Spring Break Fitness Reboot


No matter how true our intentions are, sometimes we fail to stick to our healthy habits. Be it daily exercise, vigilant hydration, or eating enough fruits and vegetables, it can be tough to stick to our positive habits. With Spring Break around the corner, this is an opportune time to re-dedicate to health and fitness habits.

Here are a few simple tips to get back on the fitness bandwagon:

  1. Go slow! Give your body time to readjust to the fitness habit. If you push yourself too hard too soon, you risk injury. Start with a vigorous walk or a light jog. If you are lifting weights, start each set with lighter weights than you’re used to, so your body can adjust to the movement.
  1. Focus on flexibility. Light stretches help increase blood to target muscles, while assisting with joint mobility and range of motion. This can help you avoid injury when starting to exercise anew.
  1. Do what you can, and forget the rest. In huge mega-gyms, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the multitude of machines and weights. Instead of taking it all in at once, create a simple plan for yourself within your limits. Look beyond the super-fit triathletes and the 20-something bodybuilders to your own capabilities. An all-or-nothing mindset may discourage you.
  1. Begin with an easy goal. Employ “SMART” goals: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely.
  1. Hydration: take a water bottle with you wherever you go, and drink often. A good rule of thumb is to drink a glass right after you wake up and before you go to bed, a glass between meals, and a glass before meals.


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.

Get the Most Out of Your Fitness Tracker

You just got a brand new fitness tracker over the holidays to help you fulfill your New Year’s Resolution for 2016, and you are:

  1. Super intimidated by all of the fancy functions and not really sure how to connect it to your smartphone or if your tracker even has that capability
  2. Jealous of your friend who was able to financially afford a more expensive or fancier name-brand version and having doubts that your tracker will leave you disappointed
  3. Nervous that you might develop some unhealthy habits or mindsets because of your fitness tracker
  4. Some or all of the above
  5. [Insert how you’re in the comments section!]

Then take a moment and breathe and read on for some tips on how to incorporate your tracker into your life in a safer way.

Image courtesy of livescience.com.

Disclaimer: I use a fitness tracker, so I’ll be basing a lot of my advice off my own experiences as well as from what I’ve observed and learned from UNC college students. You’ll also find some links to data or resources — so click away!

A: Super intimidated by all of the fancy functions and not really sure how to connect it to your smartphone or if your tracker even has that capability

Tip: Find others who also use a tracker. Use social support!

In general, social support is associated with people being able to better cope with stress and an enhanced psychological well-being. There is a lot of evidence out there that already shows how crucial social support is for health education and health behavior. The American Council on Exercise notes that people with strong social support are more successful at lifestyle changes than those who do not have strong social support. You can take the 1st step and link up your tracker with others. Often times, your tracker has a function built-in that uses your phone contacts or social media friends to do that step for you — take advantage of this! Once you’re linked up, you can chat with your tracker friends and help each other learn the ins and outs of this new tech gadget. Together, you can take steps to incorporate fitness into both of your lives.


B. Jealous of your friend who was able to financially afford a more expensive/fancier name-brand version and having doubts that your tracker will leave you disappointed

Tip: Learn the strengths of your specific tracker and align them with your individual health goals.

It can be very easy to compare yourself with others, especially at a place like UNC. A lot of us have done this, including myself! With fitness, it’s especially important to devise YOUR OWN goals. What’s motivating your friend to be healthy might be very different than your motivation, and that’s totally okay! The fitness tracker you have might be absolutely perfect for what you’re trying to accomplish. If you find yourself wishing it did more and wanting to spend more money on a different product, try to find some creative ways of using your tracker by consulting with a health professional. Here are two examples:

  1. You own a simple step tracker, but you also have a health condition that requires a more tailored diet or fitness regimen. Your device may not tell you how many calories you’re burning, so speak to a health professional. They can help you figure out what your individual target goal should be based on your diet, physical activity, and health requirements. Knowing that about 2000 steps equate to 1 mile of walking, you can now approximate what number you should aim for on your step tracker to meet your caloric goal.
  2. Your device does not allow you to monitor food intake. After speaking to a health professional, you might decide that your personal health goal is to challenge yourself to make smaller changes in your life to strive for an overall healthier lifestyle. You can use your tracker as a cue to action to remind yourself to, for example, walk or bike to class more often, take the stairs rather than the elevator when you have a chance, or take three, deep, mindful breaths before you go to sleep at night.
eric forman house
Dr. Eric Foreman from TV show ‘House’; Image courtesy of housemd-guide.com.

C. Nervous that you might develop some unhealthy habits or mindsets because of your fitness tracker

Tip: Remember social support? It works here too! Find an accountability buddy.

In my experience of working at UNC Student Wellness and being an advocate for health promotion, this is a topic that often comes up when people speak to me about fitness trackers. Fitness trackers are a great innovation; however, there are some *trigger warning….* physical health and mental health risks  associated with increased use of fitness trackers such as disordered eating, orthorexia, and exercise addiction. If you feel like you might be developing some of these habits, please reach out to UNC Campus Health Services. 

Linking up to an accountability buddy can be extremely helpful and promote safety. You and your buddy can keep each other in check by giving each other permission to bring up any issues of concern.


Here are some signs to look out for in each other, according to the UC Davis Association for Body Image Disordered Eating:

  • Body dissatisfaction
  • Binge eating
  • Dieting and/or purging behaviors
  • Excessive, purposeless, physical activity that goes beyond a usual training regimen

Visit the UNC Campus Health page to learn more about recognizing signs and symptoms of body dissatisfaction and disordered eating in people of all genders.

I want to note that the idea of ‘excessive’ is of course, relative. However, you and your buddy can talk about this together and come up with a plan to recognize signs specific to your bodies, inspired by what signs are advised by health professionals.

Remember that all in all, your fitness tracker should lead you to make everyday decisions that help you more easily incorporate fitness into your lives. Good luck and be well, Tar Heels!


Niranjani Radhakrishnan received her BSPH from the Gillings School of Global Public Health at UNC Chapel Hill in 2013. She is currently a Program Assistant for Health Promotion and Prevention Initiatives at Student Wellness. She is also in graduate school at UNC Chapel Hill pursuing two masters degrees: Health Behavior and City and Regional Planning with an emphasis in environmental justice, health equity, and spatial analysis using GIS.

Workout Wednesday: 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.

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 Behavior 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.

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.

Workout Wednesday: Treadmill or Elliptical? Which is better?

By Ben Smart

Quick – what are the dangers of using the treadmill versus the elliptical? And which gives you a better workout? Most gyms contain rows of different cardio machines and it can be overwhelming to choose the right one. We’re going to focus on the two most common machines here, the treadmill and the elliptical. Each one has it pros and cons, and the bottom line is that is depends on your body and your fitness goals.

Let’s talk about the treadmill first.

Basically, this machine emulates walking and running on a flat surface. The treadmill is very versatile and can be adjusted to different inclines and speeds. When you use a treadmill, you are using familiar body movements rather than having to deal with awkward machines. Above all, walking and running strengthens muscles and bones over time. However, overuse of the treadmill without stretching before can really do a number on your joints if you aren’t careful. Running is hard and intense – you need to be ready and in adequate shape before using a treadmill for too long.

On to the elliptical!

The elliptical is low-impact (good for your joints) and allows for cross-training with the arm handles. Not to mention – you can use the elliptical backwards to work different muscle groups. It’s a great choice if you are recovering from an injury or if you want to do a long cardio session. However, this machine can be awkward to use at first as it’s unlike walking or running. The elliptical much less dynamic than the treadmill in terms of speed and intensity. Its also deceiving how hard you are working out, as its easy to use only the momentum at low intensities.

Overall Thoughts

All in all, the elliptical is a great choice for you if you want to improve cardiovascular health with low impact (safer on the joints!). High interval training (there is usually a button on the machine) will give you the best workout on the elliptical. On the other hand, a treadmill will make you work harder and is a better choice for more experienced exercisers. For the best workout regimen, try to include both machines to reap all the benefits without overbearing your body. Not to mention – variety can really spice up your workout!

Workout Wednesday blog posts are written by UNC Campus Recreation staff members. Each Wednesday we swap blog posts with the Tarheel 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.

WORKOUT WEDNESDAY: Group Fitness with Campus Recreation – Absolution

This blog post was written by Emily Wheeler and is published as part of our blog exchange with Tar Heel Tone-Up.

Since the year is new, we’re going back to the basics and introducing some of the opportunities offered by Campus Recreation. We know we’ve written about them before, but we also know that they get buried in the archives of articles every year, so we want to make sure everyone gets a chance to learn about opportunities and get involved!

One of the coolest things that Campus Rec has to offer students is a huge variety of FREE group fitness classes every week! These classes are taught by trained fitness instructors who are students, just like you. They take place in the fitness studios in Ram’s Head Recreation Center and the Student Recreation Center, as well as select classes in Woolen gym and Bowman Gray pool.

Cute Couple - Fitness Instructor and Weightlifter
Photo: “Cute Couple – Fitness Instructor and Weightlifter” by DigiNik13, Flickr Creative Commons.

Course offerings include:

  • Pilates
  • Cycle
  • Step
  • Barre
  • Absolution
  • Zumba
  • Cardio Blast
  • Lower Body Conditioning
  • Yoga
  • Muscle Cut Barbells
  • Kick’n Sculpt
  • Muscle Cut
  • Upper Body Conditioning
  • Tai Chi
  • H2O Dance
  • Mindful Yoga
  • KickHIIT (HIIT = High Intensity Interval Training)
  • Power Yoga
  • Cardio Dance
  • Kickboxing
  • 3-2-1
  • Water Aerobics

As you can see, there are a ton of options available, so you can choose what interests you! Some classes have varying levels of difficulty: for example, power yoga is more difficult than mindful yoga, and Cycle classes and Kick’n Sculpt are extremely heavy on the cardio intensity. However, all classes are open to people of all levels of fitness. You are not required to complete every move or exercise and there are always modifications to make each exercise easier or more difficult.

I’ll feature some brief reviews of various classes in coming articles as the semester gets off to a fast start! For starters, I’ll review the shortest, but quite possibly the most intense, class we offer: Absolution.


This class might only last for 15-20 minutes, but your core will be absolutely on fire the entire time! The exercises are organized by songs; for example, for the first song, the focus might be on plank exercises. For the second, it might be on different types of crunches. The plank song always gets to me! You stay up in plank position for the entire 4 minutes of the song and do variations such as “thread the needle,” side plank, and hip dips side to side. I really like planks because they work your entire core, which includes your oblique (sides) and back muscles!

When we say “core muscles,” we often just think of our stomachs and abs, but a strong core is supported both by strong abdominal and back muscles to support proper posture. I always think it’s crazy to consider that the gap in your skeleton between your rib cage and your hip bones consists only of your spine, yet this part of our bodies is comprised of so many important organs and we rely on a strong canister of muscle to hold it all together and upright. The human body is incredible, people… treat yours nicely.

They love to use this one movement where you’re balancing on your bum with your feet and torso up off of the ground and you pulse your hands up and down beside your knees. This one has me shaking in a matter of seconds and one song of the class makes sure to include that movement in the sequence at least 6 times. The last song is almost always dedicated to the back muscles, so we all flop over on our stomachs like the limp fish we resemble and do “Superman” raises until the song, and the class, mercifully ends with a collective exhale accompanied by a flop of exhausted limbs hitting the gym floor.

If you don’t believe me, check out Absolution at any of these times to experience the burn for yourself!


1:05 – 1:20 in Woolen B19

6:10 – 6:30 in SRC Studio A


1:05 – 1:20 in SRC Studio B

6:25 – 6:45 in SRC Studio A


6:10 – 6:30 in SRC Studio A


1:05 – 1:20 in SRC Studio B

6:25 – 6:45 in SRC Studio A


5:00 – 5:20 in SRC Studio B

This is an absolutely killer core workout and one of my favorite group fitness classes offered by Campus Rec! You will leave both exhausted and proud of your body! It also is short enough that you can conveniently combine it with your own cardio workout by running to the gym and back! Keep checking back for more group fitness reviews and information!

Fitness Boot Camps: Fad or Fact?

[“Bootcamp” by Oklanica, Flickr Creative Commons]
[“Bootcamp” by Oklanica, Flickr Creative Commons]
Please Note: This blog post is written just from one perspective and may not apply to all. Although I have the goal of losing weight, this blog post is written with the understanding that not everyone holds this same goal. This blog post reflects my experience and is not meant to encourage readers to pursue enrollment in bootcamps or to seek to lose weight. 

Can you believe it? It’s already April! We’ve now waved goodbye to winter and said hello to spring…finally. It’s also that time when I want to say goodbye to those few extra pounds I put on during the cold months. If any of you are like me, it’s a lot more difficult to lose weight than it is to gain it. I’ve tried changing up my eating habits and taking up more rigorous exercise plans. I’ve even done what some people consider an extreme in exercising: fitness boot camps.

Fitness boot camps have become a very popular workout regime embraced by people of all ages, shapes, and levels of physical stamina across the country. Fitness boot camps are a type of group physical training program characterized by intense cardio and strength-training routines during a 1-hour period. Modeled after military boot camps, fitness boot camps are generally composed of calisthenics, or exercises like push-ups, crunches, pull-ups, and planks that rely on one’s body weight and require little equipment. Fitness boot camps also usually adopt a circuit-training format, which is composed of 6-8 circuits of strength and cardio exercises completed one after the other for 60-90 seconds each with 15-30 second breaks in between circuits. An example of a circuit would be sixty seconds of squats, lunges, and mountain climbers followed by a 30-second break and then 60 seconds of push-ups, scissor kicks, and side planks. Free weights, medicine balls, jump ropes, and exercise sliders may also be incorporated into circuit training for extra resistance.

So, are fitness boot camps a safe and effective way to get into shape? The answer is…it depends. What may work for some, may not work for all. According to About Health, fitness boot camps have both pros and cons. As far as pros, fitness boot camps are a cost-efficient way to get a full body workout with opportunities to share motivation and camaraderie with fellow boot campers. Therefore, along with promoting physical wellness, fitness boot camps also offer opportunities to strengthen one’s social wellness. However, there are also some limitations to this form of exercise. Because fitness boot camps are group workout sessions, participants may not be able to receive the one-on-one consultation that characterizes individualized personal training programs. Second, fitness boot camps typically require participants to have a steep learning curve. It may take some time to learn the workout routines and to identify exercises you may need to adapt to your abilities and needs.

Overall, it’s very important that you consult with your physician and, if available, complete a fitness assessment to determine if there are exercises that may aggravate prior injuries or health conditions before you engage in fitness boot camp or any other fitness programs. Fitness boot camps can be a great way to shed the winter weight in preparation for summer, but just like any workout, consistency is key. Completing a couple boot camp classes in early May may not help you meet your health goals before Memorial Day. Sticking to a workout plan along with healthy eating habits requires time, dedication, and commitment to translate to results. But you can do it—with or without fitness bootcamp!

WORKOUT WEDNESDAY: Taking a Break for Fitness!

Written by Emily Wheeler

A popular phrase heard in the public health world these days is “sitting is the new smoking.” This age of technology continues to contribute to the obesity epidemic in the United States by making it too convenient to live a sedentary lifestyle, and technology definitely isn’t the only excuse! People have jobs, schoolwork, and other responsibilities that may require them to sit for a large portion of the day, and by the time they get home they are often too tired or unmotivated, or just too busy with other things to dedicate any time to physical activity.

People often associate obesity with increased health risks such as high blood pressure, Type II diabetes, coronary artery disease, and some cancers, but these health risks are also all associated with sedentary lifestyles, independent of BMI. Physical inactivity is also a risk factor for anxiety and depression, and physically active overweight and obese individuals have a greatly reduced risk for many obesity-associated health conditions compared to those who are both obese and inactive (1).

Many schools and workplaces are doing their part to help their students and employees to incorporate more physical activity into their days by adding short, 10-minute fitness breaks into the school or workday. While the increase in fitness break popularity is a recent occurrence, the idea itself has been talked about for several years. In fact, 15 years ago the company L.L. Bean incorporated 5-minute exercise breaks, three times per day, for employees in the assembly plant and saw a 30-minute return in workday productivity from their 15-minute investment.

In 2009, NPR Morning Edition shared a story of Dr. Toni Yancey of UCLA, who frequently speaks at conferences about increasing physical activity in the workplace with standing meeting and mini exercise breaks. She describes the benefits of encouraging physical activity in these settings, including the fact that it doesn’t require any extra time out of the day and that people are much more likely and willing to get up and exercise in a group than by themselves. She states that some people frown and seem hesitant when she begins a mini fitness session because they are not used to exercising in public, if at all, but according to Yancey, the key is that “they do it because everyone else is doing it. We’re social beings. The motivation is social (2).”

These short fitness breaks can also be a great way to help the people who need it the most get the most benefit out of the exercise. Because the breaks are instructed  and include fun, up-beat music, people are motivated to join when they have someone there to tell them exactly what to do and how to do it and simply to smile with them. This can be a huge contrast to many peoples’ first attempts to start exercising on their own if they experience frustration, confusion, or lack of motivation when trying to do it alone. The fitness breaks also teach participants the skills to know what to do as safe and effective forms of physical activity if they choose to exercise on their own.

I have had the opportunity to personally hear about or participate in two such activities in North Carolina this year! At Walter Johnson Middle School in my hometown of Morganton, North Carolina, sixth through eighth grade teachers are required to incorporate 20 minutes of physical activity into their class time. Some teachers, my lovely mother included, are using simple and fun resources such as Just Dance (and interactive dance game made for Wii) videos posted on Youtube to engage their students, both restless and sleepy, in a few minutes of fun physical activity during school hours.

Here at UNC, a group of students in the Gillings School of Global Public Health has researched and planned a new fitness breaks program called Capstone WOW Fitness Breaks for housekeeping, grounds, and facilities maintenance staff of the University that starts next week!  During the six-week program, student volunteers will be leading 10-minute fitness breaks at the beginning at each of the three daily shifts at varying central locations on campus on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Eighteen different fitness breaks will be held in varying locations every single day of the program, starting at times ranging from 6am to 12am to accommodate first, second, and third shift! I will have the opportunity to lead a few of these fitness breaks each week, and I am so amazed by the hard work and dedication that went into planning this program to improve the health of so many staff members on campus.

Ten minutes a day may not seem like much, but it can make a big difference in the health of students, employees, and others when incorporated into a pre-existing daily routine. Subtracting sedentary time from each day can promote healthier habits, reduce health risks, increase productivity, and create happier and healthier students and employees!


  1. Risks of Physical Inactivity. Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library.http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/cardiovascular_diseases/risks_of_physical_inactivity_85,P00218/. Accessed February 5, 2015.
  2. Neighmond, Patti. Expert: 10-Minute Workouts Can Have Big Payoff. NPR Morning Edition.http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=101151713. Accessed February 5, 2015.