Faculty Spotlight

Dr. Steve Langendorfer - Fall 2014 Faculty Spotlight

Professor - School of Human Movement, Sport, and Leisure Studies 

Dr. Steve Langendorfer is a professor in the School of Human Movement, Sport, and Leisure Studies. He is the founding editor of the International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education published by Human Kinetics Publishers, Champaign, Illinois.


Dr. Stephen Langendorfer has built an international reputation as an expert on water safety and developmental aquatics through his writing, editorial and service work to prevent drownings. Recently he crossed the Atlantic to receive a special honor in Ireland. During his trip he also gave seven presentations in Ireland, Poland and Spain.

Langendorfer, a professor of exercise science and director of the School of Human Movement, Sport and Leisure Studies, was presented the Ireland Medal by the Lifesaving Foundation "in recognition of his long exceptional contribution to saving lives from drowning." The medal was presented to him by County Mayo-born Rear Adm. Mark Mellett, deputy chief of staff for Ireland's Defence Forces, at a special function during the Lifesaving Foundation's 2014 International Drowning Prevention and Rescue Conference in Balbriggan, North County Dublin. Click here to read more about Dr. Langendorfer's recognition for contributions to water safety.

He also serves on the American Red Cross’s Scientific Advisory Council as a member of the Aquatic sub-council. He is involved in aquatics and water safety nationally and internationally. Recently he has become more involved with the worldwide concern for drowning prevention. As part of that involvement, Dr. Langendorfer has attended conferences in Norway, Vietnam, Ireland, and Germany. Drowning is a serious worldwide health and wellness issue because an estimated 400,000 to 800,000 individuals, especially in low and middle income countries (LMIC), drown annually. One reason for his interest is that drowning is one of the major causes of accidental deaths among young children and males from 14 to 24 years old.

Contemporary prevention strategies include better lifeguarding, expanded use of lifejackets, plus more widespread and improved swimming instruction. Different bodies of water and conditions require quite different survival skills. One might think that as long as one is able to swim a short distance in a pool, one would be safe around the water, but it is not as simple as that.

An important skill to prevent drowning is people learning how to float under different water conditions especially while wearing clothing. He warns that one of the most dangerous things to do is to try to swim to safety especially in cold water or while clothed. Instead someone who unexpectedly becomes immersed in cold water should float quietly while their heart rate stabilizes and hold onto their boat while letting clothing provide insulation and flotation.  The key techniques to successful floating involve relaxation and regular, controlled breathing. One of the most basic things to do is let the water support your body and to make sure the face is above water so you are able to breathe freely. Almost every person naturally floats in the water. Floating skills have no age limit, but you have to learn to be patient when teaching adults.  When they are successful, the most rewarding thing is their sense of accomplishment. He indicates sometimes it even pays to let non-swimmers experience floating in the deep end of a pool: Allow the body to submerge initially after which it naturally rises back up. Once a person realizes water holds them up, they can float and breathe without struggling.

Dr. Langendorfer first studied physical education and then at the graduate level developmental kinesiology, which is a field that investigates how movements (including swimming skills) change across the lifespan--one reason he decided to be an affiliate with the Center of Excellence. He understands that physical and health educators, exercise leaders, coaches, physical and occupational therapists, and others in the health sciences all need to understand the processes regarding how movement and exercise change at different ages; hence the Center of Excellence captured his interests and affiliation.

Dr. Langendorfer’s idea for maintaining one’s preferred weight involves a combination of eating right and exercising which takes determination and often a complete change of lifestyle. Dr. Langendorfer personally keeps himself healthy through a regimen of vigorous exercise and a healthy nutritional lifestyle.  Most days he swims from two to three miles with the Masters swim team on campus and bicycles daily to campus; he follows a whole food and plant-based (WFPB) lifestyle which means he has dropped consuming animal protein from his eating as recommended by The China Study and Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition, both authored by Dr. T. Colin Campbell.

As for the Center of Excellence for Health and Wellness across the Lifespan (CoE), he would like to see more involvement by community people and developing local partnerships. He mentions that increased involvement by aquatics people in the greater Toledo area is something that he would encourage. He feels that initial efforts seem to have been more on an individual basis but hopes to see more collaborative efforts among dedicated groups interested in exercise, nutrition, and aquatics. Of course, there is more we did not capture about Dr. Langendorfer, but his resume is on the CoE website where you can read more about this highly-accomplished professional.