Keeping Your New Year’s Resolution Alive All Year Round

by Jack Stauber
by Jack Stauber

by Gwen Poillucci

Every New Year, many of us decide that this is the year that we will make a change to improve our health and well-being.  It has been six months since we said hello to 2015, so the question we must ask ourselves is, are our New Year’s Resolutions still on track?  For many of us, that answer is going to be no.  Year after year we make promises to ourselves only to lose the motivation, drive, and interest in what we set out to achieve.  This year does not have to be yet another year that our New Year’s Resolutions are put away shortly after our Christmas trees are kicked to the curb.  Whether your New Year’s Resolution never really took off, you lost focus a few weeks into the year, or your currently considering giving it up all together, here are some tips to keep your New Year’s Resolution alive all year long.

  1. Focus on your plan
    Maybe you never made a plan to begin with or it slowly went farther and farther down the drain as the days beyond January 1st came and went, now is the time to put a plan into action.  Take some time to adjust your expectations for yourself and identify what realistic goals are.  Did you promise that you would exercise one hour every day but can’t possibly find time in your schedule to do that?  Re-evaluate what is doable and start working toward it.  Make a solid plan according to this and stick to it.  When you start to lose motivation, let your plan be a reminder of what you want to achieve.
  2. Break Up the Year
    The idea of doing something new for a whole year can be daunting for many.  Instead of making a goal to achieve by the end of 2015, break the year into benchmarks.  Decide you want to achieve my each benchmark so that you can see how close you are to your goal and adjust accordingly.
  3. Provide Accountability
    It is easy to slack off when you aren’t holding yourself up to the standards you set and there is nothing to kick you in the butt when you start to falter.  Trying to lose weight?  Schedule weight check-ins for yourself at the end of each week to see where you stand and how much closer you are to your goal.  Want to gain muscle?  Measure the muscle groups you want to work on at regular intervals and write down the results.  If your own personal drive isn’t enough, tell someone about your resolution and ask them to check in with you on how it is going every so often.  No one wants to relay bad results or failure, so this will provide constant motivation.
  4. Accept Failure
    One of the biggest reasons that New Year’s Resolutions flounder is because we often take a single failure as failure of our entire goal.  By accepting that the year may be filled with roadblocks and adversity, we are more likely to continue on our journey even after a bump in the road.  No New Year’s Resolution is fool proof so use failure as a means to come back even stronger. 

It is not too late to resurrect your New Year’s Resolution if need be.  Remember why you made the resolution in the first place and use the tips above to get back on track.  Make 2015 the year you reach your health and wellness goals.

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Social Media and the Mind

by Gwen Poilucci

Take a look around the library and you are bound to see countless students on their phones scrolling through Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook during their study breaks.  While study breaks are meant to give the mind a period of relaxation before we continue our grueling hours of homework and test preparation, some new studies have found that the use of social media can actually have devastating effects on our mental health.  So, while we are already under enough stress as it is from all of our academic and extracurricular activities, that release we think we are finding from taking a quick look at our news feed may actually be doing more harm than good.

Approximately one in four individuals worldwide use social media in some way.  In addition, most of these people utilize it several times a day.  Americans use social media for an average of 7.6 hours each per month.  Think of how many times you find yourself procrastinating or bored and immediately turn to your phones to see what others are doing, who posted what pictures, and whose birthday it may be.  Now combine that with new evidence that social media can have visible effects on one’s mood, emotional well-being, and interpersonal skills and we have a dangerous concoction.

On the surface, it appears that social media accounts improve one’s well-being and social life, but what we are really doing is creating a dependence that in fact limits real social interaction.  In a recent study, 55% of individuals admitted to feeling worried or uncomfortable when they were unable to freely check their social media accounts.  This is because social media has created an immediate form of approval and popularity for its users.  A like, favorite, or retweet boosts moral, but not getting leads some to become miserable.  Researchers say that the social media addiction is real.  They say that people often become so preoccupied with what they are going to post next and using Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook as an outlet that it actually becomes a new problem or part of the problem that causes the need for the social media site to distract them from reality in the first place.

A dose of social media isn’t necessarily always a bad thing; it is when the use begins to take the form of an addiction or a release from problems that the real issue arises.  Researches found that anxious and socially insecure people are more likely to use social media as a means to boost their suffering self-esteem and insecurities instead of actually receiving treatment for their problems.  If social media was changing the moods of these people for the better, there would not be a problem.

However, 51% of users said that the use of social media had caused negative changes in their behavior.  Confidence can also be lost when people began to compare their approval on social media accounts to others.  Dr. Rauch, a researcher from the UK says that, “We know that many people on social media sites often present idealized versions of their lives, leading others to make upward social comparisons, which can lead to negative emotions.”  Therefore, when their lives aren’t up to par with how they portray them on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, morale once again takes a loss.

Next time you want to give your mind a break, try using a different healthier outlet rather than social media.  In this day and age, it is hard not to give into the Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook craze, but make sure your use is for recreation rather than a release.  You may not realize it and think your obsession over the latest status update or Instagram post is normal, but you could be harming your mental health in the process.

Whiteman, Honor. “Social Media: How Does It Really Affect Our Mental Health and Well-being?” Medical News Today. MediLexicon International. Web. 13 Apr. 2015.

What are you Tracking?

by Anna Porter

Say goodbye to guessing; today’s fitness innovations take keeping track of your health to an entirely new level. Coupled with increasingly sophisticated technology and a growing concern for healthier lifestyles, sleek, personalized, and portable bands can gauge everything from heart rate to sleep time.

As an avid gym goer and constantly active student, I previously relied on the likes of MyFitnessPal, Lose It! or other apps to track my daily movement. What I saw across the board? Inconsistencies, exaggerated values, and lack of options. I knew I couldn’t expect anything monumental from these generalized apps so I began researching. Unheard of brands featuring futuristic styles flooded my computer screen leaving me suddenly clueless for what I was truly searching for in a fitness tracker. After many Google searches, comparison charts, and conversations with strangers sporting the bands, I finally narrowed my findings to top three.

Fitbit Flex | $99.95 | www.fitbit.com

image from: http://media.engadget.com/img/products/483/ad56/ad56-800.jpg
image from: http://media.engadget.com/img/products/483/ad56/ad56-800.jpg

The Fitbit Flex was by far the band I saw people wearing most. Available in a variety of colors (and with the option of some stylish Tory Burch accessories) the Flex is a polished, adjustable band perfect for everyday tracking. Synching wirelessly to your phone and computer, it not only records steps, distance, and calories burned, but also sleep quality and with the option of a food log found on the easy to use app. Compared to others, the Flex does lack an LED display screen, instead sporting LED indicator lights that serve as a progress bar, flashing how much of your daily goal has been completed. Almost every Flex wearer I spoke with agreed that it was affordable and delivered accurate results. Many users found it to be the perfect way to track their everyday mileage—to and from, casual runs, light to moderate exercise. Others criticized the lack of a display screen to easily check the time or how many steps had been covered. Although tracking and delivering real-time data, the reliance on another device to check these numbers was a heard complaint.

Jawbone UP24 |$129.99 |www.jawbone.com

image from: http://g.fastcompany.net/multisite_files/fastcompany/imagecache/1280/poster/2013/11/3021582-poster-1280-jawbone.jpg
image from: http://g.fastcompany.net/multisite_files/fastcompany/imagecache/1280/poster/2013/11/3021582-poster-1280-jawbone.jpg

Jawbone’s UP24 may not have been as frequently seen, but it definitely gives Fitbit a run for their money. Coming in at a slightly higher price tag, UP24 covers all the bases the Flex does: steps, distance, calories burned, sleep quality, continuous wireless updates, and an app called UP to keep track of food consumed. This Jawbone also lacks a LED display and has no LED lights, forging a strong reliance on another device, such as a smartphone. Jawbone users noted the band did significantly drain their phone’s battery due to its constant updates; however this delivers incredibly accurate results stemming from Bluetooth synching. Personally, I appreciate UP24’s slightly slimmer, less discrete look and its 14 day battery life.

Megan Zammerilla, a senior Exercise Science major, loves the Jawbone’s slim fit and ability to synch with other health and fitness apps already found on her phone, keeping workout data in one place.

“The Jawbone measures resting and active calories burned. Resting is applicable when you are cycling, which is my workout of choice. It doesn’t pick up calories burned during a yoga class or if you’re on a stair master, which I think is a downfall. Every few days the UP app will present you with a challenge, for example, either increase your steps by 200 or beat your step total from the previous day,” she said.

In addition to exercise, Zammerilla frequently references the app for it’s nutritional guidance, listing facts and values based on the food she logs.

Nike+ Sportwatch GPS | $199.99 | www.nikeplus.nike.com

image from: http://www.tomtom.com/es_mx/images/Series-Nike-SportWatch-GPS.png
image from: http://www.tomtom.com/es_mx/images/Series-Nike-SportWatch-GPS.png

For your training gurus and serious runners, Nike+ Sportwatch GPS delivers everything one could ask for. By simply tapping the touch screen you can check pace, mark laps, and with a bold interface it doubles as both a true watch and fitness tracker. Nike offers it’s Nike+ running software in addition to GPS features powered by one of the leading providers, TomTom—A signal that records location and pace more accurately than Nike’s in-shoe sensor. One of the most valuable features of the watch is it’s ability to transmit run data to the Nike Plus website by simply plugging it into a USB port. The website offers personalized training schedules, tips, and the ability to map and measure runs. It also encourages goal setting and is a great way to prep for marathons, improve speeds covering shorter distances, or even get back into a running routine. The downside includes the watches expensive price point and bulkier look than your average fitness band. Also, running with the band does not support the use of headphones, making this a better option for those who don’t need music to cross the finish line.

Michael Mele, a junior at the University, found ways other than running to utilize the Sportwatch.  He said, “I personally bought it because I wanted something that would aid me in a fast pace, superset style of lifting, where I try to rest for only 60-90 seconds in between sets, so the stopwatch feature is perfect. I love the display, the large block numbers make it easy at a quick glance to tell the time and the structure fits my wrist comfortably.”

Mele found little room for error when touching the screen to track laps and overall is a big fan of the Nike product.

For how popular fitness trackers have become, Fitbit, Jawbone, Nike, and an endless list of others continue to create the latest and greatest tech toys for health and fitness advocates alike. What band are you wearing? What do you love and what would you change? Give your feedback by tweeting @pittrecreation or commenting on the blog.

Cheesy Lean Beef Zucchini Boats

by Lindsay Hall
by Lindsay Hall

by Lindsay Hall, Senior in Nutrition and Dietetics

Nutritional Facts:
approximately 300 calories total

Ingredients:

  • 1 large zucchini
  • 3 oz lean beef
  • 1 red pepper
  • ¼ cup low-fat mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tbs onion
  • 1 tbs taco seasoning
  • Non-stick cooking spray

Necessary Tools & Utensils:

  • Sharp knife
  • Cutting board
  • Small saute pan
  • Spatula
  • Oven

Recipe:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut the zucchini lengthwise in half and scoop out the centers onto a cutting board, leaving ¼ inch thick shells. Place the shells on a baking sheet and set aside.
  2. Chop the zucchini pulp, onion, and pepper into small pieces. Cook on medium-high heat in a sauté pan until slightly tender. Remove from heat and set aside.
  3. Add the lean beef to the same sauté pan, add the taco seasoning, and cook until the meat is fully cooked and the internal temperature has reached 165 degrees.
  4. Add the beef to the cooked vegetables and mix thoroughly together.
  5. Fill the zucchini boats with the beef and vegetable mixture. Sprinkle with cheese.
  6. Bake the zucchini boats in the oven for 10-15 minutes until the zucchini is tender and the cheese has melted.

A Simple Guide to Solving Lower Back Pain

Solving Lower Backpain
by Alexis Tshudy

By Phillip James, sophomore

College students spend a great deal of their day sitting in class, at their desk, and while eating. Sitting for a prolonged period of time has been proven to tighten soft tissue and cause inflammation, as well as place strain on the lower back from leaning over. This guide will include some stretches, exercises, and lifestyle recommendations that will help you alleviate and prevent further lower back pain.

Stretches 

A great way to functionally lengthen muscle tissue is stretching. If a certain range of motion is painful to an area, rest the muscles until you feel comfortable stretching them.

The first is the psoas lunge in which you get into a deep lunge position with your back knee touching the ground. Continue to lean your hips forward until you feel a stretch in your hip flexors and slightly in the outer region of your abdominal muscles. Take this stretch slowly and breath for a count of 10 breaths.

The second is the “Cat Camel” derived from yoga. This stretch begins by getting on your hands and knees with equal shoulder distance between each. Next, breathe in deeply as you lower your head, extend your upper back and stretch the muscles. After holding this for a second, breathe out slowly and deeply as you raise your gaze and flex the lower portion of your back. You should feel a slight stretch in your chest in the “cat” portion of this part of the stretch. Continue alternating between the “cat” and “camel” for 10 total reps, taking your time.

The last stretch is the cow face pose, also derived from yoga. This is a bit more difficult of a stretch but does a fantastic job on getting the hips and glutes loosened up to relieve tension on the lumbar. Begin by sitting with your legs laid straight out in front of you with your feet together. Next, cross over your right foot to the outer ground of your left thigh. Tuck the left foot underneath, and lower both knees until you’re sitting in a crisscrossed motion. Gently move your torso towards the ground and take this very slow. This stretch is much deeper than the other two, therefore it’s important to not push past your perceived limitation.

Exercises 

Once a great deal of pain has been reduced, it’s time to make the muscles stronger. Having a strong posterior chain (spinal erectors, glutes, hamstrings) can really help with stabilization and protection of the lumbar.

The first is the dumbbell Romanian deadlift. This exercise targets the hamstrings as well as the lower portion of the glutes. Begin by choosing an appropriate weight of dumbbells you feel comfortable with. Next, position the dumbbells so that you are holding them on the front portion of your thighs. Keeping your chest up and lower back tight, extend your hips backwards and you let the dumbbells run down the front of your thighs; you should feel a stretch and contraction in the upper part of the hamstrings. A good baseline for beginning this exercise is by doing 3 sets of 15 reps.
The second exercise is the single leg glute bridge. As said in the exercise name, this targets the glute muscles and can really help in strengthening the area around the lower back. Begin by laying down flat on your back with your feet shoulder distance apart from one another. Next, raise your left knee by positioning your left foot next to your right knee. Now, point your right foot up in the air parallel to the angle of your left leg. Begin the exercise by bridging your hips up into the air by contracting your glute muscles; the repetition is ended when your body is in a straight line with both thighs. It is recommended that this exercise start with no weight added, however, once strong enough, one can lay a barbell across their hips. A great place to start with this exercise is by doing 3 sets of 7 reps per leg.
The last exercise is the back extension with a pause. This is one of the best exercises for strengthening the spinal erectors themselves because it possesses extension, flexion, and isometric activation of the lumbar muscles all in one movement. Begin by adjusting the glute-ham developer’s pad so that it is touching your hips and the lower portion of your abdomen. Your body should be in a perfect straight line with your hands either across your chest or crossed behind your back. Keeping the natural curve in your lower back, drop your trunk closer to the ground until you reach roughly 45 degrees. Next, extend back up to the straight position you were in before, holding for a count of one or two seconds. Technique is crucial with this exercise, therefore it is important to be comfortable before adding weight such as a barbell across one’s shoulders on the back. It is recommended that this exercise be done in 3 sets of 10 reps.

Lifestyle Recommendations

In addition to working the muscles themselves, making easy lifestyle changes can significantly reduce the amount of low back pain you experience.
Sit more upright in your chair. It’s often very easy to hunch over when sitting for prolonged periods of time. Reduce the strain on your lower back by keeping your hips towards the backing of the chair and reinforcing the natural curve in your lower back.
Consider sleeping with a pillow in between your legs if you sleep on your side. Spending an entire night with your hips shifted out of position and a strain on your lumbar can wreck havoc on the muscles and cause you to wake up with serious tightness. Placing a pillow between your knees if you sleep on your side can help return your hips to their natural alignment and alleviate some of the torque on your lower back.

Spicy Pinto Bean Tacos

by Lindsay Hall
by Lindsay Hall

by Lindsay Hall, Senior in Nutrition and Dietetics

Healthy eating doesn’t require any fancy tools, expensive ingredients, or special cooking skills. This simple, nutritious Mexican-themed meal provides protein, fiber, whole grains, and antioxidants. Feel free to mix up this recipe with some of your favorite ingredients and flavors too, like avocado, lime and black beans. Always try new things!

Nutritional Facts: 2 tacos
250 calories

Ingredients:

  • 2 corn tortillas
  • ½ cup pinto beans, canned
  • ¼ cup red and yellow peppers, sliced
  • ¼ cup iceberg lettuce, finely sliced
  • 2 tbs salsa
  • 1 tbs chives, chopped
  • Hot sauce to taste

Necessary Tools and Utensils:

  • Sharp knife
  • Cutting board

Recipe:

  • In the microwave, heat the pinto beans to desired temperature. About 1 minute
  • Wash and slice the peppers and chives
  • Add the lettuce, beans, peppers, salsa, chives and hot sauce to the tortillas
  • Enjoy!

Nutrition Timing to Get More Results Out of Your Workouts

By Phillip James, sophomore

Today we’re going to look at how nutrition can be used in your favor for working out.

To begin, nutrient timing can be broken down into pre-workout, intra-workout, and post-workout. We want there to be enough nutrients provided for the body to operate off of before the workout, along with supplying it with additional resources during the workout. Finally, once the workout is over, we want to replenish the body to allow a high level of recovery.

Below is a list of the three nutrient timing windows along with some recommendations of volume and examples of what to consume.

1. Pre workout (1-3 hours prior to beginning the workout)

  • Carbohydrate
    A large amount of carbohydrates should be consumed prior to working out. Because of carbohydrates being the body’s most favorable immediate energy source, a ratio of 1:2 grams of protein to starchy carbohydrates should be consumed. Some great examples include white rice, beans, fruit, and oats.
  • Protein
    Another important macronutrient; eat your typical amount of protein at this time period before working out. Aim for leaner protein sources to minimize slow digestion rates. Some great examples include chicken, turkey, eggs, and fish.
  • Fat
    Should be kept at a moderate level to minimize any digestion disturbances. Some examples include peanut butter, olive oil, coconut oil, and any form of tree nuts.

2. Intra workout (within the workout)

  • Carbohydrate
    To keep energy levels topped off and the body running at a high level of operation, carbohydrate intake is very important at this phase. A ratio of 1:4 grams of protein to sugary carbohydrates should be consumed. Some great examples include sport drink powders, waxy maize powder derived from corn, and fruit juice.
  • Protein
    Half of your normal protein intake should be consumed over the course of your workout. If 30 grams of protein are included in your usual meal, aim for 15 grams of protein for the intra-workout phase. It is recommended that the protein be in powder form for immediate absorption as well as convenience of mixing with the liquid carbohydrate.
  • Fat
    No fat should be consumed during the workout. This is to allow for immediate digestion of the other two macronutrients and to avoid drawing vital blood flow to the stomach away from muscles.

3. Post workout (30 minutes to 1.5 hours after the workout has ended)

  • Carbohydrate
    A high amount should be eaten post workout to replenish glycogen stores and improve recovery. It is recommended that 1:3 grams of protein to carbohydrate be consumed to provide optimal results. Some examples include white rice, whole grain breads, fruit, baby food, and potatoes.
  • Protein
    Along with carbohydrate, protein is an extremely important piece when it comes to recovering post workout. Eat a slightly larger than usual amount of protein in this meal. Just as said in the pre-workout section, aim for leaner sources of protein to limit any gastrointestinal disturbances.
  • Fat
    The intake of fat should be kept moderately low; however, can be used to provide the body with a continuous, slow-release absorption of carbohydrate and protein. Examples include whole milk and nut butters.

When it comes to working out, nutrition can be the difference between having a good workout and a great one. Take advantage of the time before, during, and after your workout to perform at your peak performance!

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