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Living Well

Health tips from Indiana University

EDITORS:This is a monthly tip sheet 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 from other IU schools and departments also contribute their expertise in this area.

This month's tips discuss chocolate milk as an ideal exercise recovery drink, a fall outdoor educational activity, the importance of minimizing the negative impact of divorce on children, and stress related to cigarette smoking.

Chocolate milk is good for exhausted muscles. Indiana University Bloomington physiologist Joel Stager has found that drinking chocolate milk is one of the best things an athlete can do to recover shortly after a rigorous practice. Chocolate milk, as opposed to white milk, has a high carbohydrate and protein content, ideal for exhausted muscles. It also replaces fluids lost as sweat during workouts. Stager is a professor in the Department of Kinesiology in IUB's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation and is the director of the Counsilman Center for the Science of Swimming. Stager also coaches swimmers. He first tested his "recovery by chocolate milk" theory several years ago on his swimmers, who had been struggling with their twice-a-day practices. The results were so promising that he and his doctoral students, led by Jason Karp, conducted a study involving cyclists in a more controlled environment. The chocolate milk proved to be just as effective a recovery product as one commercial sports drink and almost twice as effective as another commercial sports drink. Stager said chocolate milk would be particularly helpful for athletes such as swimmers, long-distance runners and cyclists enduring long or intense practices, and for other athletes who practice more than once a day. An athlete of average weight could drink around two 8-ounce glasses of chocolate milk each hour for four to six hours following a rigorous workout, according to research-based recommendations for maximum recovery. Stager added that milkshakes are a good alternative for athletes who don't like chocolate milk. The research was funded by Dairy and Nutrition Council Inc. For more information, contact Stager at 812-855-1637 and and Karp at 812-332-3653 and

Planting the seeds of environmental awareness is best done outdoors. Children who participate in outdoor educational activities are more likely to gain a sense of place about their surroundings, said Stori Snyder, assistant director of Hilltop Garden and Nature Center at Indiana University Bloomington. This new awareness, she said, begins to foster an understanding of environmental issues and natural cycles and processes, which can help children make responsible and healthy decisions as adults. Students of all ages can explore fall colors with this simple experiment. Each student will need a 6-inch glass jar, a pencil, rubbing alcohol, tape and a coffee filter to do the experiment.

  • Step 1: Collect a green leaf from one tree.
  • Step 2: Tear the leaf into tiny pieces and place them in the jar.
  • Step 3: Add just enough rubbing alcohol to cover the torn pieces (caution: rubbing alcohol is flammable, so keep it away from flames).
  • Step 4: Tear a 2-inch-by-6-inch strip from the coffee filter and tape one end to the pencil.
  • Step 5: Place the pencil across the jar opening so the coffee filter just touches the alcohol.
  • Step 6: Create a hypothesis about what color the leaf will be when it begins to change colors in the fall.
  • Step 7: Leave the experiment for 45 minutes.
  • Step 8: Check the hypothesis.

When the students return, they will find stripes of color on the coffee filter. The stripes represent chlorophyll (green) and blends of the pigments anthocyanin (purple), xanthophylls (yellow) and carotenoids (yellow and orange). When the chlorophyll leaves the leaf, it is time for the remaining pigments to show their true colors! Students can try the experiment again with a leaf from a different kind of tree. Snyder suggested trying several different leaves but added that students should test one type at a time. If they combine different types of leaves in one jar, they may not get an accurate reading. Hilltop Garden and Nature Center is part of the Department of Recreation and Park Administration, in the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation. Snyder can be reached at 812-855-2799 and

A good divorce? Divorce is common in the United States, but "good" ones are not easy. When children are involved, efforts to have a cordial divorce can help children avoid a host of serious risks that could affect them for the rest of their lives. "It takes a tremendous amount of strength and psychological energy to have what we'd call a 'good' divorce," said Robert Billingham, an associate professor in Indiana University Bloomington's Department of Applied Health Science. In addition to his research on the long-term effects of divorce on children, his research interests include parent/child interactions and interpersonal relationships. "We have this social folklore about divorce and how people react to each other following divorce, and all too often it's true," Billingham said. Folklore aside, the country is in the midst of a trend of more cordial divorces, he said. Research since the 1990s has shown that children benefit immensely from good relationships with both parents. Courts are beginning to realize they must protect the children's relationships with their parents if they want to protect the children, he said. State legislators and policymakers also need to make these important decisions. For example, some states now require mediation. Others say parents must appear in court with "co-parenting" plans. Many courts have eliminated the terms "custodial parent" and "non-custodial parent" altogether. Risk factors such as drinking, unwed pregnancies, dropping out of high school and STDs increase for children of divorced parents, Billingham said. The children also can develop a sour outlook on future relations, be less committed to their own relationships, and be more likely to divorce. The following suggestions can help minimize the effects of divorce on children:

  • Good communication between parents is crucial, even if they do not always agree. This helps cut down on children's pitting one parent against the other to get what they want.
  • Make sure children have as much contact as possible with both parents.
  • Parents should not interfere with their children's contacting the ex-spouse or vice versa.
  • Children are better able to love parents and step-parents if they are not pressured to choose one over the other. Making the children choose usually backfires.
  • Parents need to begin thinking, "The marriage is over, but this other person and I must continue to co-parent our children."

Billingham can be contacted at 812-855-5208 and

Kick the smoking habit and "chill." Kicking the smoking habit can significantly reduce a person's stress levels, researchers at Indiana University Bloomington have found. At least trying doesn't hurt, even if it's unsuccessful. "A common assumption -- and people have argued this is the case in the literature -- is that people smoke to cope with stress," said Jon Macy, project director of the Indiana University Smoking Survey in the Department of Psychology. "You'd think that when you take the smoking away, it would increase stress. We didn't find this to be the case. In fact, stress levels of people who quit were the same as those who had never smoked." The one-of-a-kind IU Smoking Survey, funded by the National Institutes of Health, periodically surveys a cohort of people who began participating in the study when they were middle and high school students in Monroe County, Ind., in the 1980s. Researchers have even begun surveying the study participants' children to explore intergenerational aspects of smoking. At least 70 percent of the original 8,503 students have participated in the surveys throughout the years. Macy described as "very encouraging" the finding that unsuccessful attempts to quit smoking did not increase smokers' stress levels. "That's great for a health education message, to go ahead and give it a try," he said, "because most people don't successfully quit on their first try. On average, it takes eight to 11 attempts to quit, and people shouldn't be discouraged thinking that failed attempts will result in more stress." The Department of Psychology is in IUB's College of Arts and Sciences. Macy can be reached at 812-856-0840 and More information about the smoking survey can be found at

The following Web sites provide useful smoking-related information:

National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,

American Legacy Foundation,

National Cancer Institute,

American Cancer Society,

For assistance in contacting Stager, Karp, Snyder, Billingham or Macy, contact Tracy James at 812-855-0084 and