WORKOUT WEDNESDAY: Tips for a Healthy Hike

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

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Sedona, Arizona

Fresh air, breathtaking views, and space to explore – these are just a few of the tangible reasons to enjoy an outdoor hike. Engaging your mind and body with a short excursion could also yield health benefits extending beyond physical exercise. Research with nearly 2,000 participants in England found that walking outdoors in a group delivered a significant mood boost as well as lower perceived stress and depression, especially for those experiencing stress from a traumatic life event.

Before lacing up your boots and heading to the trail, take the time to pack and prepare the right way. We’ve compiled a few tips to make your next hike the healthiest to date.

Let’s start with your pack. If your filled backpack weighs more than a few pounds, it’s a good idea to select an ergonomic pack with waist strap capabilities, which will take the bulk of the weight off of your back and distribute it to your torso. When wearing the backpack, adjust the shoulder straps first so that the backpack fits comfortably on your shoulders, and then fasten the waist strap.

Now that your backpack is up to par, let’s examine the contents. Take everything out of your backpack and lay in on a table. Are you bringing any unnecessary items? Think twice before packing the second tube of toothpaste or the heavy binoculars. Ensure that you’ve packed a conservative first aid kit, and one or two plastic bags; these can really come in handy.

The most important part (and my favorite aspect) of hiking is food and hydration. Fill a stainless steel bottle (or two) full of water for the trek. Metal is preferred over plastic, as many plastic bottles can leach small amount of toxic BPA or other chemicals into your water, which means you’ll be drinking those chemicals.

As for snacks, aim for balanced portions. If you’re only hiking 1-3 miles, high protein and low carbohydrate food can be sufficient fuel. Three ideas:

  • Turkey sandwich with spinach and cheese, accompanied with a side of almonds
  • Tuna and high-fiber crackers, completed with an apple and peanut butter
  • Salmon and a whole grain tortilla, topped off with a banana and cheese

Once you’re hiking, remember to make smart choices. Take your trash to go, don’t litter. Watch your step, and adopt a wide stance when scaling steep trails. Finally, look up from the cell phone and enjoy the view! If you keep your eyes peeled, you’re sure to find some wildlife.

Ready to take a weekend hike? Check out UNC Campus Recreation’s outdoor expedition schedule here for events this summer.

Follow UNC Campus Recreation on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and be the FIRST to know what’s happening here at UNC Campus Rec!

WORKOUT WEDNESDAY: What Does the SPF Number on Your Sunscreen Actually Mean?

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

This week, we’ve seen three 80º F days in a row and one incredible thunderstorm early Thursday morning! You know what that means: North Carolina is racing through spring into our unpredictable, hot, and randomly stormy summer weather!

With the reemergence of plenty of beautiful sun, it’s time to start stocking up on sunscreen again! When you’re standing there in an aisle of literally over a hundred different types of sunscreen, it’s difficult to know what all of the different claims on all of the different bottles actually means! Here are a few tips on how to understand what different sunscreen lingo means so that you’ll have an easier time deciding!


“Sunburned” by Erin Stevenson O’Connor of Flickr Creative Commons

  • SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. Theoretically, this number is supposed to mean that the sunscreen will protect your from burning that many times longer than you can normally stay out in the sun without protection before you begin to burn. Example: If I can only stay outside for 10 minutes without burning, SPF 30 sunscreen is theoretically supposed to keep me from burning for 300 minutes. I say theoretically because this would happen under perfect conditions. In real life conditions, if you’re sweating, swimming, or just moving around a lot in a way that might cause any friction against your skin from clothes, you’re losing sunscreen protection and it might not last for the entire 300 minutes. A good rule of thumb is to reapply every 2 hours no matter what the SPF says! SPF is not a measure of how well the sunscreen will protect you, but rather how long the protection will last under ideal conditions.

Fun fact: SPF ratings were introduced in 1962. Apparently, they were determined in the lab by gathering up 20 people with sensitive skin, measuring the amount of UV rays it took for them to burn without sunscreen, and then repeating the test with them wearing sunscreen. If that was really the case, there is no way that this process continues today because it would be considered unethical since even a single sunburn is known to increase your risk of skin cancer over your lifetime.

  • “Broad spectrum” indicates that the sunscreen is protective against both UVA and UVB rays. UVB rays cause the visible red sunburns, so all sunscreens contain UVB protection. However, UVA rays can cause dangerous skin damage that can lead to cancer and wrinkles, so you’ll want a sunscreen that protects against both! If the bottle doesn’t specifically say “broad spectrum” or UVA/UVB protection, you can probably assume that it only contains UVB protection and they don’t want you to notice.
  • Even if they do not specifically mention UVA or broad-spectrum protection, look for zinc oxide and titanium dioxide on the “active ingredients” list. These also indicate protection against UVA rays! These ingredients are also included in many “sensitive skin” sunscreens, yet they still cause skin reactions in some people. However, they are approved for safe use and sometimes it just takes multiple brand attempts to find a sunscreen that works best with your skin.
  • Most lab tests of sunscreen use a much greater amount than the typical sunscreen-wearing beach-goer wears! You should be using about an entire ounce of sunscreen every time you reapply, which could be up to 4 or more ounces a day! Don’t skimp and buy a single 8 oz. bottle of sunscreen and then head to the beach for a week; sunscreen is cheaper than cancer treatment!
  • If you have a family history of skin cancer or you take medications containing retinol (a form of vitamin A often used in acne medications), you are at an increased risk for skin cancer and adverse effects to sun exposure, such as excessive burning even with sunscreen use. Talk to your prescribing doctor about safe sun exposure and try to take advantage of trees and umbrellas for shade! (And of course, be especially obsessive about your sunscreen use and reapplication).
  • Ladies: don’t want to mess up your makeup by applying sunscreen over it at the beach? You can (1) apply sunscreen to your face and let it dry before you put on makeup, (2) choose a foundation, liquid or powder, that contains at least a 15 SPF sunscreen because many brands make these now, (3) buy a tinted sunscreen that essentially works like makeup when you put it on! These would be found in the make-up aisle rather than the sunscreen aisle and are sold under various brand names.
  • While you’re in that sunscreen aisle, don’t forget that your lips count as skin, too! Buy a tube of lip balm with sunscreen (such as Carmex) to protect your lips to keep them from getting irritated, peeling and cracking, and encouraging the appearance of fever blisters if you already get them occasionally.
  • Finally, don’t forget that your scalp counts as skin, as well! For men with short hair or women with part lines in their hair, you’ll need to protect your scalp from burning with a sprayable liquid scalp sunscreen (called “scalp-screen”) or a hat!
  • So you’re not planning on going to the beach? What about biking, walking outside, or sitting on the quad? If you’re going to be outside for more than ten minutes, you need sunscreen!

My family and friends always shake their heads or chuckle at me when I’ve spent a lot of time outside one day and I look down at the end of the day and say “Oh no! I’m getting tan lines!” In the U.S. today, media has encouraged the notion that tanned, bronze skin is beautiful skin, and many people see their tan lines as a small victory that has fulfilled their purpose of a day at the beach. I, on the other hand, see tanned skin as damaged skin (and the CDC and majority of dermatologists seem to agree with me these days.) I’ll continue to slather my high SPF sunscreen onto my fair, freckled skin every couple of hours because I like my skin the way it is and I would rather be fair-skinned and skin-cancer-and-wrinkle-free than tan and worried about the consequences that might come from my sun exposure later in life.

1966 Ad, Solarcaine Spray,

You know what else stops sunburn pain? Not getting sunburned.

Also, it’s important to remember that even if you have dark skin and you don’t feel like you have to worry about tan lines or sunburn, the UVA/UVB rays still have the same damaging effects on your skin over time as they do on people with lighter skin! This means that you should be wearing sunscreen no matter what your skin looks like!

My favorite is Neutrogena Ultra Sheer® Dry-Touch Broad Spectrum sunscreen; it doesn’t smell like much and it dries on your skin and doesn’t leave you feeling so icky and greasy! I also like the Neutrogena Clear Face Liquid Lotion Sunscreen to prevent clogged pores and breakouts and the Neutrogena Pure & Free® Baby Faces Ultra Gentle Broad Spectrum sunscreen because typically any brand of baby sunscreen tends to have a higher SPF and is well-suited for sensitive skin that might react to other types of sunscreen. (I’m not advertising, but as you may have already assumed, I’ve tried many different types of sunscreen and I’ve stuck with the Neutrogena line for a couple of years now because it’s always worked great for me!)


“Sunscreen” by Joe Shlabotnik of Flickr Creative Commons

Disclaimer: Some sunscreens work great on some people’s skin and really irritate other people’s skin! What works for me might not work for you, so I suggest that you do what I did and buy small bottle of several different brands next time you go to the beach so that you can try them all out and decide which is your favorite! Once you decide, then you go to Sam’s, Costco, or Wal-Mart and stock up on that bulk sized discount! J


Jeffries, Melissa.  “What do SPF numbers mean?”  16 August 2007.  09 April, 2015.

Tachibana, Chris. “Probing Question: What does the SPF rating of sunscreen mean?” 1 June 2010. Penn State News. 09 April, 2015.

The Best Sun Protection Plan for Rain or Shine. 5 April 2011. One Life, Make it Count: Aging Well. 09 April 2015.

Sunscreen. Who needs it anyway?: Sun safety for people of color

(“Splash” by The Eye of Vox, Flickr, Creative Commons)
(“Splash” by The Eye of Vox, Flickr, Creative Commons)

The summer is finally upon us. The closer we get to the end of the summer, the hotter it feels outside. No longer is it in-between jacket weather; it is undeniably sunny summer weather. During this time of year, it is very common to hear phrases like, “Don’t forget your sunscreen.” But what does that sentence mean for a person of color? Growing up as a Black woman, this bit of sun advice was almost always met with skepticism and regarded as sometimes irrelevant due to my beliefs about sun safety and the Black community.

During this time of year it is also common to hear statements like “You’ll be okay” if you don’t remember your sunscreen, or there simply isn’t even a conversation about buying or using sunscreen. Statements like the former or lack thereof are partially due to the myths surrounding this topic, such as the myth that people of color don’t need to use sunscreen or that people of color don’t get sunburned. Actually, the amount of melanin or dark pigmentation in skin serves as an inherent protector against the sun’s rays. However, instead of turning red, darker skinned people tend to turn darker brown.

Below are some fast facts about sun safety and people of color:

                                                                 Risk of Skin Cancer

• African American skin has been found to have an inherent sun protective factor (SPF) of about 13.4 in comparison to 3.4 in white skin. This factor contributes to the fact that skin cancer is diagnosed less often in African Americans, as well as in Asians and Latinos, than in whites. However, when skin cancer is diagnosed in people of color it tends to be within the later stages of skin cancer, which makes mortality rates disproportionately higher.

• Melanoma is often found in places of the skin that are less often exposed and have less pigmentation. For African Americans, Asians, Filipinos, Indonesians, and native Hawaiians, 60-75 percent of tumors related to melanoma have been found on the palms, soles, mucous membranes and nail regions.

Risk factors in minorities for melanoma other than the sun include: burn scars, albinism, trauma, preexisting moles, radiation therapy and immunosuppression.

                                                             SPF Recommendations

• The FDA has suggested that brands that promise very high SPF levels such as 50+ have been found to be misleading and the high level of SPF is not necessary.

Vitamin A in sunscreen can lead to development of tumors when in the sun. Instead, look for sunscreens that contain zinc, titanium dioxide, avobenzone or Mexoryl S.

• Choosing an SPF level can be difficult. Darker skin does not require the highest level of SPF. Regardless of skin tone, an SPF of 15 at minimum is suggested, reapplying every 2 hours when in direct sun.

• Be sure to check out the 2015 Guide to Sunscreens for info about different sunscreen brands and sunscreen recommendations for people of color.

So before basking in the sun’s glory, be sure to grab your sunscreen — regardless of your skin tone!

WORKOUT WEDNESDAY: Top Summer Sports to Get Active & Feel Your Best

It’s no secret that exercise is key to a healthy lifestyle. But it’s time to look beyond the four corners of the gym – to the outdoor terrain. From courts and rinks, to paths and trails, it’s likely that numerous opportunities for fun activities are nestled within your local community. Allow your worries to fade away, and let the adventure begin. Read on for few of our favorite summer sports – and what you’ll need to get started!


Sport: Tennis
What You’ll Need: tennis shoes, tennis racket, tennis balls
Exercise Benefits: fully body- cardiovascular and muscular

Bring your game back to campus fall 2014


Sport: Mountain Biking
What You’ll Need: mountain bike, helmet,
Exercise Benefits: primarily quadriceps, hamstrings, calves

Bring your game back to campus fall 2014


Sport: Cross Country
What You’ll Need: a quality pair of running shoes
Exercise Benefits: cardiovascular, aids bone density

Bring your game back to campus fall 2014


Sport: Badminton
What You’ll Need: badminton racket, shuttles, badminton net
Exercise Benefits: fully body- cardiovascular and muscular

Bring your game back to campus fall 2014


Eat Well and Stay Active This Summer

In this last week of class, with finals looming, many students are feeling the stress of this time of the semester. I notice that as the assignments and deadlines approach, I find myself exercising less and eating whatever I find in front of me that is quick to prepare (or does not require any preparation at all, cue the bag of marshmallows). I start to feel pretty tired and stressed, and I don’t always have time to pay close attention to my exercise and eating patterns. Food and physical activity goals melt away and then just seem like memories of things I once cared about.

But hold on, all is not lost! We have one big opportunity coming up to spend a little more time on ourselves: summer. (more…)


Only two things that money can’t buy
That’s true love and home grown tomatoes
–Guy Clark

We all know we’re supposed to eat more fruits & vegetables.

“Make half your plate fruits and vegetables,” they tell us. That just got so much easier! Why, you ask? Because it’s summer in North Carolina! Do you know how lucky you are to be right here, right now? You’re probably cranking up your AC and slapping mosquitoes and looking at me funny, but I’ll contend we have it good because we live in a community with so many amazing farmers and farmer’s markets. What do I love best? Their tomatoes!

Find a farmer’s market near you!

Don’t Put Tomatoes in the Fridge

This discovery changed my life. Have you ever eaten a tomato that’s never been refrigerated? Try it and tell me if it’s not markedly better than what you’re used to. I was delighted to discover that Elizabeth Baldwin, a researcher at the USDA who investigates “flavor quality of citrus, tomatoes, and tropical/subtropical products” has found EVIDENCE that refrigeration diminishes tomato flavor.

If you don’t have access to home-grown tomatoes, the next best thing is your local farmer’s market for never-refrigerated tomatoes. If you’ve only ever eaten tomatoes still chilled from the grocery store, you might be shocked by how much better they can be with appropriate handling.

I recommend you buy tomatoes as you go. Buy what you can eat in the next couple days, because in this weather they aren’t going to last that long at room temperature. Keep them out of direct sunlight; if they’re pretty ripe, farmers have advised me to keep them in an open paper bag in a dark pantry. Closing the paper bag will trap the ethylene and further speed their ripening. If you keep them in a darker place, just don’t forget about them. However you keep them, lay them flat in a single row because they are sensitive to bruising. If you discover that tomato has a break in the skin, I’d recommend eating it immediately.

If you buy too many, here is a simple solution: eat them. Have people over to eat them with you. If you cut a tomato and don’t use all of it, eat it. If you refrigerate it, it’ll get mealy and bland. If you wrap it up and leave it at room temperature, it’s probably going to mold & attract fruit flies. Just sprinkle a little S&P on it & eat it! Easy as pie!

Where to start

If you’re new to the wild world of heirloom tomatoes, it can be daunting. There are so many different kinds! Talk to your farmers — the people who grow your food often have great advice about what to try first. Personally, my absolute favorite tomatoes are sungolds and Cherokee Purples. Rinse off the sungolds and eat them like candy. Cherokee Purples make sublime tomato sandwiches. But matters of taste are very individual! I did an informal survey of my friends, asking, “What are your favorite tomatoes?”

“Green Zebras are my fave. Firstly they are striped, and that’s sexy, but also they are sweet and tangy at the same time – I eat em like apples!” — Erin

“I don’t like the goop inside of the tomato, so I tend to like smaller tomatoes. Because they have less goop.” – Diana

“Heirlooms are trendy and all, but I love beautiful, fresh grape tomatoes in a great panzanella salad. I love the question, by the way. Tomatoes are our friends.” — Leslie

“Cherry! Tart, tiny, tasty!” — Cameron

“Fresh off the vine, don’t matter the kind” – Alysse

“Whatever is still warm from the sun” — Joanna

Go exploring! Maybe try one new tomato every week. Ask the farmers what they like best! Try them with balsamic & basil or feta & cucumber. Be adventurous or be classic.

At the end of the day, remember that Latin maxim — “De gustibus non est disputandum” – “No disputing matters of taste.” You like what you like! You might like tomatoes more if you try them ripe & fresh & in season.

(Probably) Not Your Parents’ Summer Book List

It’s summer! Classes are out, the beach is calling your name, and your favorite coffee shop has recovered from finals and has some couches available for your leisurely enjoyment. Summer is the perfect time to crack open a book for pleasure instead of assignment or requirement.


I’ve collected a list of some of my favorite books about healthy relationships, GLBTIQ experiences, and general sex-positive vibes. Check them out for some positive, educational, and enjoyable summer reading!

Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape
Eds. Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti
Yes Means Yes aims to end sexual assault by beginning with changing society’s view of women as sexual conquests and instead viewing them as sexual collaborators in the framework of enthusiastic consent. The book provides commentary on media, pornography, and sex education as it encourages both men and women to enjoy sex and sexuality instead of being ashamed about it.
There is a Yes Means Yes blog that you can check out. Both of the authors have Twitter accounts linked on their names above that you can follow as well!

The Guide to Getting it On, Sixth Edition
Author: Paul Joannides
This sex guide has been translated into 12 languages and won 5 awards. Its 928 pages have tips and reliable but down to earth info on everything you can think of, from uncircumcised penises to sex play to myths about menstruation. It is GLBTIQ friendly and very non-judgmental about people’s bodies and their sexual behavior. There are fun illustrations and you don’t have to read it from cover to cover, it’s the perfect book to pull out and flip to a random page to start learning!
The Guide also has a website where there are exerpts on specific topics from the book, as well as links to the book’s facebook page and youtube channel.

Healing Sex: A Mind-Body Approach to Healing Sexual Trauma
Author: Staci Haines
Haines, an educator in the areas of sex education and somatic healing, put together this sex-positive guide for survivors of sexual assault to support them in saying “yes” to wanted sexual experiences. The author is very direct in her writing, so it’s a good idea to be in a good space when you sit down to read this as it could be triggering. The focus of the book is that not only can sex can be good, positive, and feel safe after you’ve survived a sexual assault, but that having such positive sexual experiences can be an integral part of a survivor’s healing process.

These last two are all super interesting reads and could offer great support to anyone who is questioning their gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation, or who is super sure they’re queer and proud of it!

Genderqueer: Voices from Beyond the Sexual Binary
Eds. Clare Howell, Joan Nestle, and Riki Wilchins
This is a collection of 31 true personal stories of gender construction, exploration, and questioning from folks who don’t fit the traditional male/female binary.

Getting Bi: Voices of Bisexuals Around the World, Second Edition
Authors and Eds: Robyn Ochs and Sarah Rowley
Robyn Ochs, one of the authors and editors of Getting Bi, is a bisexual activist who travels to colleges and universities around the country hosting workshops and lectures on breaking beyond or out of the gender binary.
You can “like” Robyn on Facebook or follow her on Twitter if you dig her book!

You can check your local public library or search the UNC library system catalog online here for these books, or see if they’re available on your  kindle, nook, or other fancy electronic reading device!

Skipping Your Period for Summer Time Fun

It’s summer time! That means vacations, swimming and perhaps, periods coming at inconvenient times. Have no fear! It is possible to skip or reschedule periods!

Before we get started, if this is something you are interested in, I encourage you to talk to your clinician or healthcare provider before you skip your period. Your health care provider is most familiar with you and the medications you are taking.

That being said, there are things everyone should know about the process of scheduling/skipping your period.  If you are already on the birth control pill and been taking it for a few cycles, then you should be able to skip your period.  Also note, this blog post is focused solely on using combined oral contraceptives, which is a type of birth control pill, to reschedule periods. This type of pill uses a combination of hormones (estrogen and progestin) in order to prevent pregnancy.

Many packages of birth control pills contain 21 hormone pills (also known as active pills) followed by 7 pills, which contain no hormones (also known as placebo or spacer pills). This means a person taking birth control pills usually takes 21 days of hormone pills followed by 7 days of no hormone pills. The period usually happens during the 7 days of no hormone pills. Many of the newer pill formulations have more active pills and fewer no hormone pills, for example 24 active pills and 4 placebos. Continue reading

Tips For Having A Summer Roommate

Summer is here! No matter what your plans are hopefully you already have housing arranged.  If you are staying in Chapel Hill trying to figure out what’s next or starting an internship or job in another city, your housing situation might  involve a  roommate.  This roommate could be a person you barely know or have never met face-to-face.

Living with a stranger can be convenient and a great way to develop a new circle of friends.  However, a summer roommate can be very different from living with someone for an extended period of time.  Because the situation is supposed to be temporary, either or both parties may not feel the need to get to know each other and therefore may not vocalize their expectations very well.  Most of the time this can be ok because summer schedules are busy and you may not even see each other that much. However, because summer schedules can be lax and sporadic  things can go wrong or get annoying.   If this happens, a lack of communication from the beginning and an unclear understanding of how the other person handles conflict can make life stressful.

So, here are some tips for living with a summer roommate you don’t know very well or at all:

Before you move in

  1. Know who else has a key.  (Stay updated on this as the summer progresses.)
  2. Understand how the security deposit works. If there is damage to the property will both or all roommates lose their security deposits or just one person?  Will the check be held or cashed?
  3. Take pictures of everything to document the move-in conditions.
  4. Contact the property owner directly and make sure they know you are there.
  5. Get a copy of the original lease.
  6. Make a copy of everything you sign.
  7. Understand how parking works.
  8. Know how you and the roommate(s) will split the cost of utilities.

Within a few days of moving in make an effort to get to know the other person, maybe invite them to dinner.  This will make it easier to discuss the following up front:

  1. Rules about any and all types of guests  (Weekends, after 5pm, overnight, long-term)
  2. How the bathroom will be shared
  3. Noise
  4. When front and back doors will be locked
  5. How often and who will clean and take out the trash on trash day
  6. Parties and what will be served at the parties. If you are uncomfortable with what is being planned speak up and offer an alternative that you are comfortable with.
  7. What you are willing to share (e.g., cleaning supplies, food, and space)
  8. Expectations regarding cleaning before ALL/BOTH of you move out

Do you have suggestions for living with someone you  do not know very well during the summer?  Leave a comment below, Tweet us @UNCCampusHealth, or share your thoughts on our Facebook wall!

Have a great summer everyone!

No More Pencils, No more Books…

… No more teacher’s dirty looks.

Remember the amazing energy and promise of the last day of the school back in Elementary School? Clamoring onto the bus, singing “no more teachers,” maybe throwing paper airplanes out the window (not that I ever did that or anything) and thinking about all the amazing things you’d do over the summer without all that darn homework to do? Well I’m not going to lie, I kind of feel like doing that now.

With classes wrapping up and the weather warming up, I’m starting to think about all the possibility and promise that summer offers. Despite the fact that summer break in college comes with some strings attached—summer jobs, internships and perhaps summer classes—for me it’s always entailed a sense of adventure, relaxation and promise. I’ll be working pretty hard this summer, however; I’ve already begun to plan some little adventure here and there that I never had time for during the school year. For example… laying by my pool (with sunscreen on of course), learning to grill a really great steak, finally going to Asheville and, hey, maybe I’ll make a few paper airplanes just for the heck of it.

So, on behalf of all of us here at Counseling and Wellness we’d like to congratulate you all on a year successfully completed here at Carolina, whether it’s your first or your last (woo class of 2012!). Enjoy your summer, have an adventure, or don’t, whatever you fancy. But, the bottom line is, take some time relax and enjoy—it’s your summer and you deserve it!

Here at Counseling and Wellness we’ll also be relaxing a bit, but we’ll still be blogging! Make sure to stay tune in for new blogs on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Have a suggestion for a topic you’d like to see? Submit it anonymously, using the anonymous submission box on the right hand side of the screen.