3 FREE Killer Workouts and Lots of Smoothies… What More Do You Need?

During the holidays, it can be especially hard to feel like you’re getting a great, structured workout if you don’t have access to a gym or simply don’t want to pay for a membership. For some, it’s easy to take the initiative to go out and exercise in a generally unstructured setting, such as going for a run or a long swim with no particular workout set in mind. For others, it’s much easier to have a workout already planned out for you with a start time, a warm up, cool down, and set end time. Working out is hard, so having a set of exercises to get through and knowing that when you finish you’ll have completed a balanced, full body workout can be encouraging! Thanks to the wonderful creation known as YouTube, a great workout also doesn’t require expensive equipment, a personal trainer, or a gym membership! Check out these three great workout videos that I’ve found and enjoyed on YouTube to help you get in an amazing workout from the free, private comfort of home—and all in less than an hour each!

  1. “45 Minute Buttkickin’ Power Yoga Flow”: For the yogi or the lover of slow-paced, controlled workouts and plenty of great stretching. This guy is good at explaining the motions and leads you through a yoga flow that will have you sweating! It’s hard to find good quality full-length yoga videos online sometimes, but he’s easy to hear and follow and you could easily turn on your own music in the background to listen to as you watch and follow along.

  1. “Latin Dance Aerobic Workout”: For the Zumba fans out there who like to burn calories in the form of dance! The instructor in this video is energetic and stops to explain some of the motions of each dance before he begins. (The students in the background are learning as they go and make you feel better about not being able to follow along exactly the first time!) This 50 minute video provides a great and fun cardio workout and dancing makes the time go by quickly! As an added bonus, with no one watching you there is no reason not go to all out and feel free to look crazy if you so desire!

  1. “BeFiT GO HIIT Fit-Total Body Strength and Toning Circuit”: I believe that this is my favorite of the three videos when I’m in the mood to feel like I have really given my all to an impressive strength-building workout! This video does require a set of dumbbells and a small medicine ball is suggested, although the exercises using the medicine ball can easily be modified without it. (For example, push-ups with one hand on a medicine ball can be done regularly without the medicine ball or the ball can be replaced by anything from a yoga block to a thick book—anything to get one arm higher than the other and change the targeted muscles.) Different instructors, male and female, take you through several exercises that target arms, legs, and abs for a total body workout and the video incorporates time and reminders for water breaks and cool down. If you’re looking for a great toning workout and targeted exercises with examples of good form, I’d highly suggest this video!

And after one of these fantastic workouts, what better day to finish off than with a delicious smoothie? When I’m at home and there is always an abundance of dessert present somehow (my family is full of sweet tooths… or is it sweet teeth?), I’m tempted to eat way more sugar than usual! Smoothies help satisfy my sweet craving without have tons of added sugar and offer a few extra servings of fruit and veggies as well! These smoothie ideas are great after working out because they’re cold, hydrating, and delicious!

  • Strawberry+peach+banana+orange. I use frozen strawberries and peaches for added thickness, fresh bananas, and frozen orange juice concentrate.
  • Strawberry+banana+orange+pineapple
  • Strawberry+banana+blueberry
  • Kiwi+banana+blueberry
  • Avocado+kiwi+orange
  • Pineapple+coconut milk+vanilla or coconut yogurt+ice
  • Fresh, sweet black cherries+yogurt+cocoa powder or chocolate protein powder
  • Cherry+blackberry+blueberry+strawberry+raspberry (for an amazingly delicious berry explosion)
  • Pomegranate juice+banana+almonds+protein power (even though it’s a little expensive, POM juice is full of antioxidants; it has even more per glass than green tea, cranberry juice, and acai-berry juice blends)

General smoothie tips: In most of the combinations listed above, I’ve just listed the fruit and veggies that make up the basis of the flavor of the smoothie. The rest is up to you to determine the thickness and added flavors that you prefer using some of these tricks.

  • Use frozen fruit and crushed ice to add thickness
  • Use milk or fresh fruit to thin down a smoothie and add just a little bit of dairy. Regular cow’s milk, soymilk, almond milk, and coconut milk all taste great in smoothies from my experience, even though I’m not a huge fan of all of them on their own.
  • Plain yogurt or vanilla Greek yogurt can add some body, creaminess, and sweetness without affecting the flavor.
  • Often the fruit itself will be sweet enough, but if you want to sweeten your smoothie without directly adding sugar you can use honey or coconut milk since both are sweet and natural.
  • Raw oatmeal can add texture and fiber to a smoothie.
  • Tofu adds protein and creaminess without affecting the flavor (and I don’t even like tofu normally).
  • Protein powder adds protein (shocking, I know) and sweetness, and even chocolaty flavor if you prefer.
  • Chia seeds provide omega-3 and are easier to digest than flax seeds for an easy health-boosting mix in.
  • Add raw spinach to any smoothie for no change in flavor, added vitamins and minerals including iron and beta-carotene, and a fun green color.

Start your day with a delicious fruit smoothie or enjoy your workout at home and cool down with a yummy smoothie creation. Happy blending!

Workout Wednesday blog posts are written by UNC Campus Recreation. Each Wednesday we swap blog posts with the Tar Heel Tone Up blog so that readers can view more diverse post topics that will benefit their health and wellness. Workout Wednesday blog posts can be found both here and on tarheeltoneup.com.

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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

The HPV vaccine for men- is this a thing?

Yes, it is. You may have heard of the HPV or Gardasil vaccine for young women to prevent cervical cancer, but young men should get it too!

4 men studying and drinking coffee

The HPV vaccine is a series of 3 injections over a 6-month period. Ideally it should be given before a person ever has sex, but it is recommended for men from age 11 through 21 years regardless of sexual activity, and through age 26 years for men who have sex with men and men who are immunocompromised (including those who are HIV positive).

Why should men get vaccinated? Vaccination helps to:

  • Prevent genital warts
  • Prevent penile, throat, and anal cancers caused by HPV
  • Prevent spread of HPV to future partners

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI).  The virus is spread through anal, vaginal, or oral sex, and can even be spread through close skin contact during sexual activity. A person doesn’t have to have signs and symptoms to spread the virus.

All sexually active people are at risk for HPV.

Almost all sexually active people get infected with HPV at some point in their lives. Most people will clear the infection without more serious issues.  However, if an infection does not go away on its own, symptoms may develop months or even years later.

If HPV does not go away on its own, it can cause genital warts and some types of cancer.

Warning symptoms: new or unusual warts, growths, lumps, or sores on the penis, scrotum, anus, mouth, or throat.

Genital warts usually appear as a small bump or group of bumps around the penis or anus. They may be small or large, raised or flat, or shaped like a cauliflower. The warts may stay the same or grow in size or number. They can come back even after treatment but warts caused by HPV do not lead to cancer.

HPV infection is not cancer, but it can change the body in ways that lead to cancer. Cervical cancer can occur in women, penile cancer in men, and anal cancer in both women and men. Cancer at the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils (oropharyngeal cancer), is also a concern for both men and women.  All of these cancers can be caused by HPV infections that do not go away.

three pie charts show types of HPV for men and women 

Figure: Average Number of New HPV-Associated Cancers Overall, and by Sex, in the United States from 2005-2009

HPV-related cancers are not common in men, but certain men are more susceptible:

  • Men with weak immune systems (including those with HIV) who get infected with HPV are more likely to have complications
  • Men who receive anal sex are more likely to get anal HPV and develop anal cancer

There is no approved test for HPV in men at this time, and there is no specific treatment. Genital warts can be treated by healthcare providers and HPV-related cancers are more treatable when diagnosed and treated early.

The HPV vaccine lowers the risk of getting HPV and HPV-related diseases.

 Using condoms for every sexual encounter lowers the chance of getting all STIs, including HPV.

 If nothing else, consider protecting your future sexual partner(s) from HPV by getting vaccinated!

The HPV vaccine is available at Campus Health Services.

For more information on HPV visit cdc.gov/hpv.

FLASHBACK FRIDAY: Thanksgiving Break To Do List

The Thanksgiving Break Break Up is also called a Turkey Drop (1, 2, 3).  Turkey Drops happen around Thanksgiving when students return home and find that they are no longer interested in their high school sweetheart, or when people in a budding romance realize that it will never reach full bloom by the end of the year.

Breaking up can be stressful. So here is some advice about what to do if you are part of a Turkey Drop.

  1. If you are ending the relationship, consider the other person’s feelings.   You do not have to remain best friends, but try to part on good terms to reduce the stress.
  2. Consider that if geographical distance has been a problem in the relationship, the other person may feel the same way you do.
  3. Finals will be around the corner when you return to campus, and you may experience a variety of emotions as a result of the break-up.  Contact Counseling and Wellness to gain perspective and learn coping mechanisms to prevent break-up related emotions from interfering with finals.
  4. Consider any follow-up steps you need to take to end the relationship.  Do you want to erase the former significant other from all aspects of Facebook?  Do they have things at your place that need to be returned or vice versa?  Considering these factors and taking action may help you move forward.
  5. Make time for friends and doing things that you enjoy.  This will relieve some stress and provide a pleasant distraction.

Additional information about dealing with break-ups can be found here.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Do you have ideas about how to move on from a Turkey Drop?  If so, tweet at us, post on our Facebook, or comment below!

Financial Wellness in the Holiday Season


Image courtesy of Your Jewish Speech

Now that the Halloween decorations have come down and holiday songs have started to be played on the radio, it won’t be long until the holiday season begins. Regardless of what holidays we choose to celebrate, November and December can be rough on budgets, especially for college students. Between travel expenses, winter break plans, going out with friends to celebrate the end of the semester, and buying gifts, we often quickly spend much more money than we may have planned. Americans spend more during winter holidays than any other time of the year, including back-to-school shopping, and sales during winter holidays make up about 20% of all retail throughout the year!

It’s especially important during this time of the year to remember to prioritize financial wellness, which involves setting and achieving both long and short-term personal financial goals. Everyone’s financial status and goals are different, depending on income, wealth, spending, debt, values, etc., and are situated within our society’s financial and economic context. Before rushing into the holiday season, take some time to think about your own finances. How much do you have to spend? How much do you need to save? What are the most important things for you to spend money on or save money for?

Here are some ideas to keep your budget happy this season!

  1. Practice mindfulness. Being mindful means paying attention to what you are doing, noticing your thoughts, sensations, and the world around you without judgment. Research shows that mindfulness can actually help you make better decisions.
  2. Set a budget. What’s important to you? What are you going to need/want money for? Decide what you are able to afford based on your priorities and values, and then stick to it. Check out this list of apps for budgeting tools.
  3. Make a list and check it twice. This will help you stay focused on what you need and avoid purchasing on impulse. Check out these strategies to avoid impulse purchases!
  4. Try DIY gifts! Homemade gifts are wonderful both for your budget and for adding that personal touch to let your family and friends know how much you care. Need some inspiration? Here are 50 of the best DIY gift ideas.
  5. Give of your time. Some of the best gifts are things you can do for or with another person. For those of us that are craft-challenged, here are some great alternatives.
  6. Host a potluck. If you want to get together with friends, consider having a potluck instead of going out for an expensive meal. This way, you don’t have to get everyone to agree on a restaurant, and you’ll spend a lot less. Maybe try out a pizza potluck – everyone brings their favorite ingredient to share (just make sure someone brings the crust!). Instead of spending $20+ on a meal at a restaurant, you’ll spend less than $5 on your topping—plus, it’s a lot more fun!
  7. Be careful with credit card purchases.Having a credit card can be great for building credit, but it’s especially important during this time of the year to make sure we’re able to pay off the card on time at the end of the month. It’s also a time of year when our schedules are different than normal, so be sure to set a reminder for when you need to pay your bills. If you struggle with spending too much when you use a credit card, try only taking cash when you go shopping.

The end of the semester can be stressful with exams and final papers, and worrying about money can just make everything more complicated. Do yourself a favor and lessen some of the stress by prioritizing your financial wellness!


Kaitlyn Brodar is the Program Assistant for Resiliency Initiativse 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.

Workout Wednesday: Fitness Designed for YOUR Personality

Walk into any college career guidance center, and you’ll quickly be directed to take a personality test. The line of thinking is that each person behaves in a different way with “The Big 5” – openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism – and therefore are matched better to certain careers. But why stop there? With the huge variety of ways to exercise, there’s bound to be a certain type that corresponds best with who YOU are. Be it group Zumba, solo marathons, or team sports, the perfect workout for your personality is within reach. If you enjoy an exercise regimen, you are much more likely to stick with it and reach your fitness goals!

In addition to considering your innate personality when selecting an exercise regimen, consider your other personal preferences. For example, are you a night owl or a morning dove? If you prefer to get moving in the morning, consider squeezing in your workout before breakfast. On the other hand you like to stay up late, try a workout after school or work and see if it’s any more enjoyable. The options are nearly unlimited – all you need to do is try, try, and try again.

Ready to get started? Take the following quiz created by fitness consultant Suzanne Brue to learn more about your fitness personality!

Take the quiz here

One you take the quiz, you will be shown your results. It’s so useful to see what exercises will work best for your personality.  For example, my fitness personality is “tried blue: tried and true.” According to the quiz results, this means that the best exercises for me are steady, methodical, and proven effective. The results also expound by saying that I’m guided by fitness goals and objectives. Sounds right to me!

Screen Shot 2014-06-23 at 4.24.07 PM

Image retrieved from the8colorsoffitness.com

Workout Wednesday blog posts are written by UNC Campus Recreation. Each Wednesday we swap blog posts with the Tar Heel Tone Up blog so that readers can view more diverse post topics that will benefit their health and wellness. Workout Wednesday blog posts can be found both here and on tarheeltoneup.com.

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 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% of gym equipment had staph on it! Another study found that 63% 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.

Here are some tips to help prevent you from getting sick from 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% 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 want to 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, razor, 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 Chu 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 clinical, community, and commercial settings after earning his bachelor’s in Clinical Nutrition at the University of California at Davis.

FLASHBACK FRIDAY: How Being YOU Can Reduce Stress

I always joke with my coworkers that they have to watch what they say around me because I believe everything that I hear.  And, although I think it is important to draw on other people’s experiences to shape your own success, at the end of the day you are the only person who knows what is best for you.  As a follow up to last week’s stress-free blog, I’d like to leave you with four more tips focused on how being YOU can lead to a productive and carefree school year. Continue reading

Workout Wednesday: 3 Things To Remember About Fitness

by Ben Smart

3 Things To Remember About Fitness
Peathegee Inc/Getty Images

1. A healthy lifestyle is a journey, not a destination

It’s about how you drive the car, not where you’re going. Confused? Think of your body like a vehicle. These vehicles come in all shapes, sizes, ages, builds, and colors. How well your vehicle performs depends a lot on how you drive and care for it. Do you change your oil every 10,000 miles? Do you invest in high quality fuel? Are you careful to not constantly strain the engine? Applied to your body, there’s actually much less variation in body types than vehicle variety.

According to a 2011 study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, your quality of life depends greatly on your lifestyle choices. This means the small decisions you make on a daily basis add up. Check out this article from the Huffington Post on 100 ways to live to 100.

2. Sleep is your golden life force energy

Sounds silly, doesn’t it? I phrased it this way to highlight the dire importance of a good night’s rest. And the occasional nap is highly welcomed as well. When you sleep, your body repairs itself – restoring damaged tissues. The amount of sleep you get has a profound effect on your weight and your overall health. The CDC recommends that teens get 9-10 hours of sleep per day, and adults get 7-8 hours. Wow! That may sound like a long time in bed for those of us who push ourselves to the limit. Some people say that they get by just fine on 4-5 hours of sleep (this could be you!). Chances are, they probably don’t. Don’t take my word for it – check out this video on sleep by neurosurgeon and CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta.

3. Exercise is about more than losing weight

Losing weight seems the be the sole reason that many people exercise in the first place. However, it’s definitely not the only benefit that you’re getting from a consistent exercise program. Many fitness experts warn against focusing only on the result of weight loss, as this outcome can take many weeks to manifest. This delayed gratification can prove too much for some people – who could become easily discouraged. Instead, focus on the energy and increased functioning that you get from being active. To achieve your healthiest life, make exercise a priority, not an afterthought.

Make 2015 your healthiest year.

Workout Wednesday blog posts are written by UNC Campus Recreation staff members. Each Wednesday we swap blog posts with the Tar Heel Tone Up blog so that readers can view more diverse post topics that will benefit their health and wellness. Workout Wednesday blog posts can be found both here and on tarheeltoneup.com.