All posts by Leanne M Lenz

Researchers find more evidence that exercise improves memory.

Many studies have shown that exercise is good for the brain, but the link between exercise and memory has been unclear.  A group of researchers looked at the substances that are produced by muscle cells in response to exercise.  One of those substances, a protein called cethepsin B, contributed to the growth of new cells and connections in the hippocampus, a region of the brain that is associated with memory.  After finding that high levels of cethepsin B improved memory in mice and monkeys, the group conducted a similar study involving 43 sedentary university students.  Half of the students remained sedentary while the others exercised several times each week for 4 months.  The students who exercised experienced an increase in cathepsin B levels and improved on a memory task (reproducing a geometric pattern from memory).

Skipping your workout to study?  Think again.  You may do better on your exam after you exercise.



Moon et al., Running-Induced Systemic Cathepsin B Secretion Is Associated with Memory Function, Cell Metabolism (2016),

Sleep-Friendly Residence Hall Room

While living in a residence hall can be a lot of fun, it’s not exactly conducive to a good night’s sleep.  As you settle in this fall semester, consider the following tips for creating a sleep-friendly room.

Reduce or eliminate artificial light.  Artificial light can send messages to your body that it is time to wake up. Look around your room at night and identify sources of light such as street lights shining through the window, power buttons on electronics, or digital clocks.  Consider blocking these lights so that your room is completely dark while you sleep.[i]

Avoid using your bed for studying and socializing.  Strengthen your association between your bed and sleep by using your bed only for sleep (or sex). [ii] If you associate your bed with something stressful or energizing, you could find yourself tossing and turning. Study in the library and hang out with friends in common areas.

Communicate with your roommate. Talk with your roommate and develop a plan so that both of you can get the recommended 8 hours of sleep each night.

Pick up a free sleep kit from Health Promotion and Wellness, 201 Student Health Center.  The sleep kit contains an eye mask, ear plugs, and sleep tips.


[i] The National Sleep Foundation,

[ii] The Mayo Clinic,

Heat Exhaustion

It’s already midsummer and temperatures are high.  While it can be fun to spend time in the hot summer sun, it’s also important to prevent heat exhaustion.  Common signs of heat exhaustion include confusion, dizziness and fainting.  To avoid heat exhaustion, drink plenty of fluids and take a cool shower.   More serious symptoms such as unconsciousness, lack of sweating, or seizures could be a sign of heat stroke which is a medical emergency.  Heat stroke is more common among adults 50 and older, but it can happen to anyone who is outside for a long period of time or is working out in high temperatures.

When the humidity is high, the heat index (or what is referred to as the “real feel” by some weather services), is higher than the actual temperature. The humidity hinders your body’s natural cooling mechanism by preventing sweat evaporation.  The risk of heat related illnesses increases dramatically when the heat index is 90 degrees or higher.

When the heat index is high, use the following tips to prevent heat exhaustion:

  • Take breaks in air conditioned spaces, when possible
  • Wear lightweight, light colored, loose fitting clothing
  • Use sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more
  • Drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration



Source: WebMD,,

Mayo Clinc,

Benefits of local fruits and vegetables


Penn State is surrounded by farms which provide easy access to local fruits and vegetables.  At this time of year, the harvest is especially plentiful.  There are many reasons to buy local produce.

  • Consuming freshly picked fruits and veggies at their peak provides the best flavor AND nutrition.
  • Meeting the farmer has it’s perks. Have you ever wondered where your food comes from? Farmers markets give you the opportunity to greet and shake the hand of the farmer that feeds you.
  • Buying local supports a healthy and vibrant local economy.
  • Trying something new is always fun. Have you ever tried rhubarb or yellow watermelon? Local famers often provide fruits and veggies that aren’t commonplace in the grocery store.

The State College Farmers Market is a short walk from campus.  It’s on Locust Lane (between College Avenue and Calder Way) on Tuesdays and Fridays from 11:30am-5:30pm.  There are additional farmers markets in the State College area.

To find out what’s in season, check out this seasonal produce guide.

Sue Crowe Memorial Arts Festival Races

It’s that time of year.  The sun is hot, the smell of kettle corn is in the air, and more than 100,000 visitors are in town for the local arts festivals.  In addition to the 300 artists lining the streets of Penn State and Downtown State College, the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts includes a variety of musical performances, various food venders, and the 41st annual arts festival races.

The first arts festival race took place in in 1976 as a ten mile event.  Now named after local running legend and coach Sue Crowe, who died in 2006, the event includes a 5K, 10K, and 10 mile race. Races begin between 8:15am and 8:45am on Sunday, July 17th.  Registration costs $25 and can be completed online or in person on the day of the event.

Learn more about the Arts Festival at


The Sue Crowe memorial Arts Festival Races are sponsored by Penn State Health; proceeds benefit youth running activities in Centre County and the continuing operations of the Nittany Valley Running Club.

Adventure Recreation

Do you enjoy adventures in the great outdoors?  Maybe you’ve never been the outdoorsy type, but would like to give it a try.  Penn State’s Adventure Recreation makes outdoor adventure fun and convenient by including transportation, equipment, food, and lodging for their all-inclusive adventure trips.  Adventure Rec instructors provide guidance and teach participants how to use safety gear.   This summer, Adventure Recreation trips include climbing, kayaking, and whitewater rafting.  Visit the website for descriptions.  Check the HPS blog for updates about trips during the 2016-2017 academic year.

adventure rec

Tips to prevent dehydration.

Water is one of the most critical components of the human body. Seventy-five percent of our muscle tissue is made up of water.  It regulates body temperature, protects vital organs, and aids the digestive system. Water also transports nutrients and helps remove waste from the body[1]. As you can imagine, being well hydrated is important and dehydration can lead to serious health problems.  The best way to approach dehydration is to prevent it.

Here are some tips to help you prevent dehydration.

  • Keep a refillable water bottle with you all the time. Fill it up before you leave home and familiarize yourself with the water refilling stations on campus.
  • Check the weather forecasts for high heat index days and schedule your outdoor activities in the cooler hours of the day.
  • Limit alcohol consumption. Alcohol increases water loss and impairs the ability to recognize early signs of dehydration.[2]
  • Thirst is the first sign of dehydration. If you are thirsty, take the time to drink water without delay.



[2] Source:


Lyme Disease Prevention

Hiking is a great outdoor activity; however, it is important, especially during the warmer months, to protect yourself from tick bites.

Lyme disease is caused by bacteria that is spread to humans through tick bites.  If left untreated, the infection can spread to joints, the heart, and nervous system.  Lyme disease is most common in the Northeast and North-central states.  In 2014, 96% of Lyme disease cases occurred in only 14 states, Pennsylvania being one of them.

Here’s what you can do to reduce the chances of getting a tick bite.

  • When possible, where a hat, long sleeves, long pants, and tuck your pants into your socks.
  • Walk in the center of trails and avoid areas with high grass and leaf litter.
  • Use DEET repellent or another repellent recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency
  • Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors.
  • Use a mirror to conduct a full-body tick check.
  • Tumble clothes in a dryer on high heat to kill off any remaining ticks.

When caught early, Lyme disease can be cured completely with antibiotics.  Schedule an appointment with your doctor if you notice any signs or symptoms of Lyme disease.  Symptoms often include fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint aches, and swollen lymph nodes.  Learn more about how to remove a tick as well as other essential information about Lyme disease at .

Enjoy your time in nature and stay safe!



Caring Canines at CAPS

Feeling anxious about finals week?  Research shows that spending time with a dog can decrease your anxiety.  A study at UCLA found that anxiety scores dropped by 24% in heart failure patients who were visited weekly by a human volunteer and dog team versus a 10% drop in those who were visited by only a human volunteer. More specifically, the level of epinephrine, a stress hormone, dropped by 17% in patients who were visited by the volunteer & canine team compared with a 2% drop for patients who were visited by only a volunteer.

This Tuesday you can destress with Caring Canines on Tuesday, May 3, 2016 from 11am to 2pm at the Student Health Center lawn (Bigler Road).  The event is sponsored by Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS).

Smith, M. A. (2016). Calm; Calm the mind, change the world. New York: Harper Design.

caring canines

Take a Break in Nature

Spending time in nature can provide valuable benefits to your mental and physical health.  Penn State’s campus offers beautiful outdoor locations such as the Penn State Arboretum and the duck pond at the Hintz Family Alumni Center.    There will probably be some days when you just cannot get outside or it may be raining.  On those days, find a quiet spot indoors and try the following excerpt from “Calm; Calm the mind, change the world” by Michael Acton Smith.

Nature meditation

Begin by sitting comfortable in a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed.  Take a few breaths, allowing your mind to relax.

With your body planted firmly on the ground, feel the earth beneath you.  Picture yourself in a field or forest beneath a large, leafy tree with strong branches.  Smell the rich soil and clean air.  Listen to the wind rustling through the leaves and notice if you hear any birds or animals stirring within.

Visualize the tree’s leaves, ranches and trunk, then picture yourself reaching out to touch it.  Fell the texture of the bark. 

Be aware of the shade the tree offers, the wood it provides, how it cleans the air, and its beauty.

Appreciate the tree as a living organism.  Imagine it drinking up the water through its complex root system.  Visualize the lengthening, spreading branches, and the leaves opening toward the sun.

Smith, M. A. (2016). Calm; Calm the mind, change the world. New York: Harper Design.