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IU Health & Wellness

Research and insights from Indiana University

June 30, 2008

IU Health and Wellness for June discusses the following topics:

Happy people are more likely to choose creative activities
Keeping your cool during summer workouts
Tips for finding a good personal trainer, fitness specialist (beware of motor mouths)

Positively creative: Happy moods encourage creativity. New research at Indiana University finds that people who are happy choose creative activities strategically in the interest of maintaining or improving their mood. Their unhappy counterparts want to improve their moods, too, but they have a bigger selection of activities -- not all creative -- from which to choose. "There are broader arrays of tasks that can accomplish that goal for us than there are tasks that can sustain or enhance an already positive mood," said Edward Hirt, associate professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at IU Bloomington. "One thing we discovered in our research is that people are aware of the fact that being creative makes them feel good, and so tasks that afford potential for creativity are particularly appealing when in a positive mood."

Hirt and his colleagues recently published findings from three studies in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology:

  • Happy people are more likely to choose tasks that allow for creativity. In this study, 92 participants were asked to rate a list of various tasks on several levels, such as the pleasantness of the task, how interesting the task was and how much the task allowed for creativity. Then, participants were randomly assigned to view one of three film clips that induce happy, sad or neutral feelings. Finally, researchers presented participants with the list of tasks again. Participants rated these tasks in terms of how likely or unlikely they were to do the specified activity. Researchers found that participants who were in happy moods were more likely to choose tasks they had previously rated as creative.
  • Happy people are more likely to use creative means to transform unpleasant tasks into more enjoyable experiences. In this second study, researchers wanted to explore whether happy people were able to perform creatively when presented with a not-so-pleasant task. In this case, they were asked to produce a list of causes of death. Participants in a happy mood provided more sensationalistic and cartoon-like answers such as "spontaneous combustion," "Chinese water torture," or "ritual sacrifice." Participants in the negative or neutral mood group listed strictly realistic, text-book like ways of dying, such as cancer or a stroke.
  • Happy people who believed their mood was not susceptible to change were less likely to engage in creative activities than happy people who believed their mood could change. In the third study, researchers wanted to provide evidence that people in happy moods participated in creative tasks strategically in order to maintain or improve their pleasant moods. Participants were assigned to one of two groups. Individuals assigned to the mood-freezing group believed their mood was not susceptible to change. Individuals in the nonmood-freezing condition believed their mood could change. The mood manipulation was accomplished via the alleged effects of an aromatherapy candle. Participants in the mood-freezing group were told that the candle had a mood-freezing side effect -- their mood would stay the same for a fixed period of time. These participants, believing they could not improve their happy mood, were less likely to choose creative tasks than those in the nonmood-freezing group, providing evidence that happy people choose creative tasks in the hopes of influencing their mood.

Co-authors of this study are Erin Devers from IU and Sean McCrea from the University of Konstanz. A copy of the study is available here:

Hirt can be reached at 812-855-4815 or Top


Swimming can be a cool exercise alternative to other outdoor activities.

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It's hot, but keep your shirt on! Summer brings many great things including warm weather, strawberries and vacations. One thing summer -- and its heat and humidity -- should not bring is an end to exercise. Andy Fry, a fitness expert at Indiana University's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, offers these summertime exercise tips:

  • Rethink your workout time. "In the summer, there's a lot more daylight, so you have plenty of time to do an outdoor workout in the evenings or before work," says Fry, assistant director for fitness and wellness at the School of HPER's Division of Campus Recreational Sports. "If lunch hour is the only time you have to exercise, try to move your workout indoors or consider doing a pool workout." If you must do your workout in the middle of the day, make sure to reduce the intensity.
  • Hydrate. In the hot summer months, hydration is very important. "You should drink water before, during and after a workout," Fry said. "If you are exercising for longer than a 30 minutes outdoors, you should bring water with you. The general rule is eight ounces before, three to six ounces every 15 minutes during your workout, and eight ounces of water when you are finished."
  • Check the weather and always wear sunscreen. Before heading outdoors, check the temperature, humidity levels and the possibility of precipitation or thunderstorms. "You don't want to get stuck in bad weather on a long run or bike ride. Also, remember that regardless of what the weather forecast says, always wear sunscreen. Ultraviolet rays can penetrate through clouds," Fry said.
  • Less is not always more. Many people think they will stay cooler if they forgo their shirt and run without a top or in a sports bra. Not true. "A shirt will soak up sweat and allow air to circulate around your body," said Fry. "Your best bet is to wear either a Dri-Fit material or any other material that wicks away moisture from the body. Try to stay away from cotton."
  • Know your limits. Hot and humid weather can challenge the body -- and not always in a good way. "Understand the signs and symptoms of overheating. These include muscle cramps, blurred vision, fatigue or weakness, cold chills and dizziness. Know when it's time to pack it up. If you get to that point stop, and seek hydration and shelter," Fry said.

As always, Fry recommends consulting a physician if changing or starting a new workout plan. Those with conditions such as asthma should be particularly cautious as heat and humidity can worsen symptoms.

Fry can be reached at 812-855-9653 or Top

Carol Kennedy-Armbruster

Carol Kennedy-Armbruster

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Personal trainer primer. No longer just the purview of the fit who want to be fitter, personal trainers and fitness specialists work with people of all ages -- from children to seniors -- and often are sought by clients with conditions such as morbid obesity and diabetes or common age-related conditions such as high blood pressure and joint replacements. Effective fitness consulting focuses on individual needs, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, say Indiana University fitness experts, so this growing demand for personal trainers makes their qualifications even more critical. Bad advice from a poorly trained fitness specialist can cost more than the hefty hourly fee -- it can result in unnecessary aches and injuries and derail important health and fitness goals. Little agreement exists within the fitness industry about who should regulate or certify fitness specialists, say Michelle Miller and Carol Kennedy-Armbruster, coordinators of the fitness specialist bachelor's degree program in the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation. They say customers, rather than legislators or industry insiders, can set the standard by demanding knowledgeable trainers who meet their specific needs.

Michelle Miller

Michelle Miller

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Kennedy-Armbruster and Miller offer these considerations for making the most of relationships with a personal trainer or fitness specialist:

  • Sticker shock? Expensive rates do not mean a trainer is qualified or knowledgeable. Hourly rates often range from $40 to $100 depending on location and services.
  • Check certification. Certification means little unless it's current and from a reputable national organization such as the American Council on Exercise, American College of Sports Medicine, National Strength and Conditioning Association, or member organizations of the National Organization of Competency Assurance.
  • Ask for proof. Recertification typically requires continuing education. Clients can ask for the certification file number and expiration date for a trainer's certification and then call the organization to verify the number.
  • Ask about academic background. Ask whether the trainer has taken courses in or has a degree in anatomy, exercise physiology, biomechanics, physiology, kinesiology or other relevant areas. Some universities, such as IU, offer bachelor's degree programs specifically for fitness specialists.
  • Ask for references. Ask for references from clients.
  • Expect independence. Check the philosophy of the club or trainer concerning independence. Some clubs encourage dependence, thus a longer financial commitment, by having trainers adjust equipment and take care of other measures integral to the workout. Kennedy-Armbruster and Miller say fitness specialists should help clients learn how to do their workouts on their own.
  • Avoid canned programs. If you ask for a program for beginners and one is simply handed to you, it's not individualized. A good plan is based on a number of factors, including a thorough medical history assessment, the client's goals, medical referrals and a discussion about behaviors.
  • Beware of motor mouths. When trainers frequently use the word "I" or do most of the talking, it often means they are thinking more about themselves than the client. Miller and Kennedy-Armbruster encourage their students to ask lots of questions and to listen carefully so they get to know their clients.
  • Question experience. Experience is important but knowledge is critical -- trainers, after all, can make the same mistakes over and over again. When discussing experience, ask about the trainer's history related to your specific needs.

Miller and Kennedy-Armbruster encourage skepticism of promises and guarantees. "There is no quick fix," Miller said. "You didn't get this way over night." They also encourage people to trust their instincts and to be wary of pain -- the old adage "no pain, no gain," can do more harm than good. "You shouldn't feel like a truck ran over you when you work with a trainer," Kennedy-Armbruster said.

Kennedy-Armbruster can be reached at 812-855-6083 and Miller can be reached at 812-855-8167 and Top

For additional assistance, contact Tracy James, University Communications, at 812-855-0084 or