Friday, February 20, 2009

Staying Heart-Healthy

By Courtney Westlake

February is National Heart Month, and the perfect time to start living a heart-healthy lifestyle.

Heart disease is the number one cause of death among men and women in the United States. However, there are things you can do to significantly lower the chance of getting heart disease.

"A sedentary lifestyle is one of the number one reasons for heart disease," said Amanda Jillson, assistant director of fitness and instructional programs at TRAC. "So we want to be active and make conscience choices about what we are putting in our body."

There are many activities that are heart healthy, Jillson said. These include strength training, which is using weights or resistance to build muscle tone, and cardiovascular exercise, which include exercises like jogging, running, walking, using the step mill at the gym or a bicycle.

"Also stretching is very beneficial," Jillson said. "Flexibility exercises such as yoga, Pilates and just basic stretches will help strengthen your heart muscles and keep you healthy."

The benefits of staying heart-healthy and exercising for your heart health are endless.

"You can lower your blood pressure, strengthen the muscles in your body as well as the muscles around your heart, and reduce stress and tension and depression levels," Jillson said. "These activities also decrease your body fat percentages."

"Cardiovascular exercises increase your cardiovascular capacity," Jillson added, "which is the amount of oxygen that you can consume and process during exercise. It's a very good test to see how fit you are. So the more oxygen you can consume, the healthier your heart is."

Monday, February 16, 2009

Take a bite out of chocolate!

By Courtney Westlake

With Valentine's Day weekend just recently behind us, you're probably still enjoying some of that chocolate that was a sweet gift to you. Chocolate is one of the world's most favorite foods, and it's not necessarily as unhealthy as commonly thought.

"Chocolate can have many heart-healthy benefits," said Amanda Jillson, assistant director of fitness and instructional programs at TRAC. "But it also depends on what kind of chocolate because of the cocoa."

Chocolate is made from cocoa plants and contains flavonoids, which act as antioxidants.

"Flavonoids are naturally-occurring compounds that are found in plant-based foods, where their role is to protect the plant from environmental toxins," Jillson said. "In turn, if we eat chocolate that is rich in cocoa, like dark chocolate, then we are increasing our flavonoids and protecting our body from toxins. These antioxidants help prepare our damaged cells against the free radicals that our bodies come in contact with."

Dark chocolate actually contains a large number of antioxidants, nearly eight times the number found in strawberries. Additionally, the fat in chocolate also isn't as bad as what was once perceived, Jillson said.

"The fat in chocolate is from cocoa butter. It contains monosaturated fat, which is found in olive oil and is heart-healthy, and the saturated fat, which is what we want to consume in moderation," she said.

But all of this doesn't mean we shouldn't limit ourselves when it comes to indulging in the rich treats.

"Anytime you throw in that chewy, carmel, marshmellow-y, nut-covered chocolate, it isn't going to be a heart-healthy choice," Jillson pointed out. "So you want to make sure you stick with a solid piece of chocolate rather than something that is filled. Even if you prefer milk chocolates, try four Hershey's kisses for a serving, but preferably, you want to choose dark chocolates."

Jillson encouraged chocolate-lovers to simply savor each piece of indulgence and enjoy each bite of chocolatey goodness on occasion.

"As always, everything is OK in moderation," she said. "So you no longer have to feel guilty about enjoying a small piece of dark chocolate once in a while."


Monday, February 9, 2009

TRAC offers convenience and amenities to members

By Courtney Westlake

There are a variety of great reasons to take advantage of the state-of-the-art recreation and fitness facility located right on UIS' campus.

Some of these include:
-Cost/benefit factors
-The opportunity to take ownership of your wellness

There are three different ways you can utilize TRAC for your health and fitness goals, said Matt Panich, assistant director of facility and membership services at TRAC.

"You can purchase a membership for the rest of the semester, and for faculty and staff, that goes all the way until August 15," he said. "This way, you can use TRAC at your convenience whenever it's open."

TRAC also offers a multi-use pass, which allows the holder 12 passes to TRAC for the price of ten.

"It's very easy to use and convenient because you only need to sign the waiver one time with the purchase of the pass," Panich said.

Or, if you want to simply pay as you go, you can purchase a single-use pass, which can be done any day of the week. A single-use pass costs $5, and you can pay at the front desk with your university I-card.

TRAC is the least expensive fitness facility within a three mile radius that offers all of the amenities that TRAC does, including exercise equipment, a gym, a multi-purpose room for fitness class and a running track. Additionally, the fitness classes offered at TRAC for its members are at no cost.

"TRAC is just minutes away from everything on campus, which makes it convenient to stop in and work out when it fits in with your schedule," Panich said.


Monday, February 2, 2009

A New Year to Stay on TRAC

By Courtney Westlake

It's a new year, and with a little goal-setting, that can mean a new you!

"If you are like most of us, you've probably set some new year's resolutions, and some of them may revolve around health and fitness goals," said Amanda Jillson, assistant director of fitness and instructional programs at the TRAC. "If you haven't, it's never too late to sit down and start thinking about what kinds of changes you want to make in the new year."

If you're not sure what direction you personally need to take or what exactly you need to do to accomplish your health and fitness goals, the TRAC offers goal setting consultations.

"Goal setting is nice because we can sit down and talk one-on-one about what direction you want to take your health and fitness goals," Jillson said. "Consultations are available by appointment or you can email your questions to me. A lot of times, people just really aren't sure how to get started. So here at TRAC, we're able to offer opportunities to get you started on a great program."

Be sure to stay tuned for future Staying on TRAC segments. And if there is something you are interested in learning more about or seeing a segment on, please let us know. We are going to cover a variety of new topics this year that are relevant to helping you Stay on TRAC!