Tag Archives: Don’t Worry Be Healthy

Don’t Worry Be Healthy: Five Ways to Make Working Out More Fun

-Marissa Tomko

Running on a treadmill reminds me of hamsters, running and running on their little hamster wheels, going no where, getting no closer to a destination. Talk about boring.

I don’t know about you, but my attention span on one of those mechanisms is about five minutes. I start getting antsy about my music, eyeing the clock, and redoing my ponytail fifty times in a row. I just can’t take the repetition!

Unlike a hamster though, I am able to break out of my cage and make a more exciting workout routine for myself. And with that in mind, I present to you my top five favorite ways to work out without being bored to tears!

Zumba

Call me crazy, but this Latin-inspired workout is probably the best I’ve ever partaken in. Zumba is basically just a big dance party, and at the end of it, you’re sweating your face off and you can kiss the gym goodbye for the day! My personal favorite thing about Zumba is how it can turn even the most uncoordinated person into a superstar. All you have to do is check your inhibitions at the door, and I promise you’ll have the best, most fun workout of your life.

Hiking

If you live in Eugene, you probably have some sort of affinity for the outdoors. Instead of a repetitive hour on the elliptical where you just awkwardly stare out the same window, why not take your talents outside so you can enjoy some ever-changing scenery and become one with nature?

Workout videos

Hear me out: I realize you would probably feel silly in your house or apartment taking orders from some random person on your television. However, it can actually be the best time of your life. Grab a few friends and pop in an amusing workout DVD. My personal favorite is Brazil Butt Lift. The guy on the video cracks me up, and even if I end up not working out for the whole time, I get some nice abs from laughing so hard.

Water fights

Pardon my theatrics, but these days it is so hot, I feel like I am super-glued to the sun and I can’t escape the heat. That makes going on a run pretty difficult because heat stroke is not something I am trying to get out of my workout. So I enjoy the occasional impromptu water fight complete with Super Soakers and water balloons! It entails a lot of running around, and you can finally cool down from the Eugene summer weather.

Rollerblading

My roommate and I have big plans for the summer that involve buying overalls and rollerblading all over Eugene. This activity is a surprisingly good calorie burner, as well as a nice blast from the past! So strap on those wheels and get going!

Don't Worry Be Healthy: The 24/7 Calorie Burn

-Marissa Tomko

Squeak squeak. Squeak squeak. Squeak squeak. Rustle. Scratch. Squeak.

We’ve all sat next to that person in lecture who just can’t seem to stop moving. I mean seriously, is that straight espresso in your water bottle?

Or maybe, like me, you haven’t sat next to that person because you are that person. If that’s the case, then you know what it’s like to have someone slap your leg to stop you from shaking the whole table. And yes, that is straight espresso in my water bottle.

Being fidgety can be distracting for everyone involved. But that doesn’t mean that it’s a bad thing. In fact, us fidgeters all have something in common: we are way neater than everybody else!

NEAT, or Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, is the energy used to perform tasks that are not identified as exercise. NEAT encompasses things like walking to class, taking in your groceries, chewing gum, doing yard work, and—surprise—fidgeting in your seat. Gold’s Gym estimates that the twitchy population can burn up to 350 calories in a day by moving around in their chairs at work or school. But don’t just count on sitting around to rack up your NEAT points. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator, pacing while you are on the phone, or dancing while you dust your house will turn an average activity into the NEATest experience of your day!

I know this all sounds silly. If you’re thinking that you’re going to be leg shaking your way to a six pack, then okay, you are pretty silly. But avoiding idle days is so important to our health. A study done by the Institute for Medicine and Public Health published in Women’s Health showed that it’s normal to spend 56 hours a week sitting still at a desk or on your couch—thank you, Internet age. But as convenient as technology has made work and play, sitting for so long has some pretty scary effects: it slows down your circulation, and ups your risk for diabetes and heart disease. That’s enough to make me want to fidget more than usual!

Not everyone is hard-wired to rustle around nervously 24/7. In many respects, that is a lucky thing. You’ll never have to explain to people that no, you aren’t anxious about anything, you just can’t sit still for the life of you. If you are one of those people who naturally play it cool, try working in some movement to your daily idle activities. It’ll do your body good!

Image by Ludovic Bertron.

Don't Worry Be Healthy: Scaling the Workout Blues

Scale and feeties

-Marissa Tomko

“You are beautiful!”

When I hopped onto the scale at the gym the other day before my workout, those words were scrawled across it in orange marker. It made me smile. Shout out to UO for being the nicest!

As I began my scenic run on the treadmill, I realized that I was so busy appreciating the fact that someone defaced the scale with positivity that I had forgotten to even notice what my weight read, which didn’t bother me because, since I began my current workout routine, I have been feeling so great that my weight hasn’t been much of a factor. But this all led me to wonder how often I should be stepping on a scale when I’m trying to get in shape, or just in general.

First, let me just say that in my research and self-reflection, I came up with one overarching trend that now seems obvious: everyone is different. Everyone is looking to attain different goals, everyone looks to health and fitness for different reasons, and it all means something different to everyone.

According to The Huffington Post, one reason that the scale might not be the best idea is that it does not tell you your body composition. For instance, you might have lost a pound of fat and replaced it with a pound of muscle, but the scale won’t know the difference, leading you to be all frustrated-like and throw your sweatband at someone. If you’re a person who’s in it for the body image, focus on how you feel and notice how your body is changing positively as your workout plan continues. Don’t just rely on the scale to tell you what’s up with your body.

Another reason that the scale life isn’t for everyone is that the results might stir up some angry or defeated feelings. I don’t know about you, but one of my coping mechanisms for that kind of feeling is to eat bad things until I go to sleep. If you’re trying to live a sustainable and healthy lifestyle, this might just set you back. If you want to see guaranteed-positive results every time you step on the weighing machine, do it less. If you’re working hard and being honest with yourself, you will never be anything but happy with the results.

If you are looking to lose weight, the scale can serve as a motivator. It’s only bad if you make it bad. But don’t work out just to see those numbers drop, work out to feel better and live better. Yeah, losing weight is part of that sometimes, but don’t obsess over it.

Don't Worry Be Healthy: Five Ways I Get Myself To Workout

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-Marissa Tomko

I don’t really know how to admit this. I’ll just say it.

I haven’t been going to the gym as much this term. WOW, that feels amazing to get off my chest!

Yes, I feel like a complete hypocrite because I write this health and fitness column. And I love you all so much and I just don’t understand how it got to this point. Will you ever be able to forgive me?!

But I think this happens to everyone. We get into the habit of working out, and then decide to take just one innocent day off. This turns into a bunch of innocent days off, which turns into literally all days off, none of which are innocent. But never fear, Pulse readers! I have a plan of action. Even though it’s hard to get back into a workout routine, it is possible. Here is a list of the things I have done in the past (and am currently doing) to get my sorry butt into shape again.

I play mind games with myself

I once tried to date this guy, and I say “try” because we really sucked at being a couple—we could not get it together enough to map out a couple hours in the middle of our crazy lives to just exist in the same room. But sometimes, we’d map out fifteen minutes, which would always turn into a couple of hours. I can’t speak for him, but I always knew this would happen. I do the same thing when I go to the gym. I think, “I love you, treadmill, but I don’t have that much time for you.” And before I know it, I’ve been running for forty-five minutes because I realize how much more joy the treadmill brings me relative to the rest of my commitments. See? The gym is like dating: as long as you ignore the dishonesty, it can be fun!

Speaking of making time, I learned what it actually is

I’m a college student, so it’s super easy for me to use homework as an excuse to avoid the gym. But if I take a second to analyze what exactly happens when I do homework, I realize that it’s a bunch of B.S. and that I’m just a lazy weirdo because when I hit the books, I’m really hitting the books, the Internet, Netflix, my fridge, my roommates’ bedrooms, the convenience store I live next to . . . you get the picture. Basically, if I cut out all of the procrastinating I do when I’m trying to get my academic tasks done, it gives me an extra ninety minutes at least. That is more than enough time to make it to the gym. Why do I make my life so difficult?!

I got cool shoes

Yeah, I know it sounds really dumb. But I’m a big believer in dressing for success. If I’m having a bad day, I try to look nice. If I’m having a hyper day, I try to wear stretchy pants so I can high-kick at everything. If I am headed to work out, I put on the sick Nikes my dad got me for Christmas so I am forced to look like I belong. Fake it till you make it, right?

I make new playlists…

. . . like this one! And then I pretend I’m in a music video for all of the songs. Shut up, it works.

I become the poster child for inspiration

You might not know this, but I am big into confidence, so I don’t think comparing myself to other people is the way to get myself into shape. I know a lot of people practice “thinspiration,” which as I understand it is when you post pictures of impossible six-packs on your fridge to remind yourself of the body you want. To that, I say stop the madness! Don’t work out for someone else; work out for yourself. You will resent it less because it will turn into something you want to do for your own health, not for any other motive.

Don't Worry Be Healthy: Is Laughter Really The Best Medicine?

laughing

-Marissa Tomko

I’m 21 years old. I am not naïve, nor am I wise. I just have the ability to buy a bottle of wine if I want to. And while I’m no sociologist either, I think it’s fair to say that your teens and your twenties are the most dramatic times of your life. Even though I haven’t had the life experience of my parents and grandparents, I feel like I’ve been around long enough to experience most of the feelings life has to offer. I’ve cried from joy, I’ve been floored by heartbreak, I’ve lashed out in extreme anger, and I’ve made myself sick with sadness. No matter what, though, I’ve always used a single coping mechanism: laughter.

We’ve all heard the saying “laughter is the best medicine,” and if we’re being all lovey-dovey-wishy-washy, then yeah, it’s easy to agree with that. Generally speaking, I have found that people who laugh more are happier. They are the optimists who don’t take anything too seriously, and the people who move on from bad things faster than those who dwell on them. But I’ve always wondered, in addition to giving you a brighter disposition, does laughter actually provide you with health benefits? Apparently, it does.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the physical benefits of laughter stem from its general power to relieve stress in our lives. When we laugh, we take in more oxygen than when we exhibit normal breathing patterns. This stimulates our organs, bringing oxygen to our heart and other muscles, and makes us feel happy due to the rush of endorphins to our brains. A faster heart rate and higher blood pressure make us feel relaxed, which is often translated into the physical relaxation of our muscles that get tense when we are stressed out.

Over time, chronic laughers receive the benefit of a better immune system due to the release of neuropeptides, which are molecules that aid in stress relief and other bodily imbalances. Laughter can relieve pain, regulate blood sugar levels, and save us fifteen minutes on an exercise bike! Now I don’t feel so bad for choosing to have a Friends marathon instead of going for a run last weekend.

It’s possible you think I’m just some weirdo with access to the internet trying to justify ditching the gym. And I wouldn’t blame you for that—I am pretty weird, I love the internet, and fine, I avoid the gym sometimes. But I can honestly say that the times in my life when I am laughing have been the ones where I have felt my best. I have more drive to get moving, be productive, and better myself and my relationships. If you’ve been dragging due to these rainy months, it might not be a bad idea to crack a smile, tell some jokes, and see if your overall health improves!

Don't Worry Be Healthy: Turn Down the Music!

headphones

-Marissa Tomko

If I had a nickel for every time I got a text that said, “I just screamed your name and you didn’t answer me,” I’d be very rich. As it stands though, I don’t have any nickels for the times that I am oblivious on account of the fact that I don’t have a nickel guy.

But that’s another story.

I can never hear anything happening around me when I’m on campus because I, like many other students, wander from class to class with my earbuds in and the volume up. Way up. I love my music loud no matter what I’m doing: working out, studying, lying on my bed pondering life; none of it seems right without blasting my ears out. I’ve always known it isn’t a good idea, but lately I’ve been wondering how not-good of an idea it is.

According to a study published in Time, around 16 percent of adults in the US have a hard time hearing people speak, and over 30 percent of people over twenty have lost some high-frequency hearing. Doctors believe that hearing loss is contributed to by an increased use of headphones.

But how loud is too loud? Time suggests that if you’re listening to your volume at 80 percent for an hour and a half during the day, you should be fine. They suggest that full volume should be listened to for only five minutes a day—that’s crazy!

Even though hearing loss is a concern for everyone, no two ears are the same. What is going to affect you one way is going to affect that woman on the treadmill next to you in a different way—some ears are just stronger than others. But it’s hard to know whose are weaker until after hearing loss has happened, according to Brian Fligor in Time.

I’m no audiologist, but if you ask me, being conservative is probably a safe bet here. So for those of you who like to pulse music into your ears (see what I did there?), let’s vow to take it down a notch! That way, when we’re 80-years-old (Unless you’re already 80, in which case shout out to you!) we will be able to hear the things our kids say about us behind our backs with full clarity!

Image by Brainsonic.

Don't Worry Be Healthy: Spring Has Sprung – Contracting Spring Fever

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-Marissa Tomko

Someone just gave me a really weird look at a stoplight because I was screaming Luke Bryan at the top of my lungs in the car. Alone. It was the greatest moment of my life because it was sunny, warm, and beautiful, and I just wanted the whole world to share in that with me. I can’t help it though because I have come down with a severe case of spring fever!

Here in the rainy northwest, even the smallest bit of sunshine is a game changer. It takes over social media sites and brings students outdoors to bask in its rays. Classes are suddenly less full because everyone is out taking a “mental health day,” also known as a “lets go ride our bikes by the river” day. Fun in the sun takes priority, and no one seems to have an issue with their procrastinated assignments or unkempt houses. Everything is happy!

Even though the sun might be considered a novelty around here, there might be more to the fact that it makes us feel happy. According to the Huffington Post, a severe case of spring fever might be scientifically explicable. Unlike in the wintertime when we produce more melatonin and therefore sleep more, spring sunshine means less melatonin, causing you to feel more awake.

The rays don’t only mean less melatonin but also more serotonin, the chemical your body produces to put you in a better mood. I don’t know about you, but for me, being in a better mood means I’m more restless and more prone to celebrating the good weather as opposed to working in spite of it.

Word to all you fellow spring-fever-prone people out there though: just because the rain is gone does not mean that your responsibilities are too! Even though the memories you make on a beautiful day are important, so are your grades. Playing hard doesn’t come without working hard. Happy spring!

Don't Worry Be Healthy: Superfoods

-Marissa Tomko

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s superfood!

Alright, alright, that was a bad joke. But come on, you wouldn’t have been able to resist either! The Oxford English Dictionary defines superfood as “a food considered especially nutritious or otherwise beneficial to health and well-being.” Basically, these foods are really high in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and polyphenols. These are all things that keep us feeling good in the short run, and reduce our risk of chronic disease in the long run.

I’ve already told you about five foods that aren’t so good for you, so in the spirit of keeping things balanced, here are five foods that you should be keeping around!

Blueberries

Blueberries have numerous health benefits, all of which blow my mind! I mean really, how can those tiny little morsels pack so much power? Blueberries are high in the antioxidants by the name of anthocyanidins. These help fight oxidation in your body that cause heart diseases, cancers, and macular degeneration.

Salmon

If you don’t like fish, then I don’t understand you. The best meal I ever had was this past summer, when my parents grilled the tastiest salmon I have ever laid my tongue on. Not only were they pleasing my taste buds by providing me with such a meal, but they were also helping me be healthy; sneaky move, mom and dad! In addition to providing your body with omega-3 fatty acids, salmon can give you 58 percent of your daily protein intake. Salmon is heart healthy, and high in vitamins and minerals!

Avocado

Word on the street is that people avoid avocados because they think they are too high in fat. To the people on those streets, I urge you to turn down a different one! These fats are heart healthy, and come along with the benefits of antioxidants and vitamins (especially vitamin K). You know what I always say: an avocado a day provides you with your vitamin K!

Tea

Tea is great for when you’re sick or you want to appear classier. Especially of the green variety, this beverage is chock-full of antioxidants. Additionally, it boosts your metabolism with EGCG (Epigallocatechin gallate), an antioxidant that reduces risk of cancer and other diseases. It can even benefit your bone density by way of your body absorbing catechins.

Oranges

In my research, this is the superfood that surprised me the most. Yes, I have always been aware that oranges are healthy; whenever I get sick, my mom blames it on low OJ intake. Oranges are most well known for having a lot of vitamin C, but they have also been credited with prevention of cancer, diabetes, and enhancing a healthy heart. By bringing some orange slices in a snack bag to school or work, you can revisit your grammar school days and enhance your health! One thing you won’t be able to do? Find a word that rhymes with this superfood. Sorry.

Don't Worry Be Healthy: Cracked Out

 

-Marissa Tomko

There is some freaky stuff on the internet.

For instance, I think that most of you can relate to the moment in my early adolescence when I conducted an innocent Internet search, only to have something completely inappropriate come up. Yes, I may have become scarred for life. But since then, I’m not really surprised by all of the insane stuff the Internet has to offer. That is, until I found Jointcrackers, an online forum for people to tell the tales of their best joint cracks and to vent about their compulsive needs to perform them.

Joint cracking, specifically that of the knuckle variety, has been a habit of mine since I was twelve. I do it during tests, I do it when I go out, I even do it in my sleep. I live to crack and crack to live. I can’t explain it, it just feels right. The sound of it makes some of my friends cringe, but I don’t even notice it anymore. It’s like chirping birds or the sound of the ocean; just part of the fabric of my life!

I realize that I sound like an insane person. Such a realization leads me to wonder: why do some of us become so obsessed with releasing carbon dioxide from the synovial fluid in our joints, and what is it doing to us? And am I crazed enough that I should sign up for this nutty forum?

There are different reasons that people find joint manipulations to be so satisfying, but the most common theory lies in the idea that it offers a physical release of stress. Our friends over at Jointcrackers point to this reason, as well as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and pain relief. Some say that they feel a pressure in their joints that can only be relieved by cracking, a sensation that some users feel may be purely psychological. Some Jointcrackers love the need to crack, while others are on the forum to find ways to ditch the habit.

Whether you are trying to quit or not, chances are you catch some flack when you crack. I can’t even count the amount of times I’ve heard “That’s going to give you arthritis!” when I absentmindedly indulge in a pop or two. But good news for me, and possibly you! Studies cited in articles like this one at Discovery all say that there is no correlation between knuckle cracking and arthritis. However, the Washington Post says avid crackers should be wary of damaging ligaments and weakening their grips over time. These effects are far and few between, and can be helped by cutting back on the crack—if you can.

Don't Worry Be Healthy: Shedding Light on SPF

-Marissa Tomko

I brush my teeth seven times a day. I consider salads to be a food group. I think nail care is very important, and I tell people about every little pain I feel just in case I randomly lapse into a coma and the doctors need to figure out what caused it.

That is just the beginning of the list of peculiar health obsessions that I picked up from my dad. But they’re not all weird. One actually important habit I picked up from my old man: compulsive sunscreen application.

The sun emits two types of rays that reach the earth: UVB and UVA. UVB, or ultraviolet B rays, are short wave rays that highly contribute to sunburns and skin cancers. Most sunblocks are used to protect you from UVB rays. According to The Skin Cancer Foundation, this is because up until recently, it was thought that they are more dangerous than UVA rays. However, this is not the case. The CDC notes that UVA rays are the most common rays that warm the earth, and that they increase our chances of getting skin cancer. UVA rays are long wave rays that cause aging effects in the skin, such as wrinkles. It is also the main ray responsible for that golden tan so many of us long for, which over time, can cause skin cancer. Tanning salons use UVA emitting beds, and lounging in one ups your chances of getting melanoma by 75 percent after just one use—that’s pretty scary.

I know what you’re thinking—all of this ray knowledge makes you feel powerful. In fact, I know you’re reading this on your smart phone and are in the sunscreen aisle at the supermarket right now! But what kind of SPF do you buy? And what does SPF even mean?! I too, have asked these questions, and would love to shed some (sun)light on the answers.

SPF stands for sun protection factor. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, sunscreens must have an SPF label, as dictated by the FDA. The SPF label tells you what percentage of UVB rays are being absorbed or deflected by the sunscreen inside. (Because of this, it is important to look for broad spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVB and UVA rays.) The EPA recommends that you use an SPF of 15 or higher if you plan on being exposed to the sun for more than twenty minutes. SPF 15 protects you from ninety three percent of UVB radiation, while an SPF 30 sunscreen will absorb or deflect ninety seven percent.

I don’t get serious very often. But when it comes to sun protection, I turn into a mom. (Love you mom!) No matter who you are or what color of skin you have, it is imperative that you cover up and protect yourself. I love a day in the water or a nap in the sun as much as the next guy, but I love my health more. So when you slip on your aviators for your next adventure, slather on some sunblock, and throw on a ball cap and a button up. Your old-age self will thank you.