Finals Week Wellness

It’s been a long semester and you’ve studied hard.  Now it’s time to cap off the semester by doing well on final exams and projects.  A lot of students associate finals week with all-nighters, constant studying, and plenty of coffee.  These behaviors can actually be detrimental to your academic performance.  Here are ways to take care of your mind and body so that you can do your best on finals.

  1. Sleep

Sleep deprivation affects not only your energy level and mood, but also your ability to concentrate, learn, and focus.  As finals week approaches, maintain a regular sleep pattern and aim for 7-9 hours per night.  For more restful sleep, avoid alcohol and stop drinking caffeine at least six hours prior to your typical bed time.

  1. Get your nutrients

Antioxidants from fruits and vegetables help keep your brain healthy.  Throw an apple or a banana in your backpack before you head out to study or have a salad with your next slice of pizza.  Most importantly, do not skip meals.

  1. Be active

Physical activity is not just good for your body, but also for your brain.  Endorphins released in the brain during physical activity can reduce tension, improve mood, and increase brainpower.  Take a walk, turn your music on and dance, or take some time to stretch.  If you exercise regularly, keep it up!  You’ll reap the benefits more than ever this week.

Staying Motivated

Trying to lose weight because of a medical condition? Consider visiting a dietitian in the Nutrition Clinic at University Health Services (UHS).  UHS has a Weight Management Program that is specifically designed to help students who need to lose weight due to health needs.  So far, students who have enrolled in the program find it rewarding.

Losing weight takes time, so it’s normal to question your ability to continue to make positive change. The following strategies will help increase your chances of successful weight loss.

  1. Find your inner motivation: find the “thing” that will give you the burning drive to stick to your weight-loss plan
  2. Set realistic goals: make small changes every day that will lead to big results in the long run.
  3. Remember your priorities: set priorities that support a healthy lifestyle and that promote lasting change.
  4. Focus on progress, not perfection: see every snack and every meal as a new opportunity to make a healthy choice.
  5. Celebrate achievement: recognize and be proud of your progress by using mini rewards. For example, buy yourself fitness gear; go to a sporting event, concert or movie with friends when you consistently eat 4-5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily for a month.
  6. Patience: remember, evidence shows that people who lose weight gradually and steadily (about 1 to 2 pounds per week) are more successful at keeping weight off(1).

(1) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cdc.gov/healthyweight/losing_weight/index.html

Taking Steps toward Better Health

Walking has many health benefits that we often don’t even think about. Whether you are walking for exercise or walking to class, this activity gives you a physical and mental health boost. You may not think of walking as exercise, but it is! Long ago Hippocrates said, “Walking is a man’s best medicine.” In our common day, Exercise is Medicine is a well-known campaign[i] at Penn State University.

American Heart Association and American College of Sports Medicine guidelines call for able-bodied adults to engage in moderate-intensity exercise (brisk walking) for at least 30-minutes per day.  Do you meet these recommendations?  Walking has numerous benefits including protection against depression, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol[ii]. Walking can even boost your mental alertness, making it a great study break.

If walking isn’t already part of your routine, consider making it a part of your daily life. The best thing about walking is that it’s free and doesn’t require equipment. Walking is simple and natural. It does not require skill and the risk for injury is low. Next time you have the choice to ride the bus to class, choose to step toward better health.

[i] https://sites.psu.edu/psueim/

[ii] http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/Walking-Your-steps-to-health

Stress, Food and Exercise During the Holidays

Do the holidays create stress for you?  Do you feel pressure to overeat at meals and parties?  Here are ways you can incorporate a variety of nutritious foods and activity during this busy time of year:

  • Keep healthy snacks with you, for example, fruit and cheese, peanut butter and crackers, yogurt
  • Eat consistently to avoid getting over-hungry
  • Drink sparkling water instead of eggnog, beer and mixed drinks
  • Bring a healthy dish to share at parties
  • Eat when you are hungry, stop when you are full
  • Make time to exercise. It’s a great way to relieve stress
  • Go for a walk before or after a holiday party or get together
  • Fill up on nutrient dense foods including fruit, vegetables, whole grain breads and crackers, lean meats and cheeses

Health Benefits of Swimming

Swimming is a great way to improve your mental and physical health. It increases muscle strength and flexibility and allows you to work out vigorously with little chance of injury to your joints.  Swimming also trains the body to use oxygen more efficiently. Focusing on breathing and body movements adds a meditative aspect to swimming which can reduce stress.[i]

Think swimming is a summer thing? Think again.  The Penn State Natatorium is available year round to Penn State students.  Indoor pool admission is included with a PSU fitness pass; single day admission for students who do not have a pass is $3.  Be sure to check the calendar for public swim times.

It’s never too late to start swimming.  Penn State Aquatics offer adult courses for beginners as well as advanced swimmers.  Aquacise is a great option for those who aren’t into swimming but still want to benefit from water-based exercise.[ii]

[i] http://www.health.harvard.edu/family-health-guide/take-the-plunge-for-your-heart

[ii] http://studentaffairs.psu.edu/campusrec/rec/nat/

 

STDs on the Rise

According to the CDC, the number of reported cases of sexually transmitted diseases among teenagers and young adults is increasing. In 2015 there were more than 1.5 million chlamydia cases reported (1,526,658), nearly 400,000 cases of gonorrhea (395,216), and nearly 24,000 cases of primary and secondary (P&S) syphilis (23,872).”  The CDC is saying that the number of cases is at an unprecedented high.   “Individuals ages 15 to 24 years old accounted for nearly two-thirds of chlamydia diagnoses and half of gonorrhea diagnoses.  Men who have sex with men (MSM) accounted for the majority of new gonorrhea and P&S syphilis cases.”

Chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis (the three most common bacterial STDs) have serious, long term health implications.  All three STDs can be treated with antibiotics, although gonorrhea is becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics.  There is evidence suggesting that antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea may be higher among MSM.  To learn more about STDs, visit www.cdc.gov/std/

State and local budget cuts may be the blame for the rise in reported STD cases because services and prevention programs have been eliminated in many towns. Dr. Jonathan Mermin[i] reported that in 2012, 20 state health departments closed their STD clinics.

The good news is that University Health Services (UHS) offers low cost, self-testing for gonorrhea and chlamydia.  Visit studentaffairs.psu.edu/health/gettested/ to learn more about the testing options available through UHS.

STD Infections Rise To New Highs After States Close Health Clinics by Angus Chen,  www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/133188449/public-health

[i]  Director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention for the CDC

Caffeine and Sleep

Feeling more awake after that late afternoon cup of coffee?  While caffeine may temporarily make you feel more alert, it cannot replace sleep.

Caffeine makes us feel more awake by blocking sleep inducing chemicals in the brain and increasing the production of adrenaline.[i]   While up to 400 mg of caffeine per day generally does not cause problems, too much caffeine can lead to rapid heart rate, increased blood pressure, nervousness, and insomnia.[ii]  Drinking caffeine late in the day not only masks the body’s natural urge to sleep, it can also cause sleep loss.  This could turn into a detrimental cycle of creating more and more sleep debt while increasing caffeine consumption and the negative effects that come with it.   Just how late is too late for caffeine?  Researchers have found that caffeine has a negative impact on sleep quality up to 6 hours before bedtime.[iii]

To avoid that late afternoon slump all together, try to maintain a regular sleep schedule, consume a variety of nutritious foods, and exercise regularly.

[i] https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/caffeine-and-sleep

[ii] http://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/drugs_devices_supplements/hic-caffeine-tips-for-breaking-habit

[iii] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24235903

Belly Breathing for Relaxation

Deep breathing or diaphragmatic breathing is often referred to as “belly breathing.” Natural breathing focuses on filling the chest with air.  Breathing for relaxation requires inhaling in a way that expands the lungs downward and allows more air to enter the body.  Belly breathing provides much more oxygen to the body and helps to lower stress response.  Most people feel a decrease in stress and tension within 2-3 deep belly breaths.  Try belly breathing throughout the day, perhaps before you eat, before class begins, and certainly any time you are feeling stressed.

How to Belly Breathe:

  • Place one hand on your abdomen above your belly button and one hand on your upper chest.
  • Relax your abdomen
  • Breathe in through your nose and fill your lungs.
  • Allow your lungs to expands downward and move the bottom hand.
  • Avoid shallow chest breathing or raising your shoulders.
  • Exhale slowly through pursed lips.

Debra Burdick, L. B. (2013). Mindfulness Skills Workbook for Clinicians & Clients. Eau Claire, WI: PESI Publishing and Media.

Fun Competition Fuels Extreme Stater 2016

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On Saturday, October 15, 2016, 25 student teams (100 racers) competed in the 4th annual Extreme Stater. This event was held at Stone Valley Recreation Area and included a variety of physical and mental challenges. This year, students received a passport & map of the obstacles and were given 10-minutes to develop a race plan. Each obstacle had a point value determined by the difficulty level of the obstacle.  Eighteen obstacles stood between all teams and 1st place. K.I.M.S. test, group traverse, spider web, and tarp flip, just to name a few, were some of the team-based challenges this year. And never to disappoint, two favorites, the zip line, and the 50-foot climbing wall, were included in the race again. The trail run allowed teams to navigate their way from one side of Lake Perez to the other to participate in canoeing, shape puzzle, hill run, mud crawl and more! This year, teams categorized themselves into one of two classes –competitive or non-competitive. Both categories were timed and scored based on how many obstacles each team completed. Six teams emerged as the top finishers (3 from competitive class and 3 from non-competitive class).

Congratulations to the winners! Thank you to all participants and volunteers. We hope you had as much fun as we did and will join us again next year.

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Racers take off!

Competitive Top Finishers

1st place: PSU Peacocks (1 hour, 15 min)

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Racers: Colin Fisher, Jason Cornell, Emily Peacock, Elizabeth Morgan

2nd place: Case of the Runs (1 hour, 17 min)

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Racers: Olivia Dickerson, Justin Nowosielsni, Tom Kawchak, Audrey Ferraro

3rd place: Team Barb (1 hour, 18 min)

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Racers: Craig Miller, Justin Roarty, Christina Cheruka, Jeannette Bender

Non-Competitive Top Finishers

1st place: On The Fly (1 hour, 42 min)

2nd place: PS (We’ll Defeat) U (1 hour, 52 min)

3rd place: The Schreyards (1 hour, 54 min)

All Results (hour : min)

  1. PSU Peacocks, 1:15
  2. A Case of the Runs, 1:17
  3. Barbara, 1:18
  4. Scrambled Legs & Achin’, 1:26
  5. Team America, 1:29
  6. R.O.D.E Runners, 1:32
  7. Plant Powered, 1:38
  8. The Killer Wales, 1:39
  9. No Experience Required, 1:40
  10. On The Fly, 1:42
  11. Gorilla Warfare, 1:44
  12. My Name isn’t Forrest, 1:50
  13. We Run for Harambe, 1:50
  14. PS (We’ll Defeat) U, 1:52
  15. The Schreyards, 1:54
  16. Harambe’s Angels, 1:56
  17. The Lion, 1:56
  18. The Suhhh Dudes, 1:59
  19. Oreo, 2:01
  20. Orion, 2:05
  21. Gymmeros, 2:07
  22. The Wolf Pack, 2:09
  23. BABAM, 2:11
  24. Aureus, 2:15 
  25. The Patty Cakes, 2:16

Snapshots of the day

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Early morning on Lake Perez, at Stone Valley.
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Extreme Stater staff, volunteers, and racers.
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Sizing up the Odyssey Course.
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The Plant Powered Team checks their passport, in which they mapped their race plan and recorded their progress.
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The Killer Wales show off their strength at Canoe Portage. (Pictured left to right: Laith Yousif, Lauren Rader, Jen Wales, Nathan Graham).
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Racers scale the Climbing Wall.
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Hanging loose on the Odyssey Course zip line.
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Team No Experience Required shows off their speed.
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The Schreyards demonstrate their flawless teamwork on Team Traverse. Pictured (Alex Chan, Nancy Le, Sally Li, Kyle Trabocoo).
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Race prep!
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Thanks to all of our awesome volunteers! We couldn’t have done it without you.
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Big thanks to our MC, Assistant Director of Residence Life, John Hurst.

Team Pictures

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Fruits and Vegetables

Eating fruits and vegetables is a great way to give your body energy and vitamins to help ward off illness.  In addition, most fruits and vegetables are low in fat and calories and are filling.  As a college student you may wonder   how can I eat more fruits and vegetables when I am busy and also on a budget?

Tips for getting more fruits and vegetables:

  • Shop for fruits and vegetables when they are in season. Look to see when your favorites are in season
  • Cook most frozen vegetables in the microwave in less than five minutes. They are just as nutritious as fresh veggies.  Here are tips for healthy ways to cook fruits and vegetables
  • Try different cooking methods of vegetables including grilling, roasting or baking
  • Keep fruit in your backpack at all times for a nutrient rich snack
  • Grab a piece of fruit with you leave the dining hall
  • Plan meals around a vegetable as the main dish
  • Make healthy fruit dips with peanut butter and yogurt
  • Make nutritious dips for veggies including hummus or yogurt with herbs

Source: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,  www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/healthy_eating/fruits_vegetables.html