Wellness Wednesday: Be grateful! Science says it’s good for your health.


Image courtesy of BK on Flickr
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.
—Melody Beattie
Thanksgiving—it’s one of my favorite times of the year. This has nothing to do with Pilgrims, and very little to do with football or parades. It does, however, have a lot to do with the word Thanksgiving—literally, giving thanks. For me, Thanksgiving is a reminder to pause and consider all of the things in my life that I’m grateful for—friends, family, opportunities… the list goes on.
While gratitude may be at the forefront this week, perhaps we should consider practicing it every week. According to a study from UC Davis, having a grateful outlook on life significantly increases health and well-being. This same research group has found that gratitude can decrease blood pressure and feelings of loneliness, and improve sleep quality, attention, and self-control. Not convinced? Check out the HappierHuman website for a summary of 31 ways that gratitude benefits your health and well-being, compiled from 40+ studies of gratitude.
A couple of years ago, SoulPancake decided to try out gratitude as an experiment within their Science of Happiness series. They had individuals come into their lab and complete a happiness test. Then, they asked the participants to write a letter to someone they were grateful for, expressing their gratitude. Finally, the participants were asked to call these individuals and read them the letter. At the end of the study, they took another happiness test. Overall, expressing gratitude produced a 4–19% increase in happiness, and the person who came in least happy had the greatest increase.
Image courtesy of BK on Flickr
So, what are some ways you can practice gratitude?
  • Express it. Like the participants in the Science of Happiness study, you could write a letter to someone you care about. Let them know how much they mean to you. Better yet, call them or go see them in person. William Arthur Ward said, “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” When you’re feeling grateful for someone, tell them—don’t keep it to yourself! You can make their day and benefit your own health at the same time. Obviously, there’s an app for that.
  • Write it down. Keep a gratitude journal. At the beginning or end of your week, think about what you’re most grateful for and record it in your journal. That way, when you’re having a bad day, you can look back at your journal and remind yourself of the people and things you appreciate most.
  • Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness means paying attention, without judgment, to your thoughts, sensations, emotions, and the external world. Sometimes we go throughout our busy days without actually noticing what we’re doing, who we’re interacting with, or what the world around us looks like. When we start paying attention, we can live more authentically and express gratitude for what we have. Try adding this gratitude practice to your mindfulness routine.
Gratitude can do some pretty amazing things for your health, and it’s really easy to do. Use this Thanksgiving break to prioritize gratitude for the people, places, opportunities, and things you appreciate most.
Image courtesy of Sandra Marie on Flickr
Kaitlyn Brodar is the Program Assistant for Resiliency Initiatives at UNC Student Wellness and a Master of Public Health graduate student with a focus in Health Behavior at UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. She previously worked in cognitive psychology research on post-traumatic stress disorder after earning her bachelor’s in Psychology at Duke University.
Wellness Wednesday blog posts are written by Student Wellness or Campus Health Services staff members. Visit healthyheels.org for the original post.

Thanksgiving: A Day of Gratitude and Great Food

We’ve made it to another reprieve Tar Heels: at 5pm today we’re officially free from classes for the next five days. Thanksgiving is an interesting holiday to me, because it’s a uniquely American holiday for the most part, and while it was founded upon a particular historic event, people from all backgrounds in the United States often happily adopt this holiday centered on thankfulness and delicious food with family and friends.


“Handprint Turkey” by chapstickaddict of Flickr Creative Commons

Often, the first thing that comes to mind when we think of Thanksgiving is turkey, your mom’s favorite casserole, or pumpkin pie. However, the true spirit of the holiday is to be thankful for what we have. It makes me so sad that Black FRIDAY creeps further into Thursday every year and invades the one day each year we specifically set aside to celebrate gratitude.

In the true spirit of a traditional Thanksgiving, I asked twelve UNC students to share with me one thing for which they are thankful, as well as their favorite food-related Thanksgiving tradition. Their responses made me smile and also made me excited for Thursday!

  • “My favorite food tradition is gathering on Friday afterwards with family and friends and eating all of the leftovers.”
  • “Thankful for: puppies.  Favorite Food Tradition: Waldorf salad”
  • “Thankful for: Family, friends, and food.  Favorite Food Tradition: Frog-eye salad” (No further explanation given but now I’m curious…)
  • “I am thankful for the ability to attend UNC and my Tar Heel family. My favorite Thanksgiving tradition is eating sour cream and raisin pie after dinner.” (I’ve actually had this pie before and I promise you that it tastes 100% better than it sounds…)
  • “My favorite Thanksgiving food is the turkey and cranberry sandwiches we make the day after from the leftovers. I’m thankful for the 9 puppies waiting at home for me over break.”
  • “Thankful for: My siblings all across the country.  Food Tradition: Squirrel meat (if my family is meeting together at G-ma’s house)” (Complete with squirrel illustrations…)
  • “I am thankful for family and friends. My favorite food-related tradition is actually just eating all of the delicious food.”
  • “I am most thankful for my family and my favorite Thanksgiving dish is my mom’s homemade mac n cheese.”
  • “Thankful for: Friends taking me in for Thanksgiving because I’m so far away from home.  Favorite food: Pumpkin pie, obviously.”
  • “I am thankful for my education. My favorite family food tradition is my grandma’s biscuits.”
  • “Thankful for: Family.  Favorite food: Cranberry sauce”
  • “I’m thankful for time spent with family and a break from classes! My favorite food related memory is making rolls with my mom. We only make them twice a year because it takes all day, but they’re delicious!”

Whether you’re having a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with family, struggling to come to terms with your first Thanksgiving away from home, celebrating with friends, or even if your family doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving an any traditional way, I hope you’ll find and express gratitude for whatever you choose to spend your time doing over this five day break from the craziness of classes.

As for myself, I’m so thankful for this last fall semester as an undergrad, and for all of the fun, excitement, and fantastic memories that have come from it. I’m also thankful to have my sister here in Chapel Hill this year to join me in my constant need for frozen yogurt and to keep me company when I go to the grocery store at strangely late hours because it’s the only time I have some weeks. My favorite food related tradition is knowing that I can’t make any plans for the day before Thanksgiving because that day is reserved as the baking day for my mom, my sister, and I to make multiple pies, a cake, and homemade wheat rolls.

I wish everyone the happiest of breaks and fantastic Thanksgiving! And if you still don’t have plans this Thanksgiving, I encourage you to reach out to a friend and ask if you could join their Thanksgiving! I’m sure they’d be happy to have you and you’re certain to add fun new memories to your Thanksgiving repertoire because of it.

Interview with Sophie Baer: Former Campus Rec Strength and Conditioning Intern

This week, Campus Rec lost another amazing staff member who has worked in more departments of UNC Campus Recreation than anyone else I know! Sophie Baer left her position as the strength and conditioning intern for Campus Rec in order to accept a full time position this week! As a congratulations to her on her new job and also as a statement of appreciation for the nearly 6 years she worked for Campus Recreation, I asked her a few questions so that I could share her experience working with Campus Rec, as well as her successes as an amazing athlete that make her a perfect fit for a career in the fitness world.

Sophie was first hired as a personal trainer when she was an undergraduate at UNC in January of 2011. Later that semester, she was hired as a fitness consultant for the Functional Movement and Fitness Center, located in the SRC. In fall of 2012, she became an Operations Ambassador and worked at the front desk in the SRC. In the spring of 2013, she became an office assistant in the Campus Rec main office, and in May of 2013 she was promoted from an Operations Ambassador to a Boss for the SRC facilities and operations. It’s safe to say that she made the most of her undergraduate years as she worked in so many different positions within the SRC when most undergraduate student staff only work in one or two positions! Upon graduation, she accepted a position as the Strength and Conditioning Intern for Campus Rec.

Of her experience working for Campus Rec, Sophie said:

I learned so much and was able to meet so many people working for Campus Rec.  It made my undergraduate experience truly memorable.  I met every single one of my friends at the SRC and I met my boyfriend there as well!  Furthermore, taking an internship after graduating was absolutely amazing.  My mentors Liz and Lauren really helped me grow into a young professional and provided valuable experience and guidance.

When asked what her favorite part of being the strength and conditioning intern was, she said:

My favorite part of being an intern was helping student trainers learn and develop their skills.  They were all really amazing and I found it rewarding to be able to help them since I was once in their exact situation.

I’d also heard various people in the Campus Rec world talking about how Sophie was beast in the weight room and how she was preparing to compete in her first Strongman competition this semester. I couldn’t resist asking her about that, as well!

Q: I hear you compete in some pretty impressive powerlifting competitions… what inspired you to do this and how did you reach the point of being good enough to compete?

A: “I started competing in powerlifting competitions my sophomore year.  Since this summer (July 2015), I have switched strength sports and now compete in Strongman.  I began competing because my friend, a fellow SRC student staff member, invited me to his powerlifting meet.  After that I was hooked.  I began training and just really picked the soonest meet I could.  I don’t know if I was ready, but I wanted to get my feet wet and get a feel for competing.  It ended up going really well.  I did not place, but everyone was so nice and helpful.  I have found that that is the best thing about strength sports.  Everyone is there because they love it and they are more than willing to help others and provide advice.”


Q: What is a Strongman competition like and how did you do?

A: “Strongman competitions are all different.  Each one has 5 events, and there is usually one pulling (deadlifting event), one overhead event (pressing), one grip testing event, one carry event (like running with something), and one stone event (cement boulders- you either throw them over a bar or load them onto platforms).  I competed in my first event on Nov 14th as a novice.  There are two divisions: novice and open.  You compete in novice if you are new to the sport.  Once you place in novice you are no longer eligible to compete in it anymore and must switch to open.  So I competed as an under 160lb novice event (the weight classes for female novice are under 160 and over 160).  I was competing against 7 other women and I got 2nd place.  My training partner got 1st place, so it was a great day.” 


Q: What would you tell other women interested in weightlifting, since it is still a predominantly male sport (do you call it a sport)?

A: “I consider myself a strength athlete that competes in strength sports (so yes I would call it a sport).  And to women, I say don’t worry about the men— they are just intimated.  One of my platforms that I established as an undergrad is to get more women in the weight room.  I re-established Lifting Ladies, co-taught a women’s lifting seminar at a collegiate conference, and I make it a habit to introduce myself to most women that I see lifting and offer them any advice and really just a sense of community.  Lifting has empowered me as a person and as a female.  I am more confident in myself and in my abilities since becoming a strength athlete.”


Q: What would you tell other students interested in pursuing a career in fitness?

A: “My advice would be to experience as much in the fitness world as you can.  Try it all and find what you love.  Working in fitness in incredibility rewarding.  You are helping people make lifestyle changes.  But, on the flip side, realize that and understand that the influence and power you have can help or hurt.  So many people blindly follow “fitness coaches” etc.  It is your job as a young fitness professional to help educate people and make sure they are healthy and safe in their fitness goals.”


After having the opportunity to interview Sophie, it’s easy to understand how she was hired to work in six different positions for Campus Recreation, and I’m not at all surprised that she has received full time position doing what she loves with a career in fitness. On behalf of all of the Campus Rec employees—students, interns, and full-time—we wish her the best of luck in her new job and in all future Strongman competitions and thank her for all that she has done for Campus Recreation!

You can check out her blog at baerfitness.com!


Wellness Wednesday: Do I Really Need to Wipe Down At the Gym?

On any given day, those dumbbells and machines could be used by 100 or more people – and you know most of those people didn’t wipe it down after they’ve used them. Not only is it kind of gross to not wipe down gym equipment after you’ve used it (no one wants to touch your sweat!), but it could put you and others at risk for catching what that person left on that dumbbell and make you sick.
germs, gym, wipe down
Image courtesy of Pascal on Flickr
A recent study at a university gym found that 10 percent of gym equipment had staph on it! Another study found that 63 percent of gym equipment had rhinovirus, the virus that causes the common cold. All it takes for you to get sick is to use an infected piece of equipment and then touch your eye, mouth, or nose. Some other germs that you might find at the gym may cause urinary tract infections, athlete’s foot, and warts.
Gyms present an ideal breeding grounds for germs – it’s warm, it’s moist, and there’s a lot of people coming through. Things like yoga mats and work benches may put you at a higher risk. Bacteria thrive on porous materials that get warm and damp. Medicine balls are also hotbeds for these germs.
Many of you may think that you’ve never gotten sick from the gym. However, it’s good to remember that many people may be carriers of illnesses without getting sick themselves.
While the reported cases of getting sick from the gym is not very common, there are enough reasons why wiping down is the golden rule at the gym.
  • Wash your hands. Wash your hands using soap for 20 seconds before and after workouts, according to CDC guidelines. Make sure to also dry your hands.
  • Sanitize if you can’t wash. No soap and water? Then try alcohol-based sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. Apply and rub all over all surfaces of the hands and fingers until hands are completely dry.
  • Disinfect your gym equipment. They’re at the gym for a reason. Use disinfectant sprays and wipe down equipment and mats before and after you work out.
  • Shower after working out. Your sweaty clothes are also ideal for bacteria to grow. Showering can help prevent this.
  • Protect your feet. If you’re going to use the gym showers, wear some kind of footwear, like flip flops. Wash your feet and dry them to prevent athlete’s foot.
  • Wash your clothes. Avoid re-wearing gym clothes if you haven’t washed them. This includes socks and swimwear.
  • Cover your skin. If you have an open wound, cover them with a waterproof bandage. You should also avoid pools.
  • Don’t share personal care items. If it comes into contact with someone else’s skin, avoid sharing. This includes towels, water bottles, soap, razors, combs, brushes or make-up.
Next time you’re at the gym, don’t be caught being that person who leaves a trail of sweat everywhere.
Justin is the Information and Communications Program Assistant at UNC Student Wellness and a Master of Public Health graduate student with a focus in Health Beahvior at UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. He previously worked as a nutritionist in the medical, community, and commercial settings after earning his bachelor’s in Clinical Nutrition at the University of California at Davis.
Wellness Wednesday blog posts are written by Student Wellness or Campus Health Services staff members. Visit healthyheels.org for the original post.

More Crazy Things Your Gut Can Do

Last week, I wrote about some interesting things that I learned about the roles of our gut bacteria from a lecture in one of my nutrition classes. I wrote about a mouse study that transferred gut bacteria from an obese mouse into a lean, germ-free mouse, and the lean mouse later became obese! Today I’m continuing that theme by going into more detail about how the gut microbiota of the obese mice could have caused weight gain in the lean mouse, as well as how our understanding of the gut microbiota has lead to an attention-grabbing kind of medicine in humans.

Fiber Fermentation

We’ve all heard that we need to eat plenty of fiber in our diets, and the average American only eats about half of the recommended dietary fiber per day. Fiber is primarily known for its importance in maintaining normal digestive and bowel function, and many people hear that humans cannot digest fiber, which is true.

However, remember that we have millions of microbes living in our gut (specifically the proximal colon) at all times (if we’re healthy). These microbes actually can “digest” and metabolize dietary fiber through fermentation. Fermentation is a way to release energy from sugars and organic molecules without oxygen, and anyone who has ever had a cup of yogurt, a slice of sourdough bread, or a beer is familiar with a product of fermentation.

We, the humans, posses the genes that code for bacteria that can convert digestible carbohydrates into long-chain fatty acids, from which we can extract energy. Our gut bacteria, which have their own genes, possess enzymes that can convert non-digestible carbohydrates (fiber) into short-chain fatty acids (via fermentation), from which we can also obtain energy. Research estimates show that these short-chain fatty acids could account for up to 10% of our daily caloric energy! That’s huge!

The mechanism for why the gut microbes from the obese mouse caused the lean mouse to gain weight is still unclear, but this understanding of fermentation via gut bacteria could provide a possible explanation. We already established last week that no individual has the exact same microbiome as another. Perhaps some people’s gut bacteria are more efficient at fermentation than others, producing more short-chain fatty acids that could account for more than 10% of daily caloric energy in some individuals and less than 10% in others.

Years of extra daily caloric energy from gut bacteria in one individual, even if they ate the exact same diet as another individual, could cause the person with the more efficient gut bacteria to be in a state of caloric excess and to therefore gain weight. Is this a proven or accepted theory? Not yet, I’m just hypothesizing. But it’s interesting to think about!

Fecal Transplants in Humans

That’s right, you read the subheading title correctly! Fecal transplantation is increasing in popularity as a treatment for C. difficile colitis and is currently performed at UNC Hospitals and Wake Forest Baptist Health locations in North Carolina.

C. difficile, more commonly abbreviated as C. diff, is a harmful bacteria that can colonize the gut of humans when antibiotic treatment has killed off most of the good bacteria that normally live in our guts. Side effects of C. diff infection include long-lasting diarrhea and general gastrointestinal distress, and can sometimes include fever.

C. diff infection is diagnosed by testing a stool sample of the patient, and the initial treatment is simply the use of an even stronger antibiotic to try to knock out the C. diff. However, this does not always work in all individuals. As soon as the antibiotics are stopped, C. diff begins to re-colonize and cause a return of the infection and symptoms in about 30% of individuals treated with antibiotics.

When antibiotic treatment fails, fecal transplant has been shown to be an effective treatment and evidence of this was first published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2013. The procedure is basically exactly how it sounds: a healthy donor donates a stool sample, which is then liquefied and delivered to the colon of the sick individual via a colonoscopy-like procedure. The healthy bacteria from the donor then colonize the colon of the patient, overtaking the C. diff infection and allowing the individual to recover!

Not only are our gut bacteria essential for maintaining our health, they are also now being recognized as a treatment for a severe infection that affects the lives of many people, particularly among older adults, who are a growing population in the United States. Currently, the mechanisms of gut microbial function are still poorly understood and fecal transplantation is limited to treatment of C. diff, but further research will likely lead to greater understand and expanded treatment in the near future!

Now, next time you’re lost for words, just bring up the enrapturing topic of fecal transplantation and I’ll bet that your your audience will be all ears!  For more captivating articles and information to share at your next interview or at parties, keep following us at the Tar Heel Tone Up!

Works Cited

Fecal Transplantation (Bacteriotherapy). Gastroenterology and Hepatology: Johns Hopkins Medicine. http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/gastroenterology_hepatology/clinical_services/advanced_endoscopy/fecal_transplantation.html

Glenny, Elaine. NUTR 600 Lecture on the Gut Microbiome. October 28, 2015.


The Gut Microbiome

If someone told you that you, as a human, are actually more microbe than human, would you believe them? Depending on how you look at it, they may be right. In terms of volume, our human cells make up the vast majority of who we are, but in terms of number, the microbes have us beat by a lot. In fact, humans harbor TEN times more microbial cells in and on our bodies than human cells, and our bodies contain ONE HUNDRED times more microbial genes than our own human genes. It makes sense that some would say that we are “mostly microbes.”

Microbiota vs. microbiome

In one of my nutrition classes lately, we have been talking a lot about the gut microbiome, which I find to be a fascinating subject. The term microbiota refers to all of the bacteria, archaea, and fungi that reside in and on our bodies. No matter how impeccable our personal hygiene may be, our bodies have microbes everywhere—on the skin, in mouth, hair, nose, ears, urinary tract, and especially in our gastrointestinal tract. These microbes are actually a good thing—necessary, even—for our health and well-being and the maintenance of homeostasis within all of the different parts of our bodies. The term microbiome refers to the collection of all of the genes for these microbes in and on our bodies rather than the actual microbes themselves.

Purposes of the gut microbiome

The microbiota that are of particular interest to those studying nutrition are the gut microbiota, which, as you might expect, are located in the intestines. What are some of the main purposes of these key microbiota? According to the Gut Microbiota Worldwatch, a public information source from the European Society of Neurogastroenterology and Motility, key gut microbiotic functions include:

  • Energy production from foods that the human stomach and small intestine cannot digest
  • Production of vitamins B12 and K
  • Protection against other invading microorganisms brought into the intestine through food
  • Action as an early defense mechanism for our immune system
  • Proper overall digestive function

“I Love Your Guts Embroidery Hoop Art” by Hey Paul Studios of Flickr Creative Commons

How does the microbiome develop?

Research concerning the gut microbiome has increased substantially in recent years as our understanding of the uniqueness of these microbiota to each individual has improved. While some microbiota are common to all humans, the majority of the composition of the gut microbiota is different for each individual.

Inside the womb, the human fetal digestive tract is full of amniotic fluid and essentially sterile, meaning free of these gut microbiota. Immediately during and after birth, the child becomes exposed to the many external sources of microbes that serve to colonize their digestive tract. Only days after birth, babies born vaginally have different gut microbiota than babies born by C-section, and breastfed babies have different gut microbiota than formula-fed babies! The setting of the birth (home, hospital delivery room, operating room, etc.) also affects the neonatal gut microbiota by determining the types of microbes to which the infant is exposed (Guaraldi and Salvatori, 2012).

How do we research the gut microbiome?

Here at UNC Chapel Hill, we are lucky enough to have a “Microbiome Core Facility,” which is a research center dedicated specifically to researching the microbiome and is part of the UNC School of Medicine. This facility conducts research using both human and mouse data about the gut microbiome. Mouse studies are conducted using germ free and gnotobiotic mice. Germ free mice are completely free of any microbes and are bred and born in an entirely sterile facility. Gnotobiotic mice are mice that have been colonized with only specific, known microbes, and can therefore be used to learn more about these targeted microbes separately from the entire gut microbiome (Microbiome Core Facility).

What is one example of an interesting research finding about the gut microbiota using mouse studies?

In 2006, a study published in Nature revealed fascinating results from a mouse study in which the microbiota from lean mice and from genetically obese mice were studied within these mice, and then also introduced into germ-free mice to study transmissibility of the gut microbiota. The obese mice had a different relative abundance of two specific types of bacteria within their gut microbiota that were more able to harvest energy from foods that are indigestible in the stomach and small intestine by human enzymes (such as fiber). This showed that one mechanism of their obesity could relate to the fact that the obese mice were able to reap more calories from the same food in comparison to the lean mice.

The second thrilling finding of the study developed after germ-free mice were colonized with the gut bacteria from either lean or obese mice. Germ-free mice are colonized with gut bacteria by introducing fecal matter from one mouse into the intestines of the germ free mouse. (If you think that concept is disturbing, prepare yourself for the fun fact that this is sometimes done in humans, as well, for medical reasons.)

Although the germ-free mice started off at the same body weight, those colonized with the gut bacteria from the obese mice gained significantly more weight than those mice colonized by the gut bacteria from the lean mice. The mice colonized with “obese microbiota” became obese themselves when the only difference between them and the lean mice was their microbiota (Turnbaugh, et al., 2006)! How crazy is that!?

What does this mean for humans?

These findings in mice have piqued human interest in researching what roles our own gut microbiota might play in our individual propensities to remain lean or to gain weight. The research is still new and the curiosity is high, so there is much to learn ahead! I am personally interested to see what research emerges concerning our capacity to change our gut microbiota based on diet, exercise, certain drugs, or weight loss.

As if you couldn’t already tell, I’m enthralled with the subject, so check back in next week for another article about more remarkable functions of the gut microbiota for our overall health and risk of chronic diseases!

Works Cited:

Everything you always wanted to know about the gut microbiota. Gut Microbiota Worldwatch: Public Information Service from European Society of Neurogastroenterology and Motility. http://www.gutmicrobiotawatch.org/en/gut-microbiota-info/

Glenny, Elaine. NUTR 600 Lecture on the Gut Microbiome. October 28, 2015.

Guaraldi, F., & Salvatori, G. (2012). Effect of Breast and Formula Feeding on Gut Microbiota Shaping in Newborns. Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology, 2, 94. http://doi.org/10.3389/fcimb.2012.00094

Microbiome Core Facility. UNC School of Medicine. https://www.med.unc.edu/microbiome

Turnbaugh, P., Ley, R., Mahowald, M., Magrini, V., Mardis, E., and Gordon, J. An obesity-associated gut microbiome with increased capacity for energy harvest. Nature 444, 1027-1031 (21 December 2006) | doi:10.1038/nature05414

Wellness Wednesday: What’s the deal with e-cigarettes?

November 9, 2015HealthyHeels

Electronic cigarettes are a hot topic right now. Some people love them and others… not so much.
What are e-cigs, again?
E-cigs are battery-operated devices designed to look like cigarettes, cigars, pipes or pens. They contain nicotine and other chemicals that are vaporized by the device to be inhaled by users. Some people call them “smokeless cigarettes.”
Why do some people use e-cigs?
Using e-cigs or “vaping” is a way for people to maintain the habit or routine of smoking (think: going outside, lifting something to your lips, inhaling, etc.). For some people, smoking cigarettes is incredibly difficult to quit and they may find that vaping provides a way to “smoke” without actually using combustible tobacco products.
What are the risks of using e-cigs? Are they actually better than smoking cigarettes?
In short, no one knows. E-cigs are relatively new technology and have been in the U.S. since 2007. This means long term studies are not possible yet, and the devices and liquids used inside of them are not yet regulated by the FDA.There are hundreds of e-cig manufacturers and no consistent standards. This means that we don’t how much nicotine they contain (for example, one study found nicotine in products labeled “nicotine free”). Other harmful chemicals might be inhaled as well. Without regulation, users cannot accurately weigh potential benefits and risks.
There is also concern that young people use e-cigarettes for recreational purposes rather than for smoking cessation. Vaping is heavily marketed to adolescents as a cooler, safer way to use tobacco. One study has shown that adolescents who used e-cigarettes were more likely to try combustible tobacco products within the next year (JAMA. 2015;314(7):700-707).
E-cigs in the news:
Beginning Jan. 1, 2016, e-cigs will be banned in some public areas of Durham County. The ban will mostly affect bus stops, public parks and shopping malls. The concern is that other people are exposed to the vaporized chemicals from e-cigs (secondhand vapor, if you will). However, e-cig supporters think that this will prevent people from quitting smoking.
An Asheville MD writes about some of the risks and challenges with vaping.
The bottom line:
We don’t know much about e-cigs. We do know that there are many other products available that have proven benefits and are safe for smoking cessation. The gum, lozenge, patch, and pills (like Zyban or Chantix) are first line choices until we have more information on e-cigs.  All of these products are available at Campus Health Pharmacy.
Smoking cessation: If you smoke and are interested in quitting smoking, find help and resources at QuitlineNC. You can also visit Campus Health Services or make an appointment with a CHS provider (919-966-2281) to learn more about smoking cessation.
Mariah Justice Sigmon is a fourth-year PharmD student at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy. She attended UNC Chapel Hill for undergraduate coursework.  Mariah enjoys reading, cooking, and hiking with her husband and their dog. 
Wellness Wednesday blog posts are written by Student Wellness or Campus Health Services staff members. Visit healthyheels.org for the original post.

Jingle Bell Jog 2015

Every year, Campus Recreation hosts the “Jingle Bell Jog” for all UNC Chapel Hill faculty and staff! The Jingle Bell Jog is a 2.7 mile fun run or a 1.5 mile jog around UNC’s campus and has had over 500 participants in the event in past years!

Not only is the Jingle Bell Jog a fun activity for coworkers to do together, it also promotes physical activity as part of a healthy and happy lifestyle for all members of UNC’s campus, specifically faculty and staff in this particular event!


Participants are also encouraged to make donations of canned food to contribute to the Glenwood Elementary Family Assistance Program, as well as donations of pet food, small blankets, and pet toys, which will go to the Orange County Animal Shelter. Many UNC employees bring their dogs along for the jog!

The Jingle Bell Jog will take place at 12:15pm on Friday, December 4, 2015 and will begin in the Student Recreation Center Studio A and continue regardless of rain, shine, or snow (oh my!). Free refreshments will be provided to the participants at the conclusion of the event!

Departments or groups of faculty and staff can sign up as teams, or faculty and staff can sign up as individuals!

Individual Registration: Click Here to fill out the registration form and submit it online before Wednesday Dec. 2, 2015. You can also register from 11:30 a.m. – 12 p.m. on race day.

Team Registration: Download this form. Have all team members sign the form, then turn it in at the Campus Rec Main Office (SRC 101) or fax to 962-3621 ATTN: Jingle Bell Jog by Wednesday, December 2, 2015.

In the fun holiday spirit of the event, all participants who walk or run will be entered in prize drawings to be presented at the end of the event. Participants who bring donations will be entered into another special prize drawing! The team with the most creative holiday costumes and the team with the most participants will both receive a prize as well!

Click here for a map of the Jingle Bell Jog running route.
Click here for a map of the Jingle Bell Jog walking route.

Contact Lauren Mangili at lmangili@email.unc.edu with any questions and concerns about the event!

We hope that we will once again have over 500 faculty and staff come to participate in this event as a fun partnership with UNC Campus Recreation and the greater Chapel Hill community Registration closes on December 2, which is closer than you think, so start forming your teams and planning your costumes now! We also hope students will cheer on all of the many faculty and staff who serve us as students and as members of this campus on a daily basis as we see them jogging and jingling around campus on December 4th!

Sport Club Feature: Women’s Team Handball

Last week, I highlighted the Sport Club Students Against Hunger Canned Food Drive that started this week, thanks to the many sport clubs that make up an integral part of UNC Campus Recreation. This week, I had the opportunity to learn more about one of our many amazing sport clubs: Women’s Team Handball.

A huge shout out goes to Kristin Foster, the public relations and marketing officer of the club, as well as the many ladies who contributed their thoughts and experiences about their time as members of the Women’s Team Handball club sport team. Check out what they do and why they love their sport!

What is Team Handball?

From an outsider’s perspective, team handball is a sport that looks a lot like basketball with a soccer goal and water polo-like team plays and positions (at least from the one year of women’s club water polo experience that I had).

Kristin says:

“The Carolina Team Handball program is unique to any of the other Sports Club programs at UNC. Team Handball is a hugely popular Olympic sport that just hasn’t found its footing in the United States. We have the unique position of being an established sport that is very unknown. This means pretty much everyone comes into their first practice knowing absolutely nothing. You can come to practice with zero knowledge of the sport and won’t be a step behind anyone else that is joining. There is no drop off in learning because maybe you just decided to try something new that everyone else has been practicing for years. We also have the most amazing coaches that dedicate so much time, energy and passion into growing the sport. The coaches and upperclassman players care so much about making sure everyone who walks in the door not is not only learning, but also having a good time and making friends. We are one big family and anyone is welcome to join us anytime of the year.”

Rather than taking up an entire article trying to clumsily explain my very new knowledge of the rules in text form, I’ll refer you to the video below! The team shared this introduction to Women’s Team Handball with me, and I think it does a good job of explaining the basics while letting you watch the U.S. Olympic team in action!

More About our UNC Team:

The women’s team handball team was formed in 2001 by some of the men who played men’s club handball here at UNC and wanted to spread their love of the sport to female students. (Props to these guys.) The team practices twice per week on campus and competes in tournaments throughout the academic year.

Because team handball has not yet swept through the U.S. as a wildly popular college sport, the team regularly competes against city leagues formed by women older than “college-age.” There are a few women’s college teams, but the majority of the college teams in the U.S. are still men’s teams.

Our team competes in a college national team handball championship at the end of each year and has come home with several wins in past years! The team won first for three consecutive years in 2009, 2010, and 2011, and placed second for three more consecutive years in 2013, 2014, and 2015! They are working hard this year in hopes of bringing home another first place win in 2016!

In addition to the college national championship, the team competes in various other tournaments and friendlies throughout the year. They even host two tournaments of their own each year known as the Tar Heel Invitational during the fall semester and the Carolina Blue Cup in the spring semester! Teams from around the country come to compete in Chapel Hill during these weekends.

What do the team members have to say about their sport and their team?

Q: What is your greatest memory from your time in your sport club? 

A: “My favorite memories from being a on the Carolina team handball team are all from our team trips. We only get to travel about once a semester, but when we do we go on long trips (I’m talking a 10 hour drive to New York). We have so much fun in the van rides to and from tournaments. We make fabulous Spotify playlists, play silly road trip games, cuddle with pillow pets and get to know each other a lot better. That’s the time when we get to learn about each other, get to know the new players better and really bond as a team.”

~Kristin Foster, Senior, Public Relations and Marketing Officer


Q: What do you like best about team handball?

A: “What I like about handball, is that it doesn’t take long to enjoy the sport. Only a few weeks in and you already know enough to make it fun. Also, there are so many different ways to score, it never gets old. It’s all about teamwork, and the more you know your teammates, the better it gets. Plus, the group is amazing, and our coach makes everyone want to push their limits. We are learning constantly. The best is yet to come!”

~Sophie Millot, Exchange student from France

“At the college level, there are few sports that one can begin learning without prior experience, let alone with others who have never played before. Handball is unique in that regard. It’s new, challenging, humbling, and ultimately a lot of fun.”

~Madison Hoke, Junior

“I think what I like is that it is fast paced like basketball, but you get to hit people” ~Kiah Hicks, Graduate student


Q: Why did you join the team handball club?

A: “In high school I played a lot of soccer, and one of my friends on my team happened to be Danielle’s (Team Handball president) sister. So before school started, Danielle showed me around campus and told me about Team Handball and said that I should join, and I figured it sounded like a lot of fun and I really like learning new sports, and that kind of thing, so I thought it’s be a good opportunity to play a club sport in college.

I think that signing up for Team Handball was one of the best decisions I made freshman year. Everyone on the team was (and is) really nice and handball as a sport is really fun. I’ve never played anything like it before, so it kind of stretches your mind in a different way, which is one of the reasons I really enjoy it.”

~Rachel McGrath, Sophomore

“Handball gave me a fun new way to challenge myself and learn a sport I’d never even heard of before, but it also gave me my best friends. Our group of girls has a special bond; learning a sport that’s completely new to you after most of us were varsity athletes in high school forces you to rely on each other as teammates in a unique way.”

~Laura Pressman, Senior, Club Vice President

“I joined team handball my freshman year because I was burnt out on softball and wanted to try something new.  I wanted to feel team camaraderie and find a way to meet new people, not to mention wear my own Carolina blue jersey!  Handball has provided a way for me to get to do all of these things and more.  It has molded my four years at Carolina and introduced me to my best friends.”

~Victoria Gordon, Senior


Q: Why should other female student consider joining the team handball club?

A: “Joining Carolina team handball is a chance to learn a new sport that combines a lot of American sports. You’ll get the chance to excel to national ranks with great teammates that will turn into lasting friends. There is no intimidation factor. There is no elitism. Come as you are and you’ll be a perfect fit.”

~Danielle Eustace, Senior, Club President


Interested in Learning More?

The team practices every Monday and Wednesday from 6:15-8PM in Fetzer Gym B. They welcome new members at any time during the year and request that anyone interested contact them via email or social media, or even just come to a practice! They emphasize that NO PRIOR EXPERIENCE IS NECESSARY!

You can contact them via:


President Email: Danielle Eustace, eustace@live.unc.edu

Public Relations Email: Kristin Foster, kristinf@live.unc.edu


I loved learning more about our very own Women’s Team Handball sport club—they seem like one of the most fun and dedicated teams I’ve had the chance to speak with during my time writing for the Tar Heel Tone Up! Their team is just another member that makes up the huge, fun, and amazingly accomplished UNC Campus Recreation family and on behalf of Campus Rec as a whole, we wish them luck on their upcoming tournaments! We hope you’ll send us pictures in the spring after you bring home another national championship!






Wellness Wednesday: How to Sleep

It may be strange to accept, but many of us don’t really understand how to sleep properly. This is why as the end of the semester nears, students on campus are noticeably more tired and desperate for sleep. Most of us stay up late to study, but let’s be honest, many students mindlessly browse the Internet or watch Netflix instead of getting some shuteye.

Research published in the Journal of Nature and Science of Sleep found that about 70% of college students get insufficient amount of sleep, and 50% reported daytime sleepiness. And while many of us trade study for sleep, the same study suggests that those that stay up late tend to have lower GPAs, compromised learning, and impaired moods. It also puts you at risk for developing a number of health complications, such as heart disease and obesity. Sleep is so important for your brain is because sleep allows the brain to rejuvenate and reorganize. This is why it’s challenging to recall information when you haven’t had a full night’s rest.

Many college students lack proper sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene is the behaviors and practices needed to sleep well on a regularly. These include:

  1. Have a regular bedtime and awakening time. Your body will get used to a pattern, making it easier to sleep and wake up.
  2. Avoid screen time before sleeping. Blue light from you computers and phones suppresses your body’s melatonin production which affects your ability to sleep, and it may shift your internal clock, causing your body think your bedtime is later than usual.
  3. Avoid studying in bed. Your body may start to associate your bed with work, making it more difficult for you to fall sleep.
  4. Avoid exercising within 2 hours of your bed time. Your body will stay active even after you’re done exercise, making your body feel not ready to sleep.
  5. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, spicy, and sugary foods 4-6 hours before bedtime. Some of these foods are stimulants making it more difficult for you to sleep, or causes disruptive sleep, causing you to feel unrested.

Sleep is vital for your health, mood, and academic performance. While it may be a difficult to change your sleep habits, start with a few of these sleep hygiene tips.

Wellness Wednesday blog posts are written by Student Wellness or Campus Health Services staff members. Visit healthyheels.org for the original post.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 5,838 other followers