4 Facts About College Health Literacy

By: Gabriella Villacis ’15, University Health Center, HEALTH Works Peer Educator

October is a pretty awesome month, right? Autumn is upon us, Halloween is coming up, and of course tons of football. But, did you know October is also Health Literacy Month?

Okay, so that might not sound super exciting, but let me tell you how this can be really important to us as college students.

First, I’ll get that boring definition out of the way.  Health Literacy is defined as, “the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions” (Institute of Medicine).

So, what does that mean to you and me?

It means that we are bombarded every day with information about how to live a healthy life. We often have to try and interpret what this information means and it might even be inaccurate.

Sometimes it can be a little overwhelming and certainly confusing.

Here’s what UMD students had to say about health literacy …

I’m here to help you improve your health literacy today by going over some college health issues that we might be uncertain about. There are often a lot of myths and misinformation out there. I’m going to go over the facts, so you can better understand the health information out there.

  • Sleep. We are all well aware that midterms are underway. This does not mean it is time to start pulling all-nighters! College students should be getting about 7- 9 hours of sleep every night. Trust me, you will be feeling much less stressed and alert enough to do well on your exam.
  • Exercise. Who doesn’t love to feel fit? Am I right? Increasing your physical activity can improve your mood and help fight chronic disease. You don’t have to be out at Ritchie pumping iron 7 days a week, but at least 2 and half hours a week of some physical activity is what we need. Campus Recreation Services definitely has something for everyone, so check out what they have to offer.
  • Eat healthy. I think we can all agree that this isn’t the easiest of tasks on campus. One way you can improve your eating habits is learning portion control. You may also want to check out the free diet analysis service right here on campus!
  • Getting Vaccinated. GO GET A FLU SHOT! We are living in close proximity with one another, and when one person gets sick, we all get sick. It’s quick and easy and covered by the Student Health Insurance Plan. Being sick at school is the worst. Make an appointment for the flu shot (or intranasal spray if needles aren’t your thing) at the University Health Center today. You can thank me later.

If you ever have questions about your health or decisions regarding it, don’t be afraid to ask your doctor, counselor, or other health professional. They are there to help.

Learn more about health literacy with the Herschel S. Horowitz Center for Health Literacy right here at the University of Maryland School of Public Health.

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Take a hike!

By: Jennifer Macko ’16, Campus Recreation Services, Group Fitness Instructor

College Park: Step outside. Feel the clean, crisp breeze blowing leaves around you and look at the brilliant fall colors. Close your eyes and let your sense of hearing take over. The wind rustles through the trees, finches chirp as they peck through the grass… a dump truck slams this week’s garbage from its bin and a siren blares from Route One.

Imagine escaping the madness that is campus and being immersed in the quiet paradise that is Mother Nature.

CliffBlueMts (3)

Lucky for us, despite a proximity to the hustle and bustle of the nation’s capitol, we are also close to a multitude of national parks and forests. The Maryland and Virginia sections of the Appalachian Trail, Shenandoah Valley, Great Falls, Monongahela, and Harpers Ferry are all just a few hours away by car and all offer great hikes.

Don’t have a car?

Don’t fret! Look for a friend who does or visit the Maryland Adventure Program (MAP) at the Eppley Recreation Center.

MAP offers day trips and weekend outdoor adventure trips for reasonable prices. This program offers transportation and equipment as well as a trained leader to guide you through the lush deciduous forests of Maryland and Virginia.

Is a trip you wanted to take already full?

You can create a custom trip for groups of 6-10 students. Find a group of friends who share your passion for adventure or  who just want to try something new and set up a weekend of outdoor fun. Use this online form to request a custom trip.

“I love being at College Park, it’s beautiful,” she says, “but it’s really nice to be in a different environment.”-Olivia Kelly ’15, MAP challenge course leader

Any one can participate in these weekend trips, and it is the perfect way to escape, relax, and take a step back from the stress of college.

Spending time in the great outdoors has numerous health and wellness benefits, including:

  • De-stressing
  • Increasing creativity
  • Cardiovascular and strengthening workout (you can burn up to 600 calories an hour of hiking!)
  • Lowering LDL (the bad cholesterol), lowering blood sugar, and improving glucose tolerance

UMD Sophomore, Jamal Gross ’17, a first time hiker image (5)shared his experience hiking the Billy Goat Trail in Potomac, Maryland. He initially signed up to go in order to get extra credit for a geology class and dreaded it being some “lame” trip. He returned feeling exhausted but excited to hike again!

“It was beautiful, fantastic! I’ve never felt so accomplished in my life.”

He also had the added benefit of bonding with peers, while playing trail games like “Six Degrees to Kevin Bacon.”

So, if you want to try something new, escape the hectic campus life, de-stress, bond with friends, have an adventure, get a workout, take breath-taking photos, explore the area, be one with nature… the possibilities are endless… then take a hike!

“The mountains are calling and I must go” –John Muir

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Introducing…GymQ: A Terp-Created Fitness Tracking App

By: Laura Gonzalez ’15, Campus Recreation Services, Communication Assistant

In true enTERPreneurial style, seniors Kevin Chang, mechanical engineering major, and Connie Li, finance and information systems major, saw a problem and took it upon themselves to solve it.

They noticed it was challenging to remember past workouts and log their progress at the gym. GymQ was born – a unique fitness tracking app.

“That was kind of the push, it was just something that we personally needed and wanted and we figured if we had the power to create it, then why not,” says Li.

GymQ is a free iPhone app that utilizes QR codes on workout machines and personalized data entry to provide users with a digital log of their workouts.

gymqhomepageWhen Chang and Li approached Campus Recreation Services (CRS) to explore ways they could make the app available to Terps, we were thrilled to support them.

We teamed up and added QR stickers to all of our machines and weights in Ritchie Coliseum. Ritchie is located on Rt. 1 across the street from campus between Fraternity row and the Department of Public Safety and is open to University of Maryland students and CRS members.

Getting Started with GymQ

Once you download GymQ from the Apple App store, you’ll need to log in. If it’s your first time, you’ll create a username and password within the app.

Tip: Turn on the ‘remember me’ function and never have to enter them manually again.

You are then taken to the main menu screen with three options: scan, enter code and search. Selecting ‘scan’ will take you to a camera function, from which you can capture the QR code on the machine and immediately recognize what exercise you are attempting. You may also manually enter the exercise by selecting ‘enter code’ and typing the code you see on the equipment.

Don’t use the gym at Ritchie? You can still use GymQ!

Simply use the third option: ‘search.’ You only need to type the equipment name, select the correct option and begin your workout.

Whether you scan, enter the code, or search – you’ll then be prompted to enter the details of your workout such as the amount of weight you lifted, how many stairs you climbed or other information specific to the exercise.

After several workouts, you will be able to see a graph of your progress broken down day by day.

We are excited to be working the innovative creators of GymQ and offering this useful tool to students and our members.

Have a question about GymQ or how to use it? Ask away! Leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you.

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Let’s Talk About Breast Health

By: Emily Menge ’15, University of Maryland Health Center, HEALTH Works Peer Educator

When you think of October, what do you think of? Cooler weather? Pumpkin spice lattes? Football games?

I think of Breast Cancer Awareness month and encourage you to as well. Even though as college students we are focused on school, it is important to remember to keep our health in mind.

The iconic "M" circle in the center of campus decorated in pink to raise awareness for breast cancer. Image credit: Emily Menge.

The iconic “M” circle in the center of campus decorated in pink to raise awareness for breast cancer. Image credit: Emily Menge.

It is estimated that 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.

That statistic translates to 2,189 women on the University of Maryland campus. This is almost 5% of the student body! This is a number we can’t ignore.

Through research and prevention, I hope that we can decrease this number dramatically. Although there is no sure way to prevent breast cancer, there are healthy lifestyle choices that you can make that might reduce your risk and increase your chances for early detection.

You can detect breast cancer as early as possible throug self-breast exams and yearly mammograms after the age of 40, for women of average risk.

Lifestyle factors that may affect your risk for breast cancer:

  • Taking oral contraceptives may increase your risk. Overtime, the risk goes back to normal after the pill is stopped, but it is important to talk to your doctor about the effects of this medication.
  • Breastfeeding has been shown to decrease your risk for breast cancer.
  • The more alcohol you drink, your risk of developing breast cancer increases. It is recommended that women limit alcohol consumption to 1 drink per day.
  • Physical activity decreases your risk of breast cancer. As little as 1-2 hours of exercise per week can decrease a woman’s risk by 18%.

Source:American Cancer Society

Although some people may be uncomfortable talking about it, it is also important to administer self-breast exams regularly.

If you conduct self-breast exams regularly you will understand what is “normal” for your body which could make it easier for you to notice when something is not right.

This small step could be the difference between catching the disease in the early stages or when it’s too late. It is important to remember self-breast exams should not replace clinical breast exams which are recommended every 3 years from ages 20-39 and every year starting at age 40.

Source: Susan G. Komen

Easy guide to a quick self-breast exam:

Step 1: Look in the mirror with your back straight and arms at your hip. Are your breasts their usual size, shape, and color? Do you notice any swelling, dimpling, or puckering? Has your nipple changed position or inverted?

Step 2: Raise your arms and look for the same signs.

Step 3: Lie down and examine your right breast with your left hand and your left breast with your right hand. Using two fingers press firmly in a circular motion about the size of a quarter. You should cover your entire breast from your collarbone to your abdomen and from your armpit to your cleavage.

Step 4: Follow the same procedure while standing up. Many women find it easier to administer this exam when their skin is slightly wet -such as in the shower.

If you find anything unusual during your exam, contact your doctor and have them take a look. Even if you notice anything slightly out of the ordinary, you should get it checked.

By following these recommendations you are taking control of your breast health. These small steps could be lifesaving and could help decrease the amount of women diagnosed with breast cancer.

If you ever feel like you need to be seen by a doctor or need a clinical breast exam, you can visit the Women’s Health department at the health center. Remember 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime – so tell a friend, sister, aunt, or cousin how they too can decrease their risk of breast cancer.

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7 Tips to Eat Healthy on a Budget

By: Caitlin Smith ’16, University of Maryland Health Center, Dietetic Intern

While in college, it can be hard to be mindful of our diets, especially when cash is tight. I’ve seen my share of cabinets full of ramen noodle packages, boxes of mac and cheese, and pop-tarts.

There’s a common misconception that eating healthfully is expensive and thus, it becomes a low tier priority.

However, I’m here to tell you that being broke does not have to be synonymous with being unhealthy.


Image used under the Creative Commons license from Flickr user muammerokumus

Here are some tips I have come to learn and love:

  1. Buy frozen and/or canned fruits and vegetables. Many people believe that if fruits and vegetables aren’t fresh then they aren’t healthy. That’s not true! Frozen produce is picked at the peak of freshness and then frozen so it contains an optimal amount of nutrients. For canned items, just be sure to look for low sodium items and fruits that are canned in 100% juice instead of heavy syrup.
  2. Buy in bulk. Since we typically only feed ourselves as college students, this tip can seem counter intuitive. Wouldn’t this be wasteful? The key is to buy things like meat, seafood, and even bread in bulk and then freeze them so they won’t go bad.
  3. Skip the name brands. There’s a common misconception out there that the store brand items don’t taste as good as the name brand ones. However, more often than not, the ingredient list is exactly the same. It’s usually just the appearance of the box or packaging that is different. Next time you’re at the grocery store, compare your favorite name brand item with a store brand one.
  4. Shop at farmers and/or ethnic markets. This is usually an effective way of getting produce for a cheaper price than what the grocery store sells them for, especially when it comes to in-season produce. Check out The Farmers Market at Maryland which is right here on campus in front of Cole Field House every Wednesday from 11-3!
  5. Pack lunches and snacks. When you’re spending all day on campus, as many of us are, it’s easy to work up an appetite. However, frequently buying food on campus can get expensive. Buy some reusable containers and pack some lunches and snacks such as grapes, humus and pretzels, sliced cucumber, or a turkey sandwich. Throw it in your backpack in the morning and you have a quick, easy, delicious, and nutritious way to save some money.
  6. Get creative in the kitchen. I can’t tell you how many healthy, cheap, and yummy little recipes I’ve created since I came to college and I’m no chef! I often use things like tuna, rice, and frozen vegetables and just throw them together.  Get creative in the kitchen using any ingredients you already have.
  7. Visit the Health Center! Last but certainly not least, consider making an appointment for free diet analysis to learn more tips and tricks for eating lots of good food with limited funds.

Visit choosemyplate.gov for even more information on how to remain healthy on a budget.

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The Benefits of Human Touch Through Massage

By: Jennifer Macko ’16, University of Maryland Health Center, HEALTH Works Peer Educator

In this day and age, it seems like there’s an application for pretty much everything. You can turn in homework, play games, and check your finances from the convenient contraption you carry in your pocket. You can even work on your wellness with apps for things like nutrition tracking, mapping your walk or run, or guided meditation and deep breathing exercises.

However, one thing your smartphone absolutely can not do for you, is give you a massage.

human touch

Image used under the Creative Commons license from Flickr user lintmachine

Human touch is irreplaceable.

Sure, you could use your phone to look up directions to the nearest massage therapist, but you’ll still need an actual person to carry out the act.

Human interaction and human touch are the critical elements.

You could rub your own neck, but the relaxation and comfort of receiving a massage from another being is undeniable.

Touch is one of the first languages we use; we reach for our mother seeking security as children.

But something changes when we learn rules and manners. In today’s “touch-phobic” society, many are unfamiliar with the consensual touch of strangers or even close friends.

We hold our emotions and feelings, and thus our tensions, inside of us, in our muscles and minds.

Benefits of Massage

Massage is not only useful to release this tension physically, but the physical contact from another human being can actually cause us to release oxytocin, a feel-good hormone that helps us better deal with stress.

University of Miami’s Touch Research Institute has found that touch provides the following benefits, among others:

  • Lessening of pain
  • Improved pulmonary (lung) function
  • Increased growth in infant
  • Lowered blood glucose (sugar) level
  • Improved immune function to help you fight off illness and infection

Pair those benefits with the well-studied benefits of message, including, but not limited to:

  • Reduction of anxiety or depression
  • Stress Reduction
  • Reduction of pain and muscle tension
  • Treatment of digestive disorders, headaches, stress-related insomnia, strains and injuries, and sports injuries

Sound good to you?

If so, I highly encourage joining a friend you trust to try out massage. It can be awkward at first as many of us are not used to making contact with others outside of family and significant others. But soon, you’ll see that the benefits outweigh the unfamiliarity.

Some suggestions when getting started:

  • Wear comfortable clothing that won’t result in any wardrobe malfunctions
  • Make you and your partner know your comfort zones
  • Explain what you will be working during the massage

A key part of massage to ensure that both the giver and receiver enjoy the process is using body weight rather than the force of muscle.

Use the weight of your body to gently kneed the body to where it wants to be. This is a basic principle of body mechanics. It will save you tremendous amount of effort and stop you from adding further tension to your body in the process of removing someone else’s.

Massage should be therapeutic for both the receiver and the giver.

Helpful video: How to give someone a back massage >>

If the idea of asking a friend to partake in a massage session sounds too far fetched for your tastes, consider signing up for a professional massage through the University Health Center on campus. Massages are $50 per session, or free twice a year if you have the student health insurance plan.

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Tips for Choosing the Best Nutrition Bar

By: Sarah Frazier ’16, University Health Center Dietetic Intern

Most college students can agree that a busy schedule can lead to a decreased emphasis on food and nutrition at times.

One of the biggest things we hear as nutrition peer educators is that sometimes, there just isn’t enough time to eat!

At times it is necessary to have a grab-and-go snack to keep us going until we have time to sit down to our next meal.

But there are so many different bars out there: how do you know which one is the best choice?

Get the most out of your bar. Continue reading for a list of some of the best bars available on campus, and what to look for in your favorites!

bar collage

  1. Fiber One Protein™- What’s great about these bars is that they are packed with fiber! These bars contain 5 grams of fiber, where some bars only contain 1 gram, if any. Fiber is essential to a healthy digestive tract and regularity. Fiber also keeps you feeling full longer.
  2. CLIF Builder’s Snack Size™- These bars have 10 grams of protein in them and they come in a smaller size, which makes them so easy to toss in your bag and take with you anywhere. Protein is important to build muscle and keep you going throughout the day.
  3. LUNA Nutrition Bars™- The best thing about these bars is that along with a balance of fiber, carbohydrates, and protein, they are also packed with other vitamins and minerals. A variety of the flavors contain vitamins A, C, and E, calcium, and folic acid. These vitamins and minerals are essential to your body performing in tip-top shape every day.
  4. Balance Bars™- Just like the name suggests, these bars have a great balance of carbohydrates, fat, and protein. These three macronutrients are what your body goes after for fuel, hormone production, and muscle building respectively. They come in a lot of great flavors and are perfect for on the go!

Now that you have some examples, how can you tell if your favorites are “good for you”?

Balanced nutrients are key when selecting a meal bar.

You want to have enough carbohydrates to keep your energy level up until your next meal, a reasonable amount of protein, and try to get some fiber as well.

Your best choice would be a bar that contains at least 15 grams of carbohydrates, 5-15 grams of protein, and at least 1 gram of fiber (but always aim for more fiber whenever possible).

Always watch for trans fats and remember that nutrients are best when they come from whole foods.

Quick bars are a great option to keep you fueled while on the go – you just need to be choosy!

To learn more about choosing the best on-the-go snacks and whole food alternatives, reserve a free diet analysis session at the Health Center. For more information visit http://ter.ps/dietanalysis or call 301-314-5664.

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