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Students have options to prevent winter weight gain

December 6, 2007

Holiday comfort foods and icy streets leave some tempted to eat more and exercise less, but there are ways UW-River Falls students can avoid winter weight gain.

Sophomore Kim Capes said that winter weather makes her cut back on her outside exercise routine.

“I don’t like running out in the cold,” Capes said.

Cold conditions also make it hard for Capes to eat right.

“I eat more because I’m stuck inside,” Capes said. “There’s nothing else to do, and I’m bored.”

Students should actively seek out healthy food options, Alice Reilly-Myklebust, director of Student Health Services, said.

“Eat breakfast,” Reilly-Myklebust said. “It’s a very important meal.”

Consistently eating meals composed of healthy foods, such as whole grains, fruit, vegetables and lean proteins, helps keep students full so they can better resist high-calorie treats, Reilly-Myklebust said.

Food choices also affect a student’s ability to follow through with an exercise program.

“You know, you need good fuel to be able to be active and exercise,” UWRF Health Education Coordinator Keven Syverson said.

Syverson recommends year-round exercise as a means of maintaining a healthy weight.

“Obviously, when you’re active, your metabolism is going to be raised,” Syverson said.

A higher metabolism means more calories are burned, even when a person is resting.

If possible, students should get some of their exercise outside, Lori Otto, student health nurse, said.

Spending some time in the sun alleviates depression caused by a lack of sunlight and helps combat emotion-driven eating.

Anyone who plans to exercise outside during winter should exercise outside throughout the fall to get used to colder temperatures, Syverson said.

“It does not mean you’re immune to the cold or anything,” Syverson said.

Everybody is vulnerable to frostbite if they spend too much time outside in below-zero temperatures.

Syverson recommends that people who exercise outside wear clothes made of a fabric, such as polar fleece, that draws sweat away from the body; cotton collects moisture, which chills a person in cold conditions. A light wind and water-resistant coat over the moisture-wicking top helps protect the body from the elements.

Winter walkers and runners should also watch the trails for icy stretches and slow down and adjust their footing so they don’t fall when they pass through these areas, Syverson said.

Fewer hours of daylight makes it more likely that students will work out in the dark. Students need to pay close attention to their surroundings and should exercise in groups if possible if they plan to exercise when it’s dark, Syverson said.

UWRF offers many indoor recreational activities for students who are concerned about winter safety issues or don’t like to exercise in the cold.

Jolene Kohlwey walks and jogs with a group of friends most nights during the summer. Kohlwey moves her routine inside, though, during the winter because she doesn’t like exercising in cold temperatures, she said.

The Body Shop Fitness Center on campus is one place she turns to get exercise during the winter.

Students interested in working out at the Body Shop must pay $35 per semester or $60 per year. Once members, students have access to a variety of equipment in a warm environment.

“We have cardio equipment, Nautilus equipment for safe and effective strength training, medicine and stability balls, elastic bands, and a selection of small free weights,” Body Shop Manager Amanda Peters said in an email interview.

Because of the absence of staff members and a decline in demand, the Body Shop will be closed over J-term.

Runners and walkers who want to move their routine inside can use the indoor track at the Knowles Recreation Center. To access the track and other facilities, students need to pay $75 per year or $45 per semester to become a member, according to the UWRF Web page about the center. Otherwise, anyone can pay $3.50 to use the facilities at Knowles for the day.

Two student personal trainers at the Strength and Conditioning Center in the Emogene Nelson wing of May Hall help members plan their ideal workout and make sure lifts are carried out with proper form, Carmen Pata, head strength coach at the Strength and Conditioning Center, said.  The Strength and Conditioning Center will be open over J-term, but there will be no personal trainers available for the month.

There are ways for students to stay motivated to exercise that don’t require a membership.

“I think a huge thing is finding somebody to exercise with,” UWRF senior Stacy Dekkers, an intern at Student Health Services, said.

Dekkers said she finds it harder to skip a work out when she knows her friends are waiting for her.

Choosing an activity they enjoy can also help students find the drive to exercise, Dekkers said. No matter the plan students choose, being flexible and realistic about a routine can help them stick with it.

“If you slip once, you fall off, it’s not the end of the world,” Dekkers said. “The next day, just get back into it.”

In February, students and faculty will have another way to motivate themselves to be healthy when the Wellness Challenge returns. This month-long program put on by Student Health Services draws people on campus into a competition to see who can follow through with the most healthy activities and lifestyle changes.