in this country," said Chodzko-Zajko, who chairs the Aging Blueprint project, a coalition of organizations formed in 2000 to promote fitness among the aging.
"A lot of heart disease and diabetes occurs at least partly because of poor physical activity and nutrition choices," he said. "Life expectancy may be increasing but the prospects of healthy life expectancy remain unclear."
He is quick to explode the myth that this generation of aging is the fittest so far.
"Yes, there's a cohort of baby boomers or young old people who have been active all their lives, and these people are somewhat different from generations before," he said.
"But for every physically active baby boomer, we have a growing number of people who are completely sedentary."
He said aspects of Oz's program appear to meet the guidelines established by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2008, which call for 150 hours of moderate to vigorous physical activity and two days per week of resistance training.
"For AARP constituents, walking is an excellent form of physical activity," said Chodzko-Zajko, "but it's not possible to come up with an exercise program that's appropriate for all people."
He emphasized that is it important that people start off with modest goals.
"But to go beyond that they probably need to work with a professional to develop a customized program," he explained, "just like they have a personalized retirement plan that fits into their economy reality."
Although people plan for their economic future and their employment future, "they don't think about how they're going to take care of their bodies in order to enjoy their future." he added.
When it comes to Oz's new-age enthusiasms, Chodzko-Zajko is circumspect.
"I don't think there's anything wrong with green tea, but it wouldn't be my primary area of advocacy," he said.