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#Fitspo Got You Down? Fitness Imagery, Social Media, and our Wellness
Written By Cathryn Lucas 

If you’ve ever searched online for workout routines or exercise ideas, you’ve most likely come across fitspiration. Sometimes called fitspo for short, fitspiration is a type of social media post that purports to provide motivation for people to exercise – hence the portmanteau of “fitness” and “inspiration.” Fitspo generally includes an image overlaid with a quippy phrase, a combination that is perfectly suited for circulation on social media platforms. Indeed, fitspo has become ubiquitous in our digital world, with millions of posts, shares, and likes each year.  
 
Fitspo began as a response to media representations of uber-thin celebrities and other “thinspiriational” posts that circulated on the early internet. The burgeoning phenomenon had the potential to disrupt cultural norms and beauty ideals. However, as fitspo grew, the bodies featured in its images narrowed to a small set of white, thin-yet-toned, cis women’s bodies. Researchers have found fitspo to be harmful to young women who interact with its imagery (Tiggemann & Zaccardo, 2015). As with other phenomena that have such broad cultural reach, it is important to ask critical questions about fitspo and its circulation to understand the power of its messaging.  
 
The same strategic composition of fitspo posts that drives circulation also reinforces the cultural norms and beauty ideals it originally set out to combat (Lucas & Hodler, 2018). This is partially due to the composition of the images themselves. Not only is there a narrow range of bodies depicted, but the bodies that are featured are almost always presented in such a way that only her torso is visible – characterized by a flat stomach and thin thighs framed by form-fitting, name-brand sports bra and shorts. This compositional technique is called compartmentalization and is widely used in pop culture and advertising. Compartmentalizing the body dehumanizes the woman pictured, and her body becomes an object to be desired. Generally, pop culture representations target straight men; therefore, the compartmentalized woman’s body is on display for men’s sexual or romantic desire. In fitspo, the presumed audience is straight women; therefore, the compartmentalized woman’s body is on display for other women’s desire to have that body. Posting, sharing, and liking these images helps to reinforce the thin-yet-toned, white body as the universally ideal body.  
 
Just as fitpso images reinforce the idealization of a particular kind of body, the quippy phrases reinforce particular ideas about exercise and self-worth. Fitspo phrases frame the body/mind as an enemy to be conquered through compulsory high intensity exercise. They also often promote restrictive eating practices and depict exercise as solely about “burning off” food you’ve eaten. According to fitspo, exercise should be your top priority and you should overexert yourself during every workout. These kinds of phrases tap into existing cultural ideas that connect fatness to laziness and thinness to hard-work & moral superiority. Therefore, your body size and unhappiness your fault, and you are a bad person if you do not exercise.  
 
Taken together, the images and quippy phrases work to frame the body as a trophy to be earned, it is a body done-to rather than done-in (Lucas & Hodler, 2018). Further, they frame exercise as solely about achievement of that ideal body, leaving out the multitude of other reasons we might engage in and enjoy physical activity. Surely, there is a need for motivational content that people can connect with. It is important for content creators to think critically about how that content is constructed and the kinds of messages it sends. And, we all engage with content on our own social media feeds, we can acknowledge what we see and how we feel about it. We might take a moment to reflect and ask ourselves what we want when it comes to being fit/healthy/well, where that desire comes from, and how our engagement with social media content is affecting our well-being.  

If you’d like to learn more about the history and cultural ramifications of fitspo or see some the fitspirational images, please watch the recording of Cathryn’s Lunch & Learn.  

Works Cited:  

  • Lucas, C. & Hodler, M. (2018). #TakeBackFitspo: Building Queer Futures in/Through Social Media. In Toffoletti, K., H. Thorpe, and J. Francombe-Webb (Eds.), New Sporting Femininities: Embodied Politics in Postfeminist Times, pp. 231-251. London: Palgrave Macmillan  
  • Tiggemann, M., & Zaccardo, M. (2015) Exercise to be Fit, not Skinny: The Effect of Fitspiration Imagery on Women’s Body Image. Body Image: An International Journal of Research, 15, 61–67. 

Easy Ways To Take Mindfulness Outdoors
Written by Ruth Merle-Doyle

It goes without saying that spring feels fresh and new, even during this moment when we are still enduring the pandemic. With more daylight, the whisper of warmer temperatures and the natural world beginning the wake up, it is worth the effort to spend time outside. When we spend time outside and away from our built environment and electronic devices, we feel good, often better compared to being inside. You may know this intuitively, sensing a feeling of focus, peace or general ease when you take a stroll or roll outside. Or, feeling refreshed and clearer in thought when you sit for a moment to let the sun warm your face.

Practicing mindfulness can offer you similar benefits to being outside, and when you combine the two, it can be magical. The challenge can be finding ways to get started. Tacking intentional mindfulness moments onto regular, ritual outside time can be a good strategy, and this time of the year, outdoor mindfulness is a perfect pairing.

Here are some ways I like to be mindful when I am regularly outside.

Take a mindful walk or roll, on purpose: You might walk or roll for exercise, and that is a great plan to improve your physical fitness. Try shedding the intention of exercise and replace it with the intention of focusing on what you see, hear and even smell as you move. Slow your pace so you can take in your surroundings. Choose a path that is safe and that you can sense natural elements like trees, birds, wind, etc. Start with listening to all that you can hear. Then, take a moment to gaze and “nature watch” (the cousin to “people watching”). Even take some rich, deep breaths to discover what you can smell from your natural surroundings.

Forest bath, anyone? Shinrin-yoku is a Japanese term, which literally translates to forest bath. The practice is simple and beautiful – spending time in nature, often under a canopy of trees, and opening up all your senses to the natural world. No need to be deep in a forest, but rather, at a place where you are comfortable and can let your favorite sense lead the way to relaxation and joy. For example, if you love the smell of earthy elements, let your nose be your mindfulness guide as you get curious about your natural location. Do you smell blooming flowers or trees? Dirt? Rain? If touch gives you a sense of ease, you can feel the bark of tree or let your toes mingle in the grass, simply being curious how each blade feels on each toe or part of your foot. Let memories you may hold of nature help you settle in for a moment of ease and connectedness to your world.

Bask in intentional listening: Perhaps you like to take your morning coffee or tea to your porch while you make your daily “to-do” list…and if you do not, it is a wonderful way to get in some outdoor time right off the bat! In the moment, you can use a focused attention meditation and luxuriously listen to natural sounds around you. Find a place to sit comfortably with your eyelids heavy, your arms and hands relaxed in your lap, and take 3 deep breaths to settle in. Then, begin to actively listen to what is around you. Let bird sounds, both near and far, come to your awareness. Listen to leaves and trees moving in the breeze. Listen to the breeze itself. Even take in other sounds like vehicles, lawn mowers, other people enjoying being outside. Your only job in the moment is to listen. If you do not want to go outside, you can pop open a window and listen to what sound your world has to offer from inside.

While outdoors, focus on what is happening from within: The next time you are outside, take a quiet moment to be aware of how you feel on the inside. Your job is to just being curious about what you sense in your body. Do you notice any pain or stiffness in your joints or muscles? Can you sense temperature differences as you inhale and exhale? Are you making endless lists in your mind or has your mental noise quieted for a moment? Creating that enhanced sense of mind/body connectedness can be a first step to mitigating symptoms of emotional reactivity, anxiety, depression and more. Additionally, it trains you to cue in to physical sensation and become more present and aware of what your body is telling you. Once aware, you can then take steps to relax and ease tension. You might stretch or move uncomfortable body parts, take slower, deeper breaths, or simply try to soften your thinking for a few moments.

The spring of 2021 will never happen again, so now is the time to enjoy and revel in this lovely season. Of course, remember to be safe while outdoors during this pandemic spring. Wear your mask when you cannot stay apart from those who do not live in your household, and wash your hands when you return home.

Sources:
https://e360.yale.edu/features/ecopsychology-how-immersion-in-nature-ben...
https://positivepsychology.com/benefits-of-mindfulness/
https://time.com/5259602/japanese-forest-bathing/
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/13/health/nature-outdoors-health.html
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/participate-...

Cornell Dining Supports A Healthier You Through Menus Of Change
Written by Daniella Pena '22, Cornell Dining Nutrition Student, Health Care Policy Major

#HealthyEating

National Nutrition Month - The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics celebrates March as National Nutrition Month with this year’s theme being “Personalize your Plate.” We are encouraged to reflect on our eating habits throughout this time and think of ways we can improve our diets. Lucky for us, Cornell Dining has adopted various Menus of Change principles in its dining units that overlap with National Nutrition Month initiatives and are a great way to start eating healthier! 

Menus of Change - Menus of Change is an initiative started by The Culinary Institute of America in collaboration with the Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health in 2012 in order to promote optimal nutrition, environmental restoration, and social responsibility through menu changes. There are twenty-four Menus of Change Principles that each highlight a practice that can be implemented into one’s diet to achieve various health goals while contributing positively to the planet’s wellness. Cornell Dining has made a significant effort to implement these Menus of Change principles into its menus and the results of this shift are astounding. 

Cornell Dining Selected Principles: 

  • Drink Healthy- One of the largest initiatives that can be seen across campus is the removal of soda machines from dining halls in the Fall of 2019. This change resulted in a decrease in sugar consumption by a whopping 8 tons by Spring 2020! This was inspired by the Menus of Change “Drink Healthy” value, and this change has caused a dramatic shift away from carbonated heavily processed beverages to Bubly, flavored water, and juice/tea options. 
  • Cut the Salt- Sodium intake has been linked to an increased risk of high blood pressure as well as a higher likelihood of heart disease. Therefore, a central Menus of Change principle is simply “Cut the Salt.” Cornell Dining has implemented this into our dining halls by switching to low sodium ingredient options, removing salt shakers from tables, and foregoing the practice of adding salt into pasta water. This has amounted to 30% less sodium used in recipes, and 500 pounds less granulated salt used a year after implementation!
  • Serve Less Red Meat, Less Often- Too much red meat consumption has both a negative impact on health, and can increase someone’s carbon footprint substantially. For this reason, a popular Menus of Change Principle is “Serve Less Red Meat, Less Often.” Cornell Dining began reducing the red meat served in its dining halls in 2015, creating what are known as “blended” burgers, meatballs, and meatloaves. These dishes are now prepared with a mixture of 70% meat and 30% plant-based ingredients such as mushrooms in an effort to help us reduce red meat consumption without requiring a complete shift to a vegetarian diet. 
  • Be Transparent about Sourcing and Preparation- A lot goes on between food production and consumption. A once healthy potato grown locally can turn into a trans fat containing heavily processed French fry after a few stages of manufacturing and preparation. For this reason, Cornell has committed to the principle of “Be Transparent about Sourcing and Preparation.” In accordance with this, we thoroughly inspect each ingredient before using it in recipes to ensure that the products we use are trans fat, nitrate, and MSG free. Ensuring that these substances aren’t present in our food allows us to serve the freshest and healthiest options in all our dining locations!

Dining Around Campus - There is an abundance of locations around campus where staff can enjoy a meal. All Cornell Employees that have completed their Daily Check are allowed into our dining units. Most of our retail locations are still open and offer a variety of grab and go options at almost any time of day. Many of our units offer order ahead options via Get Food. If you’re in the mood for some coffee you can stop at either Cafe Jennie inside the Cornell Store, or Amit Bhatia Libe Café found at Olin Library on Central Campus. The newly renovated Martha’s Café inside MVR also has some fantastic options that are mainly plant-based and allergy friendly, making this a great spot to grab something nutritious and quick on busy days. If you’re closer to North Campus, Bear Necessities serves both as a convenience store and grill where you can get a delicious meal or late-night snack. If you’re looking for something particular for lunch, Trillium features a wide selection of meals including pasta bowls, quesadillas, burgers, pizza, Chinese, soup, and much more! We currently operate nine Residential Dining Locations across campus, with six of these dining halls found on West Campus and three on North Campus. No matter where you may find yourself on campus, there is bound to be a dining location nearby, and with a click of our “Cornell Dining Now” website, this information is readily available anytime you’re ready to grab a bite to eat! This semester we are offering both take-out and dine-in options. Reservations are required if you would like to dine in. Please visit Opentable to reserve a seat. You can learn more about our Covid-19 procedures here.

Healthy Lifestyles - In addition to implementing these recommendations and sampling some of Cornell’s Menus of Change inspired meals, it is important to be physically active for at least half an hour each day. Exercise has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, hypertension, Alzheimer’s, and even several types of cancer. Those who exercise regularly also enjoy the added benefits of getting a better night’s sleep, lower risk of depression, and better bone health. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics also recommends learning about nutrition labels in order to gain awareness of how the foods you are consuming are affecting you. The FDA recently updated the guidelines for these labels in 2018 to make them even more useful for consumers with key changes including the removal of calories from fat section, the inclusion of an added sugar category, and the addition of Vitamin D and Potassium to the nutrients of concern section. Paying close attention to these categories, and adopting these new habits combined with exercising for a minimum of thirty minutes each day will help you build a healthy lifestyle throughout the month of March that you can continue year round!

Happy New Year And Welcome To 2021
Written by Ruth Merle-Doyle

Happy New Year and welcome to 2021. Although we are still enduring the COVID 19 pandemic, you might find yourself wanting to make some changes, better your physical and mental health and start this new year off on more secure, self-care footing. Before you begin your new year’s resolutions, consider a few things:

  • Make Space: Last year was not a normal year! Because of that, you may find yourself carrying some extra baggage of emotion, stress, over-thinking, worry, anxiety and more. Take a moment to reflect and perhaps make some mental and emotional space. Try journaling your experiences from last year or create a set of letters to yourself to re-visit in future years. If that is not for you, perhaps call a friend and ask if they can listen as you recap your year aloud.  You might want to write or paint just a few words that summarize last year on some rocks and bury them in your yard or toss them in the lake (only if the paint or ink is safe for the environment!) as a symbol of ending what was and preparing for what you hope to be in the new year. If you need some assistance or some professional expertise, reach out to Cornell FSAP and make an appointment with a counselor.
  • Create a New Style of New Year’s Resolution: If the same old resolutions that used to motivate you, are leaving you feeling flat, that is ok. It is clear that the start to this year is not a normal year! Maybe you can forget the concept of a yearlong resolution and make smaller goals for a month at a time. When you think of the month of January, knowing all that you know to be true right now, what are you wanting for yourself this month? Sit on that question for some time and see what bubbles up. At the end of January, ask yourself what February might hold, and so on. With so much still unknown, staying as present as possible might allow you to see different, more achievable goals for the near future.
  • Winter Has Arrived! For some of you, reading that is like someone popping your balloon! Since this is a winter first for many of us, try the exercise of asking yourself what you might enjoy about winter. This is not a loaded question and there is no right answer. In fact, the right answer is your answer. If I asked myself this question, I would promptly respond that snow and cold are the things I enjoy best about winter. I must be hard-wired to enjoy the cold because I always have. Perhaps your answer is your enjoyment of wearing sweaters and snuggling up on cold nights. Maybe you enjoy returning to cold weather soups and chili recipes. This might be your time to read a good book and light some candles in the evening. Instead of resenting the winter, focus on what you do enjoy, knowing that joy can play a role in your overall wellbeing. And remember that winter does not last forever but is happening just for right now.
  • Ways to Stay Active in Winter: Even though I love winter, I can appreciate that it is not enjoyable, even tolerable, for all. But, I believe there are still lots of options to stay active or to start moving more. If you do not want to be outside this winter, consider not trying to replicate what you do in warmer weather, and shift gears to cross train and complement. If you typically walk or run outside, focus on strength training to support your walking/running. You can take group fitness classes like Power HIIT, Urban Kick and Barre with Cornell Wellness Healthy Living Program (need a membership) and Cornell Fitness Centers (free until Feb 5, 2021), you can find a fitness app or even get help from our wellness staff for a customized approach. This might be a great opportunity to add different movement patterns, flexibility work or balance training with Yoga or Pilates instruction. You might want to change tacks from the physical dimension of wellbeing by focusing on mindfulness and meditation. Time spent on yourself, focusing on healthy behaviors is a good first step in redefining what this winter will look like for you.
  • But, if you want to venture outside for some novel winter activity, that would be great too! Activities like cross country skiing and snow shoeing are great activities that are good for all experiences and ages. All you need is the right gear and Cornell Outdoor Education’s Outfitting Center can help. There you can rent skis, snow shoes, poles and much more. And, they offer sidewalk service to minimize contact to safely get you your gear. 
  • Give Yourself a Break and Reach Out: You might find yourself feeling a little lost and overwhelmed when it comes to caring for yourself. No need to compare this year to others because that is comparing apples to oranges. Our staff at Cornell Wellness is eager to assist you individually. If you would like to talk through what you are wanting and/or get some help customizing your wellness plan for early 2021, please let us know. Together, we will help you let go of expectations and “should” to see what your best next wellness steps could be in 2021.

Becoming A Cold-Weather Bicyclist
Written by Cathryn Lucas
#MoveMore

Like other cities in the US, Ithaca saw an increase in bicycling this summer as the pandemic shut-down indoor recreation opportunities. Lots of people have continued to spin their wheels during our lovely autumn weather, but the daylight is dwindling, the leaves are falling, and we know that the cold and snow are just around the corner. But the inevitable winter weather doesn’t have to keep you off your bike. 

Through trial & error, I’ve found a few things that work to keep me warm & dry even on the coldest of snowy days. Maybe they’ll work for you too! 

I came to be a cold-weather bicyclist quite by accident. Sure, I had a “nice bike” that I rode for exercise and even used to train for a triathlon. But I’d been a fair-weather cyclist, only taking it out during the warm summer months. Then my car suddenly quit working one November, and with the repairs costing more than it was worth (not to mention more than I could afford), I scrapped it for $200. With that fateful windfall I bought an “around-town bike” and began my transformation into cold-weather cyclist. 

I can’t say that I know everything there is to know or that I have all the answers. I can share what I’ve learned about myself over the past decade of winter riding. 

What (not) to wear. On my first cold, cold day, I thought I’d wear my warmest sweatpants. Surely that would be good, right? Big mistake! The wind cut right through them and they kept getting caught in the chain. Turns out warmth and comfort on the couch do not equate to warmth and comfort on the bike. Luckily, I had done some cold-weather running, so I re-assessed and borrowed from my running clothes. 

But running & bicycling pose different coldness problems. It took a while to get used to the problem of over-heating in the bitter cold. I needed something that protected against the wind but also allowed for breathability. I gradually found that layering and zippers worked for me on top. I can un-zip the collar to let some heat out for a while and then re-zip. For pants, I’ve found that on the coldest days I do need to layer, but for most wintery days my running tights provide enough warmth.

I know some people like wool, but I just don’t like the way it feels. So, I use a “cold-gear” under armour shirt with additional quarter or half zip shirts under a fairly light-weight windproof jacket. Now, I know cycling can be quite expensive, and that goes for the clothing too. But you don’t need to spend a lot of money. I was able to find gear second-hand or on clearance. You might find something at the annual Cornell Outdoor Education Gear Sale (the 2020 sale was cancelled because of COVID, but look for details about the next sale). 

Warm hands & feet make for a happy rider. Like with finding what worked for clothing, I had to try different glove options to find what worked. Unlike running, cycling demands the hands to shift and brake and steer. Plus, your hands are out on the handlebars in the wind. I first used my running gloves, and they worked well to about 30-40 degrees. After that, it was just too cold. Now, I am privileged to have family members get me warm gloves for my birthday. They are a “lobster-style” where the fingers are grouped together for warmth. It took a while to get used to riding with them, so I’d suggest doing some slow practicing in an empty parking lot or quiet street before taking them on your regular route(s). 

I have not used them, but I know some folks who love their “bar-mitts” (neoprene attachments that go on your handlebars to provide a pocket of warmth). They say that they can wear thinner gloves and feel more secure shifting & braking without the bulk of lobster-style gloves. 

The one neoprene accessory I do use are toe covers. They are small and slip on over your toes inside your shoes. I like wearing them over my socks, but they can be worn under or over. Again here, I generally don’t like the feel, but many people will wear wool socks, as wool provides warmth and wind-breaking properties. 

Protect your head. On all my rides, I wear a helmet and glasses. In the winter, I’ve found that I need to adjust them because I also wear a hat and a balaclava that covers my nose, mouth, and neck. Down to about 30 degrees, I find that one hat suffices. But, once it gets colder, I want to get my face covered up too. The problem with the balaclava is that then my glasses fog! There are some anti-fog sprays you can use, but I’ve found that ski goggles don’t get foggy and (bonus) keep me a bit warmer. Some people think they look a little silly, but I like to think that they make me look cool!  

Be seen. Since the daylight is getting shorter, it might be impossible to completely avoid riding in the dark. For me, headlights and taillights are a must. I even have blinking lights on my jacket and/or backpack. Good lights are becoming more affordable, and they are now usb rechargeable, so no more running through AAA batteries. 

Dashing through the snow. Cold temperatures, of course, aren’t the only thing we have to deal with in the winter. Riding in the snow takes some getting used to, but with practice you can feel confident. For several winters, I rode with the mountain bike tires that the bike came with, and they did well giving me traction and helping me feel in control. When I finally retired that first bike, I got studded snow tires for the new bike. I generally put them on around the time of the first snow and keep them on all winter. That said, I don’t think you need them to enjoy snow riding. If you aren’t feeling confident riding in the snow, it might be another good time to go to an empty parking lot or quiet street to do some slow practice. The bike might want to slide, and that can be okay. A friend told me once, “ride with the slide.” You want to feel loose but in control, keeping your weight over the back tire and don’t lock-up the brakes! 

My new bike came with fenders, but if it didn’t, they would be the first thing I’d get. They keep the grimy wet road gunk off, so you stay clean and dry. Also, be sure to rinse and wipe down your bike after going out in the slush & snow. Road salt and grime can gunk-up the gears and chain. A bit of maintenance and prevention will keep the bike happily rolling for many years to come.  

Find community. We might ride our bikes on our own, but we are in community with other folks across Ithaca. Having people to ask questions and gear recommendations has been super useful as I’ve become a cold-weather cyclist. Bike Walk Tompkins, Recycle Ithaca’s Bicycles (RIBs), Finger Lakes Cycling Club, and Cornell Outdoor Education are all good places to get connected. 

Sleep, Exercise And The Fall Back Of “Changing the Clocks"
Written by Ruth Merle-Doyle
#SleepHygiene #MoveMore

We all know how imperative sleep is to our functioning hours, especially when we have not had enough of it. When looking at sleep tips, you’ll see “regular exercise” mentioned as a piece of the good-night-sleep puzzle. Exercise has a positive relationship with getting “quality sleep,” often defined as a shorter to-sleep time frame, less waking in the middle of sleep and longer total sleep time. Evidence suggests changes to neurochemicals and hormones might be a factor, as well as the exercise related decrease in symptoms of anxiety and depression. But how much exercise? What kind? When?  Let me shed a little light on those variables.

How much? The beauty is that you do not need to train for a marathon or triathlon to reap the benefits of exercise on your sleep quality. Shooting for 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise throughout a week’s time is your best bet. That can be the equivalent of intentionally moving 30 minutes, 5 days per week. And often, your 30 minute walk will translate into better sleep the next time you lay down for your sleep time which can be immediate positive feedback. 
Take home message: Spread your 150 minutes out throughout your week and plan to move 30 minutes most days. That routine can offer consistently positive effects on sleep. Keep it simple and choose activity and exercise you enjoy and that makes you feel successful when completed.

What kind? There does not seem to be one perfect exercise that helps sleep. I often tell my wellness clients that diversity of exercise types creates the best outcomes. For example, when you are planning your week’s exercise and hoping to glean better sleep from it, consider adding elements of cardio (walking, biking, Zumba, etc.) most days of the week, and some strength training (strength based group fitness classes, HIIT, body weight movements, etc.) 2-3 workouts per week. It is suggested to add flexibility and balance work for 1-2 workouts per week, but I have a pro-tip to share. Consider options like virtual yoga classes that can blend elements of strength, flexibility and balance. This challenges your body in multiple ways and saves you time by reducing the number of workouts on your list every week. 
Take home message: Variety is key! Taking time both outdoors and indoors, moving some on your own and participating in virtual group fitness classes, adding light, moderate and vigorous intensities...all this variety will only amplify your sleep results.

When? The timing of exercise is the one element to keep in mind when trying to improve your sleep. There has been some debate over exercise timing before sleep, and how exercising too close to bedtime can interfere with time to sleep. Suggestions range from avoiding exercise 1-3 hours before bed to finding no ill effects of exercise right up until bedtime. There may be a distinct relationship between timing of intense/vigorous exercise, such as HIIT training, and sleep quality. The finding showed that participating in high intensity interval training less than one hour before bed caused a longer to sleep time frame and an overall lower quality of sleep. 
Take home message: Avoid highly intense exercise within the hour before bedtime. Otherwise, low to moderate, diverse exercise, when done some time before bed, can be helpful in improving your quality of sleep.

Mark your calendars for changing the clocks back one hour on Nov 1, and consider these tips to preserve your sleep quality.

  • Plan ahead and adjust your bed time subtly. In the days before we change the clock, go to bed 20-30 minutes earlier to bolster your total sleep time.
  • Maintain your pre-sleep routine, keeping eating, exercise and bed times consistent.
  • Try winding down at bedtime in relaxing ways like a meditation for sleep from Insight Timer or Headspace. And ban electronic devices before bedtime or use the sleep mode feature. The blue light inhibits melatonin, making it difficult to fall asleep.
  • Once Nov 1 and 2 are upon us, don’t double up on the caffeine or naps. Both can negatively affect sleep.

Sources:
https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/exercising-for-better-sleep 
https://journals.lww.com/acsm-healthfitness/fulltext/2013/09000/exercise_and_sleep.4.aspx
https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/does-exercising-at-night-affect-sleep 
https://www.acsm.org/read-research/trending-topics-resource-pages/physical-activity-guidelines

Steps Towards Better Sleep
Written by Kerry Howell
#SleepHygiene

Sleep is one of those things that affects all aspects of our lives. If you find yourself not sleeping well, one thing you can do is to try tracking your sleep using a phone App. Read this article on the best sleep tracking apps to learn more. Once you have some data on your sleep, certain patterns may be revealed that help you to understand more about what's causing you to not feel well rested and what to do about it. Below are a few things you might relate to and find useful in getting you started on the road to better sleep.

Does the data reveal that you're having trouble falling asleep? Establishing a positive pre-sleep wind down routine could be just what you need. Pre-sleep routines can be long or short in duration and can be as simple as doing one thing before bed or doing several. If you haven't tried establishing a pre-sleep routine before, or haven't found one that works for you just yet, try starting with this. Do one thing that you find relaxing 30 minutes before you want to fall asleep. You could try reading a book, following along to a guided meditation, listening to music, or something else. If you're using your phone for one of these options, consider switching your phone to night mode for less sleep disruption from the blue light it emits. Whatever it is, intentionally choose something that is calming and soothing. Being consistent is important, so whatever you choose, try it for more than just one night to see if it makes a difference for you.  

Or, maybe the data shows that you're waking up repeatedly throughout your sleep cycles. If this is true, do you drink non-alcoholic or alcoholic beverages close to your desired sleep time? Water, coffee, and alcohol can all have negative effects on our sleep depending on when they are consumed. You may be able to fall asleep just fine if you consume water right before you go to bed, but chances are, your sleep will be disturbed by the need to visit the bathroom. And then there's coffee. For many, drinking a cup of joe before bed will not only make it difficult to fall asleep due to the caffeine, but will also lead to waking up during the night having to pee. Caffeine's affect is felt in as little as 15 minutes and still is in your system hours later. And then there's alcohol. Although some swear that alcohol calms their nerves allowing them to fall asleep, a person's quality of sleep is negatively affected by increased alcohol consumption, specifically the important restorative REM cycle. Bottom line, if you're waking up repeatedly, take notice of what, when, and how much you're consuming before wanting to fall asleep. See if there's room to try something different if what you're doing now isn't working well for you. 

How To Stay Hydrated
Written by Kerry Howell
#StayHydrated

Staying hydrated is important. Just how important is it? Much more important than I personally thought it was. In fact, taking in enough fluids is critical for our bodies to perform many of their essential tasks that keep us healthy, well, and even alive. Okay, so it’s sinking in now for me that my casual approach to taking in fluids throughout the day may not be setting up my body for success. According to this Harvard school of public health article, “drinking enough water each day is crucial to regulate body temperature, keep joints lubricated, prevent infections, deliver nutrients to cells, and keep organs functioning properly”. If you are dehydrated, it can have an immediate effect on your mood, energy level, cognitive ability, sport performance and more. On the flip side, in a journal review article written by Popkin et.al. (2010), if you’re well hydrated, this is associated, at differing levels, with a reduced risk of constipation, formation of stones in your urinary tract, exercise induced asthma, hyperglycemia in diabetic ketoacidosis, hypertension, and more. 

Our bodies are made up of about 60% water. So how do you stay adequately hydrated you might ask? You get fluids from water and things that contain high levels of water such as tea, coffee, milk, juice, broth-based soups, fruits and vegetables. About 20% of your daily water intake typically comes solely from the fruits and vegetables you consume. Many of these, such as watermelon and cucumbers are almost 100% water. But, what about tea and coffee, you might ask? These have caffeine that make them not great sources for hydration, right? Although straight up water is your best source of hydration, drinks like tea and coffee that contain caffeine are only mild diuretics, therefore they still provide a net positive on the hydration scale. Tea contains less caffeine (zero if it’s herbal) than coffee, so it’s even more hydrating than its bean-based counterpart.

On a daily basis, how much fluid should you take in? The National Academies of Medicine recommends a little over 11 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids per day for women and almost 16 cups (3.7 liters) of fluid for men. This is a general recommendation only and many things can have an effect on how much fluid is the right amount specifically for you. Things like, what is your body size, are you in a hot dry climate, are you exercising, are you taking medications that effect your hydration level, are you sick with a fever, and more. If you are a person who learns from images like I do, there’s a great one of a fluid pitcher in this CNN health article that can help you to wrap your head around ways to meet the daily fluid intake guidelines. According to the pitcher image, which Dr. Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School Of Public Health helped to inform, if you’re an individual on a 2,200 calorie diet, you could obtain your daily fluids through drinking about 50 fluid ounces (~6 cups or 1.4 liters) of water, 28 fluid ounces (3.5 cups or ~800 milliliters) from tea or coffee, 16 fluid ounces (2 cups or ~500 milliliters) from low fat/no fat milk or a milk substitute such as almond milk, 16 fluid ounces (2 cups or ~500 milliliters) from beverages sweetened with natural sweetener such as stevia or artificial sweeteners, 4 fluid ounces (1/2 cup or ~100 milliliters) of fruit or vegetable juice, sports drinks, or vitamin enhanced water. There are strong arguments on both sides that still abound over artificially sweetened beverages, with evidence that they may help with weight loss but also evidence that they may have negative metabolic effects, so I would personally recommend decreasing the quantity of these in exchange for just straight up water. This New York Times article does a nice job of summarizing the continuing controversy if you’re interested in learning more about it. You may have also noticed the low fluid ounces amount above for fruit and vegetable juices, sports drinks, etc. This is due to the calories they contain, which can add to weight gain. If you love your daily V8 that’s over 4 ounces, keep your physical activity level up to counter balance the calories. 

Ultimately, though, how can you tell if you’re taking in enough fluids daily? The answer is simple. Check the color of your urine. If it looks like apple juice, you need more fluids. If it’s a pale yellow or lighter, you’re good. 

Here are some additional tips to help you with your hydration success story:

  • Easy ways to jazz up your plain water. Are you like me in that you don’t like plain water? Try jazzing it up healthfully by adding slices of lemon, lime, or strawberries to your water. Want more flavor enhancing ideas, check out these 10 water flavor infusion combinations from the VA.
  • Some water bottles are better than others. Plastic, glass, stainless steel, what to buy? Storage and transportation devices for water come in many forms. When selecting one for yourself, make sure most importantly that it’s something you like and will use frequently. A few additional things to consider when it comes to the material the water bottle or container is made of include: 1) Plastic is the least expensive. Just check to see that it is BPA-free 2) Glass is chemical free. Just make sure to transport it in a way that it won’t break 3) Steel is very durable. Just make sure that you’re okay with the taste of water when it comes out of a metal bottle.
  • Tap into solid foods for their water content. Many fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of hydration. Some of the most water-packed include tomatoes, spinach, bok-choy, peppers, mushrooms, celery, cucumbers, cantaloupe, watermelon, strawberries, grapefruit, oranges, and more.
  • Changing behavior patterns takes time. Be patient with yourself if you are wanting to change your current hydration patterns to create new healthy habits. New habits take time to establish and typically have ups and downs. Hit the re-start button as often as needed. You may also have recently been forced to make sudden changes to how you acquire water throughout your day if you switched from working on-campus to working from home. Maybe that reliable water fountain isn’t available to you anymore. Or, maybe you have well water with a high sulfur content and need to purchase water at a store or fill up water jugs at a local spring? Be kind to yourself as you adapt and adopt new ways of doing things, some because you wanted to make a change and others because of a change that was out of your control.

Sources:
Harvard school of public health. The Importance Of Hydration. 2017. 
CNN health. Benefits Of Water: Are you getting enough fluids to stay healthy? Sandee LaMotte. 2017.
Mayo Clinic. Healthy Lifestyle. Nutrition and healthy eating. Water: How Much Should You Drink Every Day? Mayo Clinic staff. Sept, 2017. 
CDC. Healthy Weight, Nutrition, and Physical Activity. Rethink Your Drink. Sept, 2015. 
Veterans Affairs. Why Try Flavor Infused Water? May 2017. 
NCBI. NLM. NIH. Water, Hydration, and Health. Popkin et. al. 2010. 
The New York Times. Can Artificial Sweeteners Keep Us From Gaining Weight? Anahad O’Connor. Aug, 2020.  

Resilience During COVID
Written by Ruth Merle-Doyle
#MentalWellness

My Mom had embraced the term “pull yourself up by your boot straps” in many aspects of her life, even when her life was most challenging and she was fighting pancreatic cancer. She forged ahead in ways that I could not understand, and it worked for her. I have discovered, however, that it does not work for me, and at times, makes me question my own resilience. As Cornell Wellness embarks on a fall semester of assisting the Cornell Community in building resilience throughout the COVID pandemic, I have taken some time to explore this topic and I wanted to share some resources and tips that stood out.

Resilience is often defined as being able to “bounce back” during challenging, stressful times. You can find resources on resilience, specifically how to build your resilience, in reputable articles from the American Psychological Association and Psychology Today, even recently in Forbes. We are all born with a vast potential for resilience. As we grow and live through life’s experiences from children to adults, we gain a sort of ability to use our resilience when life gets hard. And resilience changes with what we have going on in our lives, sometimes overflowing (like when we are rock stars at self-care) and sometimes depleted (like potentially during a global pandemic.) Most interesting is the concept of a “resilience bank,” much like a savings bank, where we can save for the moments we need our most resilient selves. To build up that resilience bank, taking care of your physical, mental and emotional self, often referred to as self-care, seems to be consistently on this list. 
If you are wanting to build up that resilience bank, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Pay attention to your body, especially if you have discomfort. Working from home is no joke and many of us did it quickly and urgently. Like mine, your body might now be telling you that your work from home structure and positions are not going to work for the long haul. Consider taking lots of micro breaks (5 min or less) to simply move around your home so you can change position and give your body some recovery time from sitting too long. This can be as simple as standing up, moving a few paces around, doing your favorite stretches, etc. Reach out to the Musculoskeletal Injury Prevention Program (MIPP) for a virtual ergonomic assessment. There are often low to no cost solutions for better positions and less pain while working from home. And, if you have concerns about how your body feels, reach out to your primary care physician for some guidance. Going into the world may be scary for you right now, but our medical providers have done a great job securing pandemic practices to keep their patients safe. Reach out to them to see how an appointment can be done.
  • Pay attention to your mind, your heart, your emotions, especially if you have pain points. Sometimes it is hard to pinpoint what you are feeling, but you know that you simply feel unlike yourself. Consider reaching out to friends and/or family who can lift you up when you need it. A safe, distanced talk with a trusted friend might bring some relief. Contact Cornell’s counselors at the Faculty & Staff Assistance Program (FSAP) for professional opinions and help. Or, try a general health and wellness consultation with Cornell Wellness to meet with someone who is not a counselor but who is certified as a life coach. Wellness’ professionals are available to listen to you when you want to talk about something on your mind, or a change you are wanting to make. Both FSAP and Wellness consultations are free, confidential and virtual for anyone in the Cornell Community.
  • Remember your unique, wellness profile, especially the medical “variables.” If you have medical “variables” that need attention like high blood pressure or high cholesterol to name a few, keep them on your radar. (Join Cornell Wellness for our Cholesterol Education Campaign in mid-September.) If you have regularly scheduled imaging or medical appointments like mammograms or well visits for you or your children, keep them. If, due to COVID, routine well visits were cancelled, reschedule them. Call your physician to ask about their COVID precautions if you have concerns that are resulting in you not wanting to go to your routine appointments and check-ups.
  • Think about the things that can bolster your wellness, your immune system, your unique resilience. In the fall semester, Cornell Wellness will be offering workshops and events that focus on actions you can do right now to improve your resilience. We will focus on programming and services that support healthy eating, moving more, sleep hygiene, mental wellness, and staying hydrated. All of these help to support your wellness, your immune system, and your resilience. Stay tuned to Cornell Wellness’ website, Weekly Update e-newsletter, Facebook page, and Instagram for more information and important dates for these offerings. And, you’ll find additional wellbeing programming and services available from Wellness, Work/Life, FSAP, MIPP, and more through HR’s Employee Wellbeing website and Employee Wellbeing e-newsletter.
  • Be hopeful. Be hopeful that we will all grow throughout this time. Be hopeful that there are opportunities during this strange time, both personally and professionally. Be hopeful that this pandemic will begin to end soon and we will come out of it stronger and better than before. Perhaps this means that we will bounce ahead, not just bounce back, when all of this is said and done.

Active Family Strategies – Getting Started
Written by Ruth Merle-Doyle
#MoveMore

Kids need to move for a variety of reasons -- healthy physical development, positive effects on cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, bone health, body composition and more. The beautiful thing is parents of kids need to move their bodies for almost the exact same reasons! During this pandemic moment when we are all more isolated, physical activity can enhance feelings of wellbeing, decrease symptoms of anxiety/depression, and enhance cognitive focus and creative clarity. However, getting our kids and ourselves more active is hard -- sometimes feeling insurmountable.

As one of the fitness professionals with Cornell Wellness, I have learned that adults tend to have rigid categories of what “counts” and “doesn’t count” as exercise. Refreshingly, the guidelines for physical activity for children say that activity can be attained through transportation, PE classes, organized sport, free play and planned exercise. To meet the physical activity guideline for children of 60 minutes per day, there are many options to choose from. As a parent (and fitness professional), I’m doing my best to broaden what I “count” as exercise and include my kids so they get the movement they need and connect with them along the way.
Right now when parents are working full time, being caretakers, summer camp counselors and playmates, I’d like to offer some “pro tips” to get everyone moving in healthy ways.

  • Start on the same page. Ask your kids what they enjoy when they move their bodies (refrain from asking about “exercise” instead using a broader word like “movement”) and see whaat creative, clever ideas they might share. Enjoyment is an important variable for both kids and adults. As humans, we go back to the things we enjoy and cultivating this with kids sets a beautiful stage for a lifelong habit of healthy, physical activity. 
  • Honesty is the best policy. You may feel challenged with being more active and it is ok to share that with your children. They might be feeling the same way. Supporting our children as they begin to be more active is important, and your children may support you in ways you could not have imagined. 
  • Watch your language! As their role model, be aware of how you frame the “why” of your exercise. For example, if your child hears that you only exercise to lose weight or fit into your jeans, they will quickly connect workouts to physical appearance. To cultivate positive body image, emphasize that we feel better and our minds/bodies can recharge when we move, and every moment of movement makes us healthier and helps our bodies work better.
  • Does it count? Kids go from 0 to 100 all the time and that is especially true when they are active. As the grown up, be mentally prepared to try walk/runs, tag games, interval workouts or challenges like an obstacle course where spurts of high energy then recovery are common. In fact, adults can glean the benefits of moments of vigorous intensity and work on agility and balance movements that come naturally to kids through “play.” 
  • To reward or not to reward? For kids who are not eager to be active, try incentivizing the effort. For young ones, simple sticker charts might be enough. For older children, keeping an activity journal or using a tracking resource like mapmyfitness or strava (with adult supervision), can be engaging. The question then is what is the reward once you meet your family goal?  Be creative and brainstorm reward ideas that will further connect your family. Some new workout gear or clothes, a family movie night, or an outdoor picnic together might keep people on track. Refrain from rewarding with food, especially sweet treats or desserts, which can associate food as a “reward” for fitness.
  • Division of responsibility: Ellyn Satter, a recognized authority on children and eating, shows that we can offer the what, where and when of food, but let children decide the if and how much. Exercise is the same. As parents, we can offer opportunities, ideas and options at certain times, but in the end, they decide if and how long they move. Be generous with them and yourselves, offering often and being ready when they say “yes!”

Creating activity habits is hard for all of us. Remember to keep it simple. For kids who are eager, have a “yes” day when you follow their lead. You might be sore and tired from playing tag, riding bikes, or tumbling in your living room, but it will create a day to remember. For kids who are not so enthusiastic, let fun and enjoyment lead the way. If your child cannot get in 60 minutes of activity per day, that is ok. Slowly work your way up to it as a family. (If you have concerns about your child’s endurance or any symptoms that arise with activity, please seek your pediatrician’s guidance.) If any of our fitness professionals at Cornell Wellness can be helpful to those in our Cornell Community, please reach out at wellness@cornell.edu
Happy Moving!
Sources:
Physical Activity in Children and Adolescents, ACSM
Top 10 Reasons Children Should Exercise, American Council on Exercise
How Much Physical Activity Do Children Need?, Center for Disease Control
The Division of Responsibility in Activity, Ellen Satter Institute

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