Fish Oil, or No Fish Oil? Medical Journal Findings and Fish Oil Sales Just Don’t Match Up!

Since this article is about both fish oil and research about fish oil, let’s start off Friday with a related fun fact: in Portuguese, the verb for “to fish” is pescar, and the noun for “research” is pesquisa. I like that combination conceptually because it makes me think of research as the process of fishing for valuable knowledge out of the vast pool of universal information. Pretty cool, right? Just me? Ok, we’ll move on.

Between the years 2007 and 2012, annual sales of fish oils and omega-3 fatty acid supplements increased from $425 million to $1043 million in the United States and similar sales booms were seen in the United Kingdom and Australasia (which consists of Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea, and other small neighboring pacific islands). Considering the fact that 10% of adults in the U.S. take a fish oil or omega-3 fatty acid (FA) supplement, chances are that we all know someone who spends quite a bit of money on those fishy, transparent capsules!

I turned to Google to find 10 different bottles of fish oil capsules with roughly the same quantity of fish oil per bottle (GNC, Nature Made, Sundown, Spring Valley, Nordic Naturals, Nature’s Bounty, Optimum Nutrition, Carlson, and Barlean’s) and found the average price of the 10 bottles to be $16.08 for roughly 100 days of taking 1000 mg fish oil per day (this is not an unusual quantity for people to take). No wonder fish oil sales are so high; that’s not cheap for a plastic bottle that smells like a seafood market!

 Fish oil caps

“Fish Oil Caps” by Stephen Cummings of Flickr Creative Commons

In March, 2014, JAMA Internal Medicine published a research letter in which Dr.’s Andrew Grey and Mark Bolland identified randomized clinical trials (RCTs) or meta-analyses of RCTs about omega-2 fatty acid use published in the top ranking internal medicine journals in the world between January 1, 2005 and December 31, 2012. A randomized control trial is a research study in which two groups of people are followed over time, and one group is given the treatment (fish oil supplements in this case) and the other group is given a placebo (a similar-looking pill that actually contains no fish oil), so each participant does not know which group they are in (to prevent bias). Then the groups are assessed to see if there are any significant differences between the “case” and the “control” groups, such as differences in cardiovascular health in the fish oil trials. The assessment of 18 RCTs found that only 2 of the 18 reported that they found a health benefit to treatment with omega-3 fatty acid supplements (which term I am using interchangeably with fish oil in this article).

The researchers then found the popular news reports that covered the same RCTs that they had assessed and used a 5-point scale with 1 meaning “clearly unfavorable” and 5 meaning “clearly favorable” to assess the way each news report chose to report the findings of the RCTs. For each of the 18 RCTs assessed, they found between 0 and 27 news stories covering each one, ranked them all using the 5-point scale, and then found the median editorial score to be 4. Because a score of 5 means “clearly favorable,” most of the editorial reviews of the RCTs were enthusiastic about the use of omega-3 fatty acid supplements, even though only 2 of the 18 studies showed health benefit to their use.

If the majority of RCTs published in the top internal medicine journals in the world have found no notable health benefit to taking fish oil supplements, why have fish oil sales increased exponentially in recent years in various parts of the world?

Randomized clinical trials are considered the “gold standard” for a research study that is trying to establish a clear relationship between a treatment and an outcome, and they are typically the most trusted study design. However, the analysis published in JAMA Internal Medicine showed that the RCT publications in prominent medical journals have had very little effect on the use of fish oil supplements, as well as the media portrayal of these supplements.

Since 90% of people who take omega-3 FA supplements do so by their own choice and not at the advice of a health care professional, it is understandable why this trend is occurring. These supplements are readily available in the vitamin aisles of thousands of stores, are more affordable than a prescription, and are touted as beneficial to heart health or lowering cholesterol by hundreds of news sources.

These use of these supplements was even endorsed by the American Heart Association in 2002 because less reliable research evidence than the RCTs had shown a benefit to cardiovascular health.

When previous research has shown a benefit, media sources have spread the message far and wide, and supplement companies have seized the opportunity to claim that their product will make people healthier, it is hard to contradict all of this information and change consumer’s minds.  Even when newer, more reliable evidence has emerged saying that what we previously thought about fish oil supplements might not be entirely correct, the majority of consumers don’t take the time to look for hard evidence of a benefit before they make their way to the pharmacy.

Before you go out and spend money on a product claiming a health benefit, it is best to look for the original up-to-date research showing what benefit, or lack thereof, has been found. Even then, it’s always best to talk to your doctor before you alter your diet or begin taking a supplement. You never know how it many affect you based on your unique medical history and it’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your health! (Plus, I’d personally get my omega-3’s straight from the source and eat real fish instead.)

wild salmon grilled on a cedar plank

“Wild salmon grilled on a cedar plank” by woodlywonderworks of Flickr Creative Commons


Grey A, Bolland M. Clinical Trial Evidence and Use of Fish Oil Supplements. JAMA Intern Med. 2014;174(3):460-462. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.12765.

Smoking Has This Unbelievable Effect on an Important Body Part

“Marlene first noticed vision problems at age 56. She had trouble reading; accidentally cut herself in the kitchen; and would fall, even when walking down only a few steps. Her doctor told her to quit smoking if she wanted to keep even a small portion of her eyesight. She needs shots in one or both eyes every month to avoid even more vision loss, which could leave her legally blind. According to Marlene, ‘Nothing at all—food, drink, cigarettes, nothing—is worth going through what I’m going through.'” – From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A growing trend among college students is the idea of “cross buzzing” – mixing two substances to create a new high. For example, a person might drink alcohol until they feel tipsy, then follow up by smoking cigarettes or marijuana. The truth is that mixing anything with cigarettes is a dangerous cocktail.

It only takes puffing on a single cigarette to become addicted to nicotine. One out of ten teens who smoke cigarettes get hooked on the drug after just two days. As part of the study, researchers also found that adolescents who smoked cigarettes only a few times a month exhibited withdrawal symptoms. Forget the five cigarettes a day rule – your addiction will begin with much fewer and less frequent cigarettes than you previously imagined.

Worse yet is the immediate effects a cigarette has on your lungs. Nothing positive here – wheezing, coughing up phlegm, and getting tired more quickly are just three of many effects smoking has immediately on your body.

If you smoke and would like to quit, there are tons of resources that can help. Start here: It doesn’t matter where you start, just as long as you do.

Listen to the tell-tale sign of smoking – smoker’s cough.

A Quick Guide to Planning Your Own Workout at the SRC or Ram’s Head!

So you might like to work out and you want to do it regularly, but with your crazy schedule it’s difficult to find a convenient time to make it to your favorite group fitness class, or maybe group fitness classes aren’t really your thing at all. If you like to go to the SRC or Ram’s Head Rec, but you don’t exactly know what kind of workout to do, there are still plenty of options other than basketball, the weight room, group fitness classes, or staying on an elliptical for an hour!


“Exercise” by IvanClow of Flickr Creative Commons

You can plan simple workout routines for yourself for those days when you hit the gym on your own and you’ll still get an excellent workout! Just bring along your phone and some headphones and follow this simple formula:

  1. Decide which parts of the body you want to target today (pick one or any combination):
  • Upper body
  • Lower body
  • Core & back
  • Cardio
  1. Plan how long you want your workout to be and then mentally divide your time into sections for each of the categories you picked above. For example, say I picked all four of the components above because I want a full-body workout today. If I want my workout to last an hour, I can divide my time something like this:
  • 15 minutes rowing on the ergs (cardio + upper body focus)
  • 15 minutes on the elliptical (cardio + lower body focus)
  • 10 minutes arm exercises with dumbbells (upper body focus)
  • 10 minutes lower body exercises with dumbbells (lower body focus)
  • 10 minutes core and back
  • (Extra) 5 minutes stretch and cool down

Or this:

  • 30 minutes elliptical (cardio + lower body focus)
  • 10 minutes rowing on erg (cardio + upper body focus)
  • 15 minutes core and back
  • 5 minutes stretch and cool down

It’s whatever you want; it’s your workout!

  1. Decide what specific exercises you are going to do during each segment to fill up your time. Here are some examples for each category:
  • Cardio:
    • Elliptical: pretty self-explanatory, but sometimes I do half of my time with my legs going forward and half of my time going backward because each direction targets different leg muscles
    • Rowing on erg
    • Running/jogging/fast walking on treadmill
    • Cycling
    • Jumping jacks
    • High knees
    • Butt-kicks
    • Mountain-climbers
    • Burpees
    • Plain old vertical jumps
    • Invisible jump rope
  • Upper body:
    • Bicep curls with dumbbells
    • Side bicep curls with dumbbells
    • Half bicep curls: start with extended arms and curl only until arms are horizontal, not all the way up. When you finish your set, repeat starting from the top of your curl and lowering down only until the horizontal before you curl back up.
    • Triceps dips: Hold dumbbell above your head with both hands and lower the weight down behind your head slowly before lifting back up. Alternatively, use a step (can be found in the upstairs studios of the SRC) and sit in front of the step and place your hands behind you, on top of the step and facing backwards. Use your arms to lift your body weight up from the floor and do dips (like backwards pushups) using those arm muscles!
    • Dead lifts
    • Tight rows
    • The classic push-up
    • “Serve the platter:” Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms close to your body and lifted to the horizontal. One at a time, extend your hand straight out at the wall in front of you like the dumbbell is a platter and you are serving it to a person in front of you
    • Overhead press
    • Fly (lift arms from down by your side up to 180 degrees horizontally
  • Lower body:
    • Squats (with dumbbells on shoulders)
      • Alternate counts: down 2, up 2; down 1, up 3; down 3, up 1…
    • Squat jumps (body weight)
    • Lunges
    • Skater’s lunge
    • Calf raises
    • Hip raises (lay on your back with knees bent and held tightly together. Press your hips up with your leg muscles and squeeze the glutes at the top!)
  • Core/back:
    • Crunches (alternate between bent knees, table-top legs, legs straight up vertically, legs butterflied, legs straight out on the ground)
    • Reverse crunches (lay on a mat with legs straight up in the air; use core strength to lift your bum off of the group and push your feet up straight towards the ceiling)
    • Plank
      • With hip dips
      • Side plank
      • Bring knee forward to opposite elbow; switch
    • Bicycle crunches (on your back bringing opposite knee to elbow)
    • Inchworm: Start in downward-facing dog position, walk your hands out to a plank position, walk them back as close to your toes as possible, repeat)
    • Flutter kick: lay on your back with hands behind your head or under your lower back for support. Lift the feet 6 in off the group and flutter up and down for 10-30 seconds at a time
    • Superman: lay on your stomach and for each repetition, lift your legs and arms off of the ground as high as you can to feel that nice crunch-like motion in your mid-back
    • Reach and pull: stay in superman position but reach your arms forward as far as you can before pulling them back and lifting all four limbs. You should feel the crunch in your back and between the shoulder blades!

Hand Weights

“Hand Weights” by slgckgc of Flickr Creative Commons

Viola! That’s all it takes to plan an awesome workout all on your own! If you’re comfortable in the weight room, you can also take advantage of all of their many weight machines to supplement your workout plan as well. This may seem obvious and easy to some people, but when I came to college it was the first time that I really relied on a gym membership to help me stay fit instead of high school sports teams. I didn’t know what all to do at first and how to plan my own balanced workouts (because I was a swimmer and my workouts were all in the water), so I started going to group fitness classes and learned a ton of these exercises that I have since applied to my own time and my own individualized workouts depending on how I’m feeling that day.

An hour on the elliptical is unbearable to me, not to mention that you can only sign up for 30 minutes at a time on all cardio equipment! With this simple guide, you can create awesome workouts with your own music that will leave you feeling accomplished, so give it a try next time you go to the gym!

Campus Rec Tweets You Need to Read Right Now


When Gus the Gorilla isn’t running around campus motivating people to get fit, he’s diligently tweeting out to all of the Campus Rec Twitter followers. We’ve compiled a few of his recent tweets!

You need to follow him on Twitter. Seriously. He’ll keep you updated with everything Campus Rec.

1. Gus stopped by Tar Heel Top Out, a rockin’ climbing competition hosted by UNC. He snapped this photo in between his gorilla dance antics.

  2. UNC Outdoor Recreation and Gus go together like two peas in a canoe. Or kayak. Or paddleboat? Hmm… however the phrase goes, Gus loves it when UNC students take advantage of Outdoor Expeditions to see nature and be active. He says it reminds him of his forested gorilla home. (Register for the kayak expedition below!)

3. Gus was extremely impressed by UNC’s underwater hockey team. So impressed he told us that he’s planning on signing up next semester (we aren’t sure if he will follow through with that!).

 4. Gus’s diet consists of whole natural foods from the forest, and the occasional free Clifbar from the UNC Campus Rec SRC. That’s right – there are FREE Clifbars given out in the SRC! He was so pumped that he tweeted out this message to remind students how they can mae sure the Clifbar give-outs are here to stay.

What Does the SPF Number on Your Sunscreen Actually Mean?

This week, we’ve seen three 80º F days in a row and one incredible thunderstorm early Thursday morning! You know what that means: North Carolina is racing through spring into our unpredictable, hot, and randomly stormy summer weather!

With the reemergence of plenty of beautiful sun, it’s time to start stocking up on sunscreen again! When you’re standing there in an aisle of literally over a hundred different types of sunscreen, it’s difficult to know what all of the different claims on all of the different bottles actually means! Here are a few tips on how to understand what different sunscreen lingo means so that you’ll have an easier time deciding!


“Sunburned” by Erin Stevenson O’Connor of Flickr Creative Commons

  • SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. Theoretically, this number is supposed to mean that the sunscreen will protect your from burning that many times longer than you can normally stay out in the sun without protection before you begin to burn. Example: If I can only stay outside for 10 minutes without burning, SPF 30 sunscreen is theoretically supposed to keep me from burning for 300 minutes. I say theoretically because this would happen under perfect conditions. In real life conditions, if you’re sweating, swimming, or just moving around a lot in a way that might cause any friction against your skin from clothes, you’re losing sunscreen protection and it might not last for the entire 300 minutes. A good rule of thumb is to reapply every 2 hours no matter what the SPF says! SPF is not a measure of how well the sunscreen will protect you, but rather how long the protection will last under ideal conditions.

            Fun fact: SPF ratings were introduced in 1962. Apparently, they were determined in the lab by gathering up 20 people with sensitive skin, measuring the amount of UV rays it took for them to burn without sunscreen, and then repeating the test with them wearing sunscreen. If that was really the case, there is no way that this process continues today because it would be considered unethical since even a single sunburn is known to increase your risk of skin cancer over your lifetime.

  • “Broad spectrum” indicates that the sunscreen is protective against both UVA and UVB rays. UVB rays cause the visible red sunburns, so all sunscreens contain UVB protection. However, UVA rays can cause dangerous skin damage that can lead to cancer and wrinkles, so you’ll want a sunscreen that protects against both! If the bottle doesn’t specifically say “broad spectrum” or UVA/UVB protection, you can probably assume that it only contains UVB protection and they don’t want you to notice.
  • Even if they do not specifically mention UVA or broad-spectrum protection, look for zinc oxide and titanium dioxide on the “active ingredients” list. These also indicate protection against UVA rays! These ingredients are also included in many “sensitive skin” sunscreens, yet they still cause skin reactions in some people. However, they are approved for safe use and sometimes it just takes multiple brand attempts to find a sunscreen that works best with your skin.
  • Most lab tests of sunscreen use a much greater amount than the typical sunscreen-wearing beach-goer wears! You should be using about an entire ounce of sunscreen every time you reapply, which could be up to 4 or more ounces a day! Don’t skimp and buy a single 8 oz. bottle of sunscreen and then head to the beach for a week; sunscreen is cheaper than cancer treatment!
  • If you have a family history of skin cancer or you take medications containing retinol (a form of vitamin A often used in acne medications), you are at an increased risk for skin cancer and adverse effects to sun exposure, such as excessive burning even with sunscreen use. Talk to your prescribing doctor about safe sun exposure and try to take advantage of trees and umbrellas for shade! (And of course, be especially obsessive about your sunscreen use and reapplication).
  • Ladies: don’t want to mess up your makeup by applying sunscreen over it at the beach? You can (1) apply sunscreen to your face and let it dry before you put on makeup, (2) choose a foundation, liquid or powder, that contains at least a 15 SPF sunscreen because many brands make these now, (3) buy a tinted sunscreen that essentially works like makeup when you put it on! These would be found in the make-up aisle rather than the sunscreen aisle and are sold under various brand names.
  • While you’re in that sunscreen aisle, don’t forget that your lips count as skin, too! Buy a tube of lip balm with sunscreen (such as Carmex) to protect your lips to keep them from getting irritated, peeling and cracking, and encouraging the appearance of fever blisters if you already get them occasionally.
  • Finally, don’t forget that your scalp counts as skin, as well! For men with short hair or women with part lines in their hair, you’ll need to protect your scalp from burning with a sprayable liquid scalp sunscreen (called “scalp-screen”) or a hat!
  • So you’re not planning on going to the beach? What about biking, walking outside, or sitting on the quad? If you’re going to be outside for more than ten minutes, you need sunscreen!

My family and friends always shake their heads or chuckle at me when I’ve spent a lot of time outside one day and I look down at the end of the day and say “Oh no! I’m getting tan lines!” In the U.S. today, media has encouraged the notion that tanned, bronze skin is beautiful skin, and many people see their tan lines as a small victory that has fulfilled their purpose of a day at the beach. I, on the other hand, see tanned skin as damaged skin (and the CDC and majority of dermatologists seem to agree with me these days.) I’ll continue to slather my high SPF sunscreen onto my fair, freckled skin every couple of hours because I like my skin the way it is and I would rather be fair-skinned and skin-cancer-and-wrinkle-free than tan and worried about the consequences that might come from my sun exposure later in life.

1966 Ad, Solarcaine Spray, "Stops Sunburn Pain"

You know what else stops sunburn pain? Not getting sunburned.

Also, it’s important to remember that even if you have dark skin and you don’t feel like you have to worry about tan lines or sunburn, the UVA/UVB rays still have the same damaging effects on your skin over time as they do on people with lighter skin! This means that you should be wearing sunscreen no matter what your skin looks like!

My favorite is Neutrogena Ultra Sheer® Dry-Touch Broad Spectrum sunscreen; it doesn’t smell like much and it dries on your skin and doesn’t leave you feeling so icky and greasy! I also like the Neutrogena Clear Face Liquid Lotion Sunscreen to prevent clogged pores and breakouts and the Neutrogena Pure & Free® Baby Faces Ultra Gentle Broad Spectrum sunscreen because typically any brand of baby sunscreen tends to have a higher SPF and is well-suited for sensitive skin that might react to other types of sunscreen. (I’m not advertising, but as you may have already assumed, I’ve tried many different types of sunscreen and I’ve stuck with the Neutrogena line for a couple of years now because it’s always worked great for me!)


“Sunscreen” by Joe Shlabotnik of Flickr Creative Commons

Disclaimer: Some sunscreens work great on some people’s skin and really irritate other people’s skin! What works for me might not work for you, so I suggest that you do what I did and buy small bottle of several different brands next time you go to the beach so that you can try them all out and decide which is your favorite! Once you decide, then you go to Sam’s, Costco, or Wal-Mart and stock up on that bulk sized discount! J


Jeffries, Melissa.  “What do SPF numbers mean?”  16 August 2007.  09 April, 2015.

Tachibana, Chris. “Probing Question: What does the SPF rating of sunscreen mean?” 1 June 2010. Penn State News. 09 April, 2015.

The Best Sun Protection Plan for Rain or Shine. 5 April 2011. One Life, Make it Count: Aging Well. 09 April 2015.

Wellness Wednesday: What’s in a Name? Considering Name Brand Vs. Generics When Purchasing Food

Picture this:

You’ve made your grocery list, or you swing by the store to get some staples for the week ahead. Like many of us, you’re on a budget, so you’ve got an eye for deals and saving money. As you scan your food options, you notice that in addition to the many eye-catching (and slogan-worthy) brands offered for your favorite foods, there are also those more plain, but much cheaper options. And you ask yourself: Is saving the money worth it? Is that food going to be as good?

I’ve often wondered this myself, and took some time to learn about the differences between generic and name brand foods.

A note before I tell you my findings: these areas really do vary widely depending on the type of food, the store you shop at, etc. It’s actually hard to make generalizations about ALL generics versus ALL name brands, because even within these categories, the quality, price, and marketing can vary widely. But below is a summary of what I found to be true.

What’s in a name?

Just so we are on the same page, here are some working definitions of the type of brands we are discussing:

“The Eternal Struggle of Coca Cola & Pepsi Cola” by Simon & His Camera Flickr Creative Commons.

Name brand- Name brands are familiar or widely known, and often are associated with trademarked products.

Generic Brand– Generic brands are lesser known than name brands, partially because, they are much less aggressively advertised to public. Packaging is often more plain than name brand products. You may not know these products by a store brand or name brand logo, but you can see the difference when you look at the product. For example, Coca Cola is a name brand, but a generic brand soda of the same variety will often just be labeled “cola”. Of ten these products are branded based on the store they are in (see below).

“Sorry…What Exactly Is In This Can Again” by Paul Jerry. Flickr Creative Commons.

Store Brand– Supermarkets or other stores offer their own line of foods that are manufactured especially for that retailer. Examples of food product store brands are Target’s Market Pantry or items sold at warehouse stores under their own line, such as Costco’s Kirkland Signature products.

There are more options than just name, generic, and store brands, and there are even levels within these for “premium” (think Kroger brand versus their “Private Selection” line of products) or “value” versions. For the sake of simplicity and not falling down a rabbit hole, we will just consider these three primary types of products.


In an experiment conducted by Consumer Reports, they found that “store-brand foods cost an average of 27% less than big-name counterparts.” One reason that generics (including sore brands) are often lower cost is that there is little to no money spent on promotional efforts for these products.


So is there a difference in quality of these food products, or is it all just a marketing scheme? Well, it turns out it depends on the product you are buying. When Consumer Reports (one of the only research sources I could find to really get the scoop on branding of food) conducted a huge amount of blind taste tests to see if people noticed a difference between different brands of foods, the majority of the time the taste test ended in a tie.

There seems to be little difference in the quality of staple products, such as flour, sugar, and some types of cereals. Non-perishable items, such as canned goods, are also good bets for little difference in taste/quality.

Other times it is hard to discern. Sources offer conflicting information on beverages such as orange juice and milk, for example.

“Orange Juice” by Placbo. Flickr Creative Commons.

Some report that it’s best not to take a risk on generic brand dairy products, because of the pasteurization process, while others say it is better to use store brands or generics because it is more likely they were regionally made and distributed, making them fresher.  This may or may not be true, as Time magazine reports than many products from store brand lines are actually made at the same places as name-brand products. Even more interesting is that a report from the Integer Group estimated only 26% of consumers actually have a preference at all when it comes to their milk brand choice.


It seems that generic versus name-brand food products also vary widely based on the brand itself. For example, Whole Foods’ store brand is probably more nutritional and tastes better than a superstore brand, partially because of the ingredients used in these products. Whole Foods overall is going to have lower preservatives and use more fresh, whole ingredients, which impacts both taste and nutrition of the item.

“Pringles Store Brand “Great Value” Potato Crisps from Wal-Mart” by Mike Mozart. Flickr Creative Commons.

All this said, it’s still hard to tell when it’s worth it to spring for the recognizable name brand, or skimp and go store brand or generic. A few tips I can offer after sizing up the options:

  • Identify, and stick to, what’s important to you. What are your top concerns: cost? food sourcing? quality? This may differ depending on the product you are seeking.
  • Check the label: look for additives, sugars, and quality grades between generics and brand name. If there are a lot of ingredients that you can’t pronounce or identify in one or both products, it may be good to seek an alternative.
  • Keep in mind that staple foods, such as non-perishable items, frozen fruits & vegetables, etc. are often okay bets to deter from your recognized brand name foods, especially if you are trying to save some money.

So what do you think? Do you have any favorite generic or store brand foods? Or have you ever had a bad experience going name brand versus generic? Share below!

Stay tuned in the future for what I learned about the differences between brand and non-brand names in terms of medications! Also, if you are interested in the brand name differences in condoms, check out one of our earlier blogs!

Campus Rec End-Of-Semester Announcements, All In One Spot!

As I was leaving a meeting on campus this evening, I opened the door and stepped outside into the overwhelmingly beautiful scent of summer. I could smell the grass and the plants and the sweet North Carolina air, which is finally warm, the way it should be, and the scent of honeysuckles made it all perfect. For the first time in a long time, the quad isn’t surrounded by construction fences and people aren’t rushing by each other as they try to get back inside where it’s warm. Campus is alive again and the pit is pulsing and once again, as always, I am reminded why I chose to call this place home.

I had to just go ahead and get my sap fest out because I’m realizing that yet another crazy but fantastic semester is coming to a close and things are about to get really hectic, so sometimes we all have to stop for a minute and remind ourselves why it is and will be worth it.

Even though the semester is swiftly dwindling, there is no shortage of exciting events happening through Campus Rec. It’s so important to stay healthy and active to balance your stress levels and show appreciation for your healthy body, so I’ve compiled all of our announcements and events right here so that you can conveniently plan to join the fun!

  1. Fitness Passports!

You can pick up a Fitness Passport from the front desk at the SRC, the Campus Rec Main Office (SRC 101), or Liz Walz’s office in SRC 202. The card will contain six challenges for you to complete before April 24th, and when you complete them all and return your card you’ll get a bag of Campus Rec gear and goodies, also known as a “Campus Rec swag bag.” The six challenges are:

  • Visit the Functional Movement and Fitness Center in the SRC, where a fitness consultant will perform a brief functional movement screening for you! The FMFC is located directly to your right after get your card swiped at the front desk in the SRC!
  • Like the Tar Heel Wellness Challenge and UNC Campus Rec pages on Facebook to stay up to date with all we have to offer and with the holistic health goals for UNC students, faculty, and staff posted on the Tar Heel Wellness Challenge page every two weeks!
  • Go to one of the Weekend Warrior Series fitness classes or a Yoga Workshop!
  • Post something that you accept or love about your body and your health on social media using #UNCbodybeautiful.
  • Take any of the 80 group fitness classes offered for free every single week, all semester long!
  • Complete one of the Training Time series workout videos on the Campus Rec YouTube channel and then post a picture of your workout on Instagram with #UNCtrainingtime.

Every time you complete a challenge, show a staff member on campus your completed social media challenge or have the staff member on duty at the event location sign off on your Fitness Passport card! When you complete your card, turn it in at the Campus Rec Main Office (SRC 101) to receive your swag bag!

  1. Tar Heel Top Out climbing competition.

This Saturday, UNC Chapel Hill will be hosting the Tar Heel Top Out, a rope climbing competition as part of the 5th annual Eastern Edge Climbing series. Eastern Edge schools include UNC, ECU, Duke, Old Dominion, and Virginia Commonwealth, but current college students from any school are invited to attend and compete!

Registration starts at 10am on Saturday, April 11, 2015 and the competition will run from 11am-6pm in Fetzer Gym C. Registration costs are as follows:

  • $20: Pre-registration for Eastern Edge school students
  • $25: Pre-registration for all other students
  • $30: Day-of registration
  • NOTE: If you’d like to register online and pay by credit card, participants who do not have a UNC ONYEN will have to contact Reggie Hinton to set up a guest account at
  1. There are still 3 more expedition trips this semester!

  • Backpacking Mount Rogers

This trip takes place on April 10-12, 2015 and you’ll be sure to have a fantastic adventure as you hike the highest peak in Virginia, where wild ponies call the great outdoors home!

  • Kayaking Three Rivers

This day trip takes place on April 18, 2015 where the Eno River merges with the Flat River and empties into the backwaters of Falls Lake. You’ll kayak your way through a maze of tiny islands as you watch for the Great Blue Heron.

  • Climbing Pilot Mountain

This day trip takes place on April 19, 2015 at the quartzite cliffs of Pilot Mountain nearby! You will learn to tie knots, belay, and climb effectively and safely with your group members!

Click here for more information about any of these expeditions and to register online!

  1. Entries are open for the Intramural Tennis Doubles Tournament until April 12! Click here for more rules and information and enjoy this wonderful weather!

Don’t get so swamped that you forget to enjoy the simple pleasures, like the smell of a spring evening at sunset. This semester will be over in the blink of an eye and this year, as seems to happen every year, we’ll be more ready for summer than ever before!

Eight Outdoor Things to Do Near Chapel Hill If You’re Staying in Town For the Long Weekend

As we are all too aware, today is Good Friday and we are out of class. Many people are traveling for the Holiday weekend, but some of us just need the chance to stay here in Chapel Hill, catch up on school work, and do a bit of relaxing. Seeing as how it is a beautiful (partly-cloudy but not raining) day with a high of 82 ºF, it’s the perfect day to spend that time that you would normally be sitting in class by getting out and enjoying the lovely weather. Not sure what exactly to do? Here are eight fun outdoor locations and activities to choose from in the area on your day off:

  1. Bike to Maple View Farm. If you’ve never been to Maple View, you should probably drop whatever you’re doing and go right now. They have delicious homemade ice cream made from the milk fresh from the dairy farm you’re standing on when you order. The front lawn is perfect for bringing a big towel or a blanket and even having a picnic before you get your ice cream! They don’t mind the loungers and the place even makes for some excellent stargazing after dark! Ginger lemonade sorbet anyone? Um, yes please! And the mint chocolate chip! Sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch of a country store with a cone of homemade ice cream will remind you that there is a lot more to life than just school.
  1. Bike or walk the American Tobacco Trail! This 22+ mile trail throughout the Triangle Areas has several convenient stopping and starting locations if you don’t want to do the entire thing! Sites along the trail include Lake Jordan, Southpoint Mall, and the Durham Bulls baseball stadium. Talk about a great way to get in some exercise and make the most of a perfect day outside!
  1. Walk around Lynn Lake and feed the geese, ducks, and turtles. This is my favorite way to use up the end of a loaf of stale bread. There are also plenty of benches if you want to people watch or stop and find a reading spot.
  1. Pilot mountain is a longer, 2-hour drive from campus, but is the perfect location for avid rock climbers and hikers! Can’t make it this weekend? Luckily, UNC Campus Rec offers expedition trips to Pilot Mountain every semester! For only $50, you will be provided with all of the equipment, food, and transportation you need for a weekend trip and will be led by UNC employees as you learn how to rock climb and explore a beautiful part of North Carolina. The above expedition trips link is updated every semester so check back in for many outdoor exploration opportunities periodically!
  1. Picnic in Duke Gardens. Perhaps one of the only redeemable qualities associated with that school 8 miles down the road is the fact that they have a really nice garden nearby that happens to share the same name. This garden is HUGE and has an enormous variety of flora and fauna. You can walk around for hours enjoying all of the different themed areas of the garden and you’ll be sure to see some classic red-checkered-blanket and picnic basket scenes as friends and couples enjoy a pretty afternoon in the garden. They also have a tiny little shop selling ice cream and other snacks in one small area of the garden.
  1. Chillax in the Coker Arboretum or North Carolina Botanical Garden. Unfortunately, these locations don’t officially allow hammocking in their beautiful trees, but you can always bring a blanket and a good book or a friend (or both!) and spend an afternoon relaxing, napping, and walking around the garden.
  1. William B. Umstead State Park is another great walking-trail location in the triangle! The park has 19 miles of very easy hiking trails and there is even a camping area perfect for small group weekend trips! The hiking is free, but the camping requires a reservation and payment!
  1. Visit Jordan Lake. Although it’s probably still too cold to think about swimming, Jordan Lake is a beautiful area with man-made sand beaches along the edge and a museum-like visitor’s center as well!

All eight of these fantastic outdoor locations are examples of all of the beauty that the state of North Carolina has to offer, and they’re all nearby! Be sure to make some time to spend on yourself or with a friend this weekend if you’re staying in the area so that you’ll be revitalized and ready for the final push through the end of the semester! Happy holidays and long weekend!

Protecting your skin from the sun


200 years ago, a baby born into our world lived to be about 40. Today a baby born in Japan – the current world leader in life expectancy – can expect to live to the ripe old age of 83. That’s almost double the previous number.

 Living into our eighties ushers in an exciting new era of experiences and responsibilities. Protecting your body from the energy of Earth’s most important star – the sun – is necessary not only for cosmetic reasons, but also to avoid potentially deadly cancers such as melanoma.

It’s your body. You only get one. Focus on two key body areas that need special care from the sun.

1. Eyes 

A window into the soul… or necessary visual organs – no matter how you see your eyes, they’re probably an important part of your life. The number one way you can protect your eyes from the sun is to not go outside. When you do spend time outdoors, don a pair of sunglasses with 100% UV protection.

2. Skin

Did you know the skin is an organ? Just like the heart or brain, your skin needs a little care to maintain its brilliance and functionality. Apply sunscreen daily to skin that will likely be exposed to the sun – namely the face and arms. A sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher is effective at blocking UV rays from reaching your skin.

Here’s how it breaks down: SPF 15 blocks out 93% of all incoming UVB rays, SPF blocks out 97%, and SPF 50 protects your skin from 98% of UVB rays. Everyone over the age of 6 should use caution when spending time in the sun.

A common myth: people with dark skin don’t need to worry about skin damage from the sun. This isn’t true. Dermatologists warn that dark-skinned blacks have a natural SPF of 13, approximately twice that of fair-skinned people. People of all skin types can burn and are at risk of skin damage and cancer.

Do U.S. Presidents Know the Secret to a Long Life?

Including our current president, Barack Obama, the United States has been led by a total of 44 presidents in our short history as a country. In 2011, JAMA (The Journal of the American Medical Association) published an interesting analysis conducted at the University of Illinois at Chicago. A group of researchers decided to put an old rumored assumption to the test; that rumor says that while they serve in office, U.S. presidents age twice as fast as “the rest of us.”1 It makes sense that with such a large amount of stress resting on their shoulders at all times, the difficulty of the job would eventually begin to take its toll. Pictures of our presidents at the beginning and end of their terms certainly show a good amount of visual aging!


For the study, the researchers collected the life and term date records for each of the 44 presidents of the United States. They then decided to only analyze the 34 diseased presidents who died of natural causes to determine if presidential lifespans are different than those of the average Joe or Jane. Presidents who did not die of natural causes (Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, and Kennedy) and presidents who are still living (Carter, G.H.W. Bush, Clinton, G.W. Bush, and Obama) were excluded from the analysis because they do not provide an unbiased measurement of natural presidential lifespan. They also collected records of men in the U.S. and France who were the same age as the president at the time of their inauguration to determine the life expectancies of a man of that particular age at that point in time for use as a comparison point. 1

The analysis provided four main results:

  • “Estimated mean life span of all presidents under the assumption of aging at twice the normal rate while in office was 68.1 years (including presidents still alive).1
  • “The mean estimated life span of men matched to the date of inauguration of all presidents was 73.3 years.”1
  • “Observed mean life span of 34 deceased presidents who died of natural causes was 73.0 years.”1
  • “Of 34 deceased presidents who died of natural causes, 23 lived longer than expected with accelerated aging, with a mean age at death of 78.0 years, while their estimated age at death (with accelerated aging) was 67.0 years. Of the 11 presidents who died earlier than expected, mean observed life span was 62.1 years while mean estimated life span was 67.8 years.”1

According to these results, there was no statistically significant evidence that U.S. presidents have shorter lifespans than the average U.S. man, despite the stress of leading a country. The rumor that the presidential office is an aging time warp that costs presidents 2 days of their life expectancy for every 1 day in office just didn’t hold up.

In fact, the majority of presidents who died of natural causes (23 of 34) lived significantly longer than even the average U.S. life expectancy! This group even included the first eight U.S. presidents, who had an average life span of 79.8 years even though the life expectancy of the average U.S. man at the time was younger than 40! Other, more recent presidents also lived significantly longer than expected, even now that the life expectancy has increased dramatically. Gerald Ford lived to be 93.5 years old, Ronald Reagan lived a plentiful 93.3, John Adams joined the nonagenarians at 90.7 years old, and Herbert Hoover lived to be 90.2 years old. 2

So, despite their stressful jobs and the visible physical toll of the presidency, the majority of U.S. presidents live longer than the life expectancy of the average American man. Is this because U.S. presidents have access to some anti-aging secret that is kept hidden from the rest of us? I don’t think so.

Following are some reasons pointed out by the researcher and brainstormed by myself as to why so many U.S. presidents lived much longer than we expected:

  • “All but 10 presidents were college educated, had considerable wealth, and had access to the best medical care in their era.”1 Countless studies have proven again and again that higher socioeconomic and educational status leads to better health outcomes. Add this to the fact that the President is served by the top medical professionals in the world on a very regular basis and it makes sense that they would stay healthier for longer, especially while in office.
  • I’ve mentioned stress several times, which can definitely take a toll on a person’s health. The President not only has the best physical health professionals, but they also surely have exceptional psychologists and mental health professionals to help them keep the stress at a manageable and healthy level.
  • If you think that the president doesn’t put on a pair of gym shorts, get active, and work up a good sweat every week—think again. The President is attended by personal trainers and nutritionists that help him maintain the basics of good health—diet and exercise—even in the midst of leading the country.
  • The average life expectancy in the United States is calculated as a national average that includes deaths due to accidents, murder, and childhood illnesses. Considering the fact that the average inaugural age of U.S. presidents is 55.1 years old and the early years of life are the riskiest as far as accidents go, it makes sense that there would be a higher life expectancy among a group of people who definitely made it to age 55 (and therefore did not die of any childhood diseases or accidents) and who are protected by the Secret Service 24/7 would have a higher life expectancy when compared to the overall U.S. population.1
  • A different analysis shows that “on average, actors who win Oscars live four years longer than those who just get nominated.” No concrete explanation is available here, but it shows that positions of power and prestige do good things for the life span and expectancy. If I had to guess, I’d say that it comes back to the money: people who win Oscars probably make more money than actors who do not, allowing them access to the best healthcare and lifestyle options if they will take them, as does being president of the United States.

As it turns out, our presidents are intelligent but they do not necessarily hold the answers to the fountain of youth or a longer-than-average life. A good education, healthy stress management, diet, and exercise are still major determining factors of your health outcomes throughout your life, whether you are the president of the country or a college student! So be active, eat well, manage your stress and get help if you need it, and work hard for your goals and you’ll be on your way to joining the presidential nonagenarians in your white-haired future!

Works Cited:

  1. Olshansky, Jay S. Aging of US Presidents. JAMA. 2011;306(21):2328-2329. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.1786. Accessed March 30, 2015.
  1. Szalavitz, Maia. Why American Presidents (and Some Oscar Winners) Live Longer. December 07, 2011. TIME. Accessed March 30, 2015.
  2. Images from

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