Health and wellness tips from Indiana University
EDITORS: This monthly tip sheet is based on Indiana University faculty research, teaching and service. "Living Well Through Healthy Lifestyles" is the guiding philosophy of IU Bloomington's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation. In keeping with that philosophy, this tip sheet offers information related to both physical and mental well-being. Faculty in other IU schools and departments also contribute their expertise in this area.
April's tips discuss pedometers, the President's Challenge, running safety, and children's swimming programs.
Using a pedometer is the number one change in behavior recommended by IU Bloomington fitness expert Carol Kennedy for people who want to increase their level of physical activity. "Most people overestimate their level of activity," said Kennedy, a lecturer in the Department of Kinesiology. "The pedometer holds you accountable. Once you know your daily average, you can be confident that any additional activity will add up to better health." Some pedometers can be programmed to track speed, distance and calories burned, but simple versions that count steps can also give an estimate of how active a person is throughout the day. "We've all heard the advice, 'Park your car farther away and walk more,'" Kennedy said. "The pedometer will help you see just how much more you are walking when you make good choices to be active." Enhanced daily activity adds up to significant health benefits and more calories burned without the use of specialized exercise equipment. "Why walk on a treadmill when you can tread around your house?" Kennedy said. Mopping the floor, taking out the trash or even pacing while on the phone can all amount to heart-healthy movement. "Plus, it's a great way to start a fitness program on your own!" she said. Kennedy can be reached at 812-855-6083 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Health-conscious exercisers looking for additional support can check out the Web site of the President's Challenge Physical Activity and Fitness Awards Program. People can purchase pedometers, track their steps and earn awards for consistent physical activity. The site is administered by IU Bloomington's Department of Kinesiology for the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, under the direction of Mike Willett, associate chair and director of the President's Challenge Program. Taking part in the Active Lifestyle program of the President's Challenge will help exercisers make a commitment to staying active, Willett said. The program encourages realistic goals and guides participants every "step" of the way to a lifetime of fitness. More information can be found at http://www.presidentschallenge.org. Willett can be reached at 812-855-2227 and email@example.com.
What do runners and coal miners have in common? They both should wear head lamps for safety, according to Emily Ward, program director for informal sports at IUB's Division of Recreational Sports. "It's great to wear reflective gear when you run in the dark," Ward said, "but it only helps other people see you. You also need to see where you are going." Ward said that wearing a headband with a light on the front can help runners find their footing and avoid injury during early morning and evening runs. "These are the high-risk times to run, and yet this is when most people find time to go running," Ward said. She and her running partner both wear head lamps when they run in the mornings. "When we run side by side in the dark, people sometimes think we are an oncoming car!" Ward said.
Ward offered other safety suggestions for runners:
- Sidewalks are the least desirable running surfaces. Concrete offers no shock absorption and sidewalks are often uneven. Ward recommends running on trails and grass whenever possible. Choose asphalt streets over concrete sidewalks if the road has a wide shoulder and you can run against the flow of traffic.
- Replace your shoes often, even if you don't run often. "Shoes will age even if they aren't worn every day," said Ward. "The sole of the shoe begins to compress and harden after a year and a half even with no wear at all."
- When you dress for your run, consider the wind chill factor. If it's a windy day, dress for slightly colder weather than the actual temperature; if there is no wind, dress for weather 15-20 degrees warmer than what you see on the thermometer. "Your body will produce a great deal of heat within the first 10 minutes of your run," Ward said.
- Invest in wicking fabrics and avoid cotton clothing, which traps moisture against the skin. "One T-shirt, one long-sleeve shirt, and a pair of tights are all you need," said Ward. Layer wicking fabrics beneath warmer clothing on cold days.
- Visit a running specialty store to be sure you have the right shoes for your needs. "Spend the time to be fitted by people who understand the mechanics of running," Ward said. This could mean the difference between aches and pains and smooth, injury-free runs.
Ward can be reached at 812-855-9693 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sometimes the best intentions can lead to shortcomings in a swim instruction program, said Annie Eakin, assistant director of aquatics in IUB's Division of Recreational Sports. Problems like overcrowding, long classes and too much interference from parents can detract from a positive pool experience. Eakin offered suggestions on finding a safe and fun swim instruction program for your child.
- A popular program may have a lot of students, but class size should be kept in check. "You should never have more than 10 swimmers per instructor," Eakin said. "I prefer to limit classes to six children."
- Less is also more when it comes to the length of the lesson. Children's classes should be 30 to 45 minutes long, Eakin said. An hour may be too long to hold a child's attention.
- Parents should have a place to watch the lesson that is not too close to the deck. "If a parent is within arm's reach they become a distraction to the child," Eakin said. Although having parents in sight can help a child feel comfortable, too much interaction disrupts the class.
- Visit the facility during lessons and observe the instructors. "Do they set rules at the beginning of class? Do they give equal attention to each child? Does the instructor turn her back on the class or does she back away so she can still see everyone? All these questions are important when choosing a swim program," Eakin said.
- Parents should ask if a lifeguard will be present during lessons. If an emergency occurs, the lifeguard can respond to the situation while the instructor keeps watch over the class.
- Be sure that swim instructors are certified through a reputable organization such as the American Red Cross or the YMCA.
The Division of Recreational Sports offers private and semi-private swim lessons throughout the summer. Eakin can be reached at 812-855-9798 or email@example.com.