Living Well: the holiday issue
Gifts that work. The workday can offer a convenient diversion or unwanted obstacle to health, fitness and overall wellness goals. These gift ideas from Indiana University Bloomington health, fitness and accessibility experts, can help loved ones get more out of their jobs than just a paycheck.
Students in the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation's new "Health, Technology and Aging" course came up with the following ideas:
- Fancy low-tech they'll love -- and then some. Today's older adults grew up using the telephone as a primary means of communication. Help them continue to use their phones by giving them a Big Button phone (see: http://www.goldviolin.com/Big_Button_Phone_p/90493.htm) or a digitally amplified phone (see: http://www.clarityproducts.com/digitalclaritypower/home.asp). The Jitterbug cell phone is designed for older users (see: http://www.jitterbug.com/?id=google&engine=adwords!9946&keyword=(jitterbug phone)&match_type=&gclid=CLfxg6_LkY8CFSCTWAodNCr7ew).
- Facebook for Grandma? Help your older friends expand their social horizons as well as get some insight into what their young colleagues are doing online. Spend an hour or two helping them build a profile on a social networking site for seniors (great if you're short on cash). Check out Eons (see: http://www.eons.com/), Growing Bolder (see: http://growingbolder.com/) and Boomergirl (see: http://www.boomergirl.com/#).
- Easier keyboarding. A high visibility keyboard (see: http://www.elderedge.com/R2029.html) will make work and that social networking even easier.
For more senior friendly gadgets, visit Gold Violin (see: http://www.goldviolin.com/Articles.asp?ID=205), Tech Eye for the Older Guy (and Gal) (see: http://techeye.smartsilvers.com/), and AARP's Gadget Gift list (see: http://www.aarp.org/learntech/computers/life_online/2006_holiday_tech_gifts_adults.html). Students from Informatics, HPER and Nursing are studying ways that technology can support and maintain the health and independence of older adults. At the end of the semester, students will present business plans for entrepreneurial ventures in "gerotechnology." For more information about the course or these gift ideas, contact Lesa Lorenzen-Huber, clinical assistant professor in HPER's Department of Applied Health Science, at 812-855-1733 and email@example.com.
Fitness experts from HPER's Division of Campus Recreational Sports suggest these ideas:
- The gift that keeps bouncing. A physioball, also called stability ball, can be used as a chair to increase core stability, strength and posture. Some come with a special frame, but they aren't necessary.
- Running out of daylight? No sweat. Give your runner or cycling friend a headlight to light up runs and rides before or after work (see: http://en.petzl.com/petzl/LampesProduits?Produit=463). Headlights reveal bumps in sidewalks, curbs and other obstacles and help the runner and cyclists be seen by vehicles.
- Tuning in to tune out. iTunes digital media player application is free. Its radio options have soothing ambient music that allows for "focused" work time. Throw in a pair of headphones if the recipient shares an office.
- Into Feng Shui? If your loved one is, give them any kind of Zen garden, sand garden or water fall drip to bring more tranquility to their workplace.
- Gotta eat. Coupons and gift cards to restaurants that serve healthy fare are easy and welcomed gifts.
For more information about these gifts, contact Tracy James, University Communications, 812-855-0084 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Accessibility experts at the National Center on Accessibility offer these ideas:
- No more squinting. Some cell phone models are great for aging eyes and can offer loved ones one less distraction at work. Some phones offer larger font sizes on the display and a simplified keypad (see: http://search.vzw.com/?market=40386&q=coupe).
- Lunch au natural. Give your loved ones an accessible picnic table to place outside of their office. Accessible seating can be a great way to enjoy fresh air at lunch or during breaks. It can also be used for holding small impromptu meetings outdoors. NCA maintains an online products directory of accessible recreation products at http://www.ncaonline.org. For more information about these gift ideas or NCA, contact Jennifer Skulski, NCA, at 812-856-4428 and email@example.com.
Exercise physiologists from HPER's Ergonomics Program suggest these gifts:
- A good day's sleep? Employees in manufacturing, white collar positions and other jobs that require second and third shift work or travel often have little control over when they work but there are steps they can take to get the sleep necessary to feel their best. As a low cost - or no cost -- gift, help your friend or loved one develop a 1-hour bedtime routine. "Routine," is the key word, so prepare a list of activities or travel strategy that your loved one can do every night to set the tone for quality sleep. This should include no food, alcohol, caffeine or dramatic action shows and include soothing activities, such as a hot shower, in the hour leading up to bedtime. "You're setting landmarks or cues that are telling your body it's time to go to sleep," said Charles Pearce, project director for the ergonomics lab. "If you're in a high pressure job, it takes some time."
- Give your friend a break. For another low-cost gift, craft your friend a reminder to take short breaks throughout the workday. Rather than taking a break from work, the goal is to give particular muscles a break so they can recover. It should last for two minutes or less. Suggest that you friends rest their hands in a neutral position or stand up, stretch and move around. The key is to just do something different - make a phone call, do a different task, talk with co-workers in person rather than e-mailing them.
Wine appreciation 101. When a restaurant's wine list is longer than its menu, do you feel excited at the prospect of choosing a winner, or intimidated by the unfamiliar names and categories? If you're among those who suffer from wine list paralysis, it's time you met Bill Wilson, creator of the popular Wine for Newbies podcast. He teaches an eight-week course at Indiana University South Bend called "Wine Appreciation 101." "My goal is to get my students to the point where they feel comfortable in a wine shop or at a restaurant because they know what they prefer in a wine," Wilson said.
Along with downloading Wilson's free podcasts at http://www.winefornewbies.net, try his tips below to ease yourself into the world of wine.
- Start sweet. If you are new to wine, hold off on dry reds like Shiraz, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon. These wines have more of the tannins from the grape skins, which create an astringent, puckering sensation in the mouth. Begin instead with Riesling, a sweet and versatile white, or with Pinot Noir, a lighter and more approachable red. These wines are also good picks for the dinner table, Wilson said: "Riesling and Pinot Noir are probably your safest bets for pairing with just about any food."
- Go shopping. Once you feel comfortable with Riesling and Pinot Noir, "get yourself to a good wine shop and tell them, 'I enjoyed this particular Riesling and I'd like to expand my horizons,'" Wilson suggested. If your budget allows, ask the proprietor to build you a case of representative wines from different regions.
- Take notes. As you sip your purchases, jot down your impressions of each wine. "Even just writing down a word or two will help trigger your memory of that wine," Wilson said.
- Prompt your vocabulary. If you get stuck trying to identify distinct aromas and tastes, try using a tasting tool that lists different fruits, spices, herbs and other flavors you may detect in a wine (download one free from http://www.vinography.com). Wilson also prompts students to describe the overall character of the wine -- is it big and bold, or perhaps subtle and nuanced? The "mouthfeel" of the wine can be another descriptor of its character. For example, it may feel dry, smooth, delicate or heavy.
- Attend tasting events. Keep an eye out for tasting opportunities at restaurants, wine bars, shops and seminars. Wilson frequents his local wine shop's free weekly tasting. "In the course of an hour I can try six to eight different wines," he said. He also attends the annual Epcot Food and Wine festival each year, at which he has tried as many as 70 wines in one night. In such circumstances, remember to try just a sip and pour the rest into the bucket provided for that purpose.
- Find a tasting group -- or start your own. Ask the manager at your local wine store if anyone knows of an existing wine group. "There's going to be at least one person on staff who is a wine geek and will know of others," Wilson said. Alternatively, creating your own wine group is as simple as getting together a group of friends who are willing to meet once a month. Try having each attendee bring a different bottle of a specified grape like Merlot or Pinot Grigio. Add an element of drama by keeping the wines covered until after everyone has voted on their favorite.
"Drink what you like and keep trying new things," Wilson said. This simple maxim will ensure an ever-expanding sphere of wine appreciation.
Don't let holiday spirits cramp your workouts. Alcohol is a diuretic, forcing the body to lose more fluid than the drinks even contain, potentially leading to dehydration. "Muscle cells contain more water than any other cells in the body," said Andy Fry, assistant director for fitness and wellness at Indiana University's Division of Campus Recreational Sports. "When the body is dehydrated, it pulls water from the muscles to hydrate the rest of the body. You can actually lose muscle cells if you don't hydrate properly after a loss of electrolytes." Dehydration can lead to muscle tears, sprains and cramps, Fry said.
Alcohol consumption also can reduce workout gains in several ways:
- Strength. Muscle growth will slow down because alcohol decreases protein synthesis, which is the body's ability to use protein to build and create muscle tissue. Binge drinking can lower levels of the hormone testosterone, which is important for muscle growth, and increase levels of cortisol, which can destroy muscle tissue.
- Balance. A hangover can signal that alcohol probably is still in the system, potentially compromising balance, coordination and other motor functions, all of which are important for good workouts. A weightlifter, for example, who has decreased motor control could injure herself by dropping weights.
- Weight loss. Alcohol contains almost twice the calories of protein or carbohydrates but the calories are empty, meaning the liver transforms them into fat and puts them into "storage." Weightloss efforts can get a double whammy from excessive alcohol consumption because more calories will be stored as fat at the same time that the body burns fewer calories because of muscle loss.
- Detox runs? Sweating off a hangover could be counter-productive, Fry said, because the exertion results in the loss of fluids when the body needs to be rehydrated, not dehydrated.
Fry suggests waiting to workout for at least an hour for each drink, and this only after considerate efforts to rehydrate the body. Water is the best, he says, but sports drinks "aren't bad."
Let's Negotiate For Holiday's Sake. Holidays can be stressful enough without the power struggles that can ensue between college students home for the holidays and their parents. "For many students, they will return home for Thanksgiving to find their spotless bedroom frozen in time as if they never left; some will soon find that their once tidy bedroom has now been converted into a hobby room or office and all they have is a nice cozy couch to rest on," said Kathleen Gilbert, associate professor in the Department of Applied Health Science's Human Development and Family Studies Program. Families, she said, often need to renegotiate the rules to make the transition home for the holidays easier. "Mom wants you home at a decent hour; Dad says you can only use the car when he's not using it -- no drinking, and no loud music," the rules just pile up.
Gilbert suggests students address:
- Curfew: Discuss whether your parents are open to you coming in later if they think a curfew is necessary. Try negotiating that you can stay at a friend's house or simply come home slightly earlier than usual.
- Transportation: Don't assume you will have access to your parents' vehicles while your home. Negotiate times that work in everyone's favor.
- Responsibility: Talk with your parents and help them see that you are responsible and mature.
- Make a date with your parents: You have been away at school and the first thing you do when you return home is visit your friends. Pick a day and time that you and your parents can watch a movie, eat dinner together, do a favorite ritual you used to do before.
- Respect: Respect the rules of the house once they are re-established. Respect your parents' wishes and they will respect that you are a responsible adult as well
Gilbert also recommends tips for parents:
- Loosen up and let go: You have invested time in raising your child, but now your children need time to make mistakes and learn from them as adults. Trust that they are responsible for themselves.
- Recognize: Recognize that your college student is an adult and treat them accordingly. Recognize their growth in life as an adult in college.
For additional assistance with these tips, contact Tracy James, University Communications, at 812-855-0084 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.