IU study finds activity trackers can work when paired with wellness coaching

With the holiday shopping season upon us and a new year just around the corner, many people will begin looking for ways to move more and eat less. Some of those people will turn to activity trackers to help them achieve their goals.

carol kennedy-armbruster

Carol Kennedy-Armbruster. Photo provided by the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington.

While critics have debated the effectiveness of activity trackers, a recent study by faculty in the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington found activity trackers can work, if paired with wellness coaching. The study was published in the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health and Fitness Journal.

“There is a lot of information out there about people not using activity trackers, but we think that is because the people using them need support,” said Carol Kennedy-Armbruster, senior lecturer in the Department of Kinesiology at the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington and co-author of the study. “We found that a combination of giving someone the device and then pairing them with someone who can help them learn how to use it actually works.”

The study, co-authored by Brian Kiessling, associate instructor and Ph.D. student within the Recreation, Parks and Tourism Department at the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington, focused on how people regard activity trackers, how the trackers affect behavior, and how they can be effectively integrated into programs that help people increase movement in their lives.

Kennedy-Armbruster and Kiessling used two years’ worth of data collected from IU’s Ready to Move program, which pairs students with IU employees. The student/employee teams meet a minimum of eight times during a 10-week period for coaching sessions, and participants are given a Fitbit to help track their movement.

Over the two-year span, 173 IU employees participated — 152 women and 21 men. Coaches focused, in part, on how activity trackers affected participants’ behaviors in combination with student coaching.

Throughout each 10-week period, the student coaches helped participants establish a baseline number for the amount of steps they would like to achieve in a day. Participants then tracked their movement using a Fitbit, gradually increasing their goals and therefore their movement throughout the day.

brian kiessling

Brian Kiessling. Photo provided by Brian Kiessling.

According to a pre-program survey, 83 percent of participants had used a tracking device before, most using a pedometer. In that survey, participants said they believed an activity tracker could help serve as a motivator and reminder to move.

At the end of the 10 weeks, participants said the activity trackers did serve as a reminder and motivator and were easy to use. Ninety-three percent of participants also agreed that working with a student coach helped them develop effective health and fitness goals, and 90 percent agreed that a combination of that coaching and a fitness tracker helped them sustain their health goals after coaching ended.

By combining coaching with the device, Kiessling said many employees were able to view movement outside the traditional idea of exercise involving a gym, strenuous cardio and weight lifting. The trackers allowed them to visibly see how everyday movement counts, which resulted in employees finding creative ways to take additional movement breaks throughout the day.

“We relieved a lot of stress for people,” Kiessling said. “Participants would say ‘I drive by that fitness center every day and I feel bad.’ But this program helped them realize they can do this on their own during the day. It opened up a whole new way of thinking about movement. The activity tracker, in combination with the support from their coaches, really made that possible.”

IU experts provide tips for staying on track this holiday season

The last of the leaves are falling, the Halloween candy is gone, and most Americans are turning their attention toward the holiday season.

Steven Lalevich

Steven Lalevich, registered dietitian with Healthy IU

While this time of year should be about family gatherings, delicious meals and good cheer, it can create anxiety for those trying to keep their diet and exercise routine on track. According to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, adults gain 1 to 2 pounds over the holidays, on average. While that amount is small, they typically don’t lose it. So those few pounds can add up over time.

But the holiday season doesn’t have to be a time of shame spirals. Giving a little extra thought to your eating habits and carving out a little time for movement can make the holidays manageable and enjoyable.

“The holidays can be a time of anxiety for some people, due to the frequent temptation and exposure of not-so-healthy foods,” said Steven Lalevich, Healthy IU dietitian at the IU Health Center. “But with a little planning, the holiday season doesn’t have to derail all the hard work you’ve done over the year.”

Read a few tips from Lalevich, along with Mariah Deinhart and Mary Kerby, IU masters of public health students at the School of Public Health-Bloomington, for staying on track over the next few months.

  • Have goals. Write down your health and nutrition goals before a holiday meal. This can help you muster the necessary willpower to make choices that align with those goals.
  • Modify your recipes. Many holiday dishes are high in calories and fat. Reduce sugar in dessert recipes by 25 to 50 percent and replace half of white flour with whole wheat flour. For ideas, read the healthy holiday recipe booklet created by Lalevich.
  • Control portions. It wouldn’t be the holidays without a piece of pie or cake. But watch how big your dessert portions are. Use a smaller utensil to serve desserts and a larger utensil to serve low-calorie vegetable dishes.
  • Practice mindful eating. Slow down and pay attention to the experience of eating. Savoring each bite can reduce the amount of food it takes to feel satisfied.
  • Get moving. Gather the family together for a walk each day, organize a family game of football or other active game, or turn up the holiday music and dance along.
  • Turn a shopping trip into a workout. The holidays can involve a lot of shopping. When visiting a shopping center, park a little farther away to take more steps, take an extra lap around the mall when shopping or take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Keep the momentum going. Holiday eating habits and exercise routines are often a reflection of your habits year-round. Developing healthy habits all year makes it easier to manage during the holidays or to return to those habits after the holidays.

Indiana Prevention Resource Center efforts helped screen 78,000 Hoosiers for risks associated with alcohol and substance use

Five years ago, the Indiana Prevention Resource Center and the Indiana State Division of Mental Health and Addiction received an $8.3 million grant to integrate screening, brief intervention and referral to treatment — an evidence-based practice used to identify, reduce and prevent problematic alcohol and drug use — into primary health care centers across the state.

ruth gassman

Ruth Gassman

Because of that grant, the center, working with 22 Federally Qualified Health Centers, Rural Health Centers and Community Health Centers, was able to conduct 118,886 pre-screenings, representing 78,364 unique patients who were screened for alcohol and substance use at their primary care appointments.

“The project has been extraordinary for the number of lives that have been favorably impacted by incorporating screening, brief intervention, and when necessary, referral services for alcohol and other drug use into primary care clinics,” said Ruth Gassman, executive director of Indiana Prevention Resource Center. “These relatively simple and low cost practices have been seamlessly embedded within health care visits. These services have resulted in thousands of referrals to treatment, but even more frequently to helping patients nip small problems in the bud.”

Over the summer, the center also took part in a statewide campaign for behavioral health and medical professional and health care organizations called “Summer of SBIRT,” in an effort to raise awareness about the trainings. Resources related to SBIRT — an acronym for screening, brief intervention and referral to treatment — were distributed to professionals.

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Flu shot clinics available on IU Bloomington campus

Fall is here, a time when people begin thinking about cooler weather, fall leaves, pumpkin spiced everything and the annual flu shot.

Flu shot clinics on the IU Bloomington campus begin Sept. 28 and are available to students, faculty and staff.

flu shot

Flu shot clinics on the IU Bloomington campus begin Sept. 28.

“The most important thing to know about the flu shot is to get one,” said Nancy Macklin, director of nursing at the IU Health Center. “Flu viruses are constantly changing, so it is important to get a flu shot every year. Everyone over 6 months old should get a flu shot unless they have had a life-threatening allergic reaction to a flu shot or one of its components.”

Flu shots are available at on-campus flu clinics and at the IU Health Center. The Health Center Flu Shot Clinic takes place from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Oct. 11 to 14. Shots will be given in the first-floor lobby, and free parking is available. You may schedule your appointment online or by phone at 812-855-7688, option 1. Walk ins also are welcome.

The IU Bloomington Flu Shot clinic schedule:

  • 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sept. 28, Service Building, (Range Road) Davis Conference Room.
  • 9 to 11 a.m. Oct. 4, Maurer School of Law, ground-floor student lounge, Room 001.
  • 9 to 11 a.m. Oct. 5, School of Education Atrium.
  • 2 to 4 p.m. Oct. 5, Poplars Room 185.
  • 9 to 11 a.m. Oct. 18, the Cyberinfrastructure lobby (10th and the Bypass).
  • 9 to 11 a.m. Oct. 25 and 26, Business/SPEA lobby, North Entrance.
  • 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 27 27, School of Optometry, Room 108.
  • 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 10, the IU Health Fair at the Indiana Memorial Union, Alumni Hall Solarium.

More information about IU Bloomington’s flu shot clinics, including cost, is available online.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only injectable flu shots are recommended this season, and flu vaccines have been updated to better match circulating viruses. This year, the IU Health Center will be providing quadrivalent flu vaccine, which protects against two influenza A viruses and two influenza B viruses.

Influenza is highly contagious, said Diana Ebling, medical director of the IU Health Center. It can spread rapidly in close living arrangements, social gatherings and classrooms, all of which are common situations at IU.

In addition to receiving the vaccine, Ebling recommends everyone wash their hands frequently, avoid those who are sick and try to maintain a healthy lifestyle by eating right, getting enough sleep, exercising and reducing stress. If you do become sick, stay home to avoid spreading it to others.

Community invited to take part in School of Public Health’s Campus and Community Celebration

school of public health-bloomington

The IU School of Public Health-Bloomington

The Indiana University and Bloomington communities are invited to celebrate health and wellness during the upcoming Campus and Community Celebration.

Hosted by the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington, the celebration will take place Sept. 23 and will feature the annual Ruth Clifford Engs Lecture, delivered this year by retired Lt. General Mark Hertling, and an ice cream social.

“We’re honored to have Lt. General Hertling joining us as part of the school’s Dean’s Public Health Lecture Series, and look forward to celebrating IU School of Public Health Day with our IU and Bloomington community,” says Mohammad Torabi, founding dean and chancellor’s professor at the School of Public Health-Bloomington.

The lecture, titled “Growing Public Health Leaders: Lessons from the Battlefield to the Boardroom,” takes place from 1 to 2:30 p.m. in the School of Public Health’s Mobley Auditorium. Hertling, a School of Public Health-Bloomington alumnus, served almost four decades in the U.S. Army. He was commanding general of U.S. Army Europe and was appointed in 2013 by President Barack Obama as one of 25 members of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition.

During the lecture, Hertling will discuss what it means to become a public health leader and will share his tools for improving personal, professional and organizational health.

Following the lecture, an ice cream social will take place from 2:30 to 5 p.m. on the lawn near the tennis courts by the School of Public Health building. City of Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton will read a proclamation declaring the day IU School of Public Health Day.

The School of Public Health-Bloomington has nearly 3,000 undergraduate and graduate students and more than 140 faculty members in five departments. In 2015, the school received full accreditation from the Council on Education for Public Health.

In the past four years, under Torabi’s leadership, the school transitioned from the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation to the School of Public Health; created the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics; expanded its master’s degree programs; added bachelor’s degrees in environmental health and epidemiology; and launched a living-learning center in Briscoe Residence Center.

The school also has more than 2,400 community members participating in school partnerships, offers monthly webinars on a variety of public health topics, and has more than 1,500 people taking courses through its free, online workforce developmental portal “Public Health & You.”

“As a school of public health, we’re dedicated to improving the health and wellness of communities locally, in Indiana, and across the globe,” says Torabi “Each fall, we like to take a moment with our campus and community friends to stop and celebrate all that the faculty and staff at the school do to better public health today and into the future.”

IU experts offer tips for better sleep in anticipation of this year’s Sleep Walk

Sleep. We all need it, we all want it, and most of us don’t get enough of it.

But how much sleep do you actually get? Some people might be surprised.

Photo of someone sleeping

Sleep is critical for learning, managing stress, regulating mood and promoting a healthy immune system.

“People often complain of being tired but do not pause to examine their sleep habits,” said Shalini Manchanda, program director of the IU School of Medicine’s Fellowship in Sleep Medicine Program. “When asked about their sleep schedule, they are often surprised by how little sleep they actually get. Just trying to get 30 minutes extra of sleep on either end of their current sleep routine can make a big difference.”

Sleep plays an important role in a person’s overall health. Sleep is critical for learning, problem-solving, managing stress, regulating mood and promoting a healthy immune system. Sleep also plays a part in preventing chronic conditions such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Although experts differ on the exact amount needed, adults typically should get seven to nine hours a night, according to the National Sleep Foundation. That number increases to 8.5 to 9.5 hours for teens and continues to increase the younger the child.

On Sept. 27, Healthy IU, the university’s workplace wellness program, is hosting the first Sleep Walk on all campuses to raise awareness about sleep health. The walks will take place at noon. Registration is available online, along with campus routes.

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IU Counseling and Psychological Services expanding services to cultural centers and SPEA

After partnering last year with the IU Jacobs School of Music, The Indiana University Health Center’s Counseling and Psychological Services is again expanding its services with new counselors in campus cultural centers, the Office of International Services and the School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

Let's Talk

Let’s Talk provides counseling services to students in four cultural centers and the Office of International Services.

Starting this week, the center is offering a two-part program — Let’s Talk Now and Let’s Keep Talking – which will offer both informal and formal counseling services to students at the Asian Culture Center, First Nations Educational and Cultural Center, La Casa, Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center and the Office of International Services.

IU’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Student Support Services Office will continue similar service it has been providing through the School of Education.

Let’s Talk Now will serve as a pre-counseling service, providing a free, confidential and informal opportunity to students who want to speak with a consultant about any concerns or issues they are having and to connect with campus resources.

Students in need of a more formal conversation can take part in Let’s Keep Talking, which will provide professional counselors who can address more complex issues. Both take place within the cultural centers and the Office of International Services.

“Let’s Talk lowers barriers to counseling, especially for multicultural students who might be hesitant to seek it elsewhere,” said Nancy Stockton, director of Counseling and Psychological Services. “This two-part program gives students an alternative to going to the Health Center itself, directing them to more convenient locations to chat informally — and possibly formally — about problems the students experience.”

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The Center for Sexual Health Promotion celebrating 10th anniversary with a visit from Dr. Ruth

Indiana University’s Center for Sexual Health Promotion is celebrating its 10th anniversary with special guest Dr. Ruth.

dr. ruth

Dr. Ruth

Ruth Westheimer, better known as “Dr. Ruth,” will visit the Buskirk-Chumley Theater Sept. 14 to discuss a life spent in sex education as part of the Bloomington Sex Salon, a monthly community-based speaker series on the topic of sex research, education and advocacy.

The lecture will celebrate the 10th anniversary of The Center for Sexual Health Promotion, based in the Department of Applied Health Science in the School of Public Health-Bloomington. The center is a collaborative of sexual health scholars from across the university and partner academic institutions who work toward advancing the field of sexual health through research, education and training initiatives.

“Dr. Ruth, for many people, has been an important figure in how the world views talking comfortably about sexual education,” said Debby Herbenick, host of the Bloomington Sex Salon and director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion. “She’s dedicated half her life to talking about sex and educating people about it. We are excited about the opportunity to have her here and to celebrate the anniversary of the center.”

The center was founded by Herbenick and Michael Reece, a professor in the Department of Applied Health Science in the School of Public Health-Bloomington, as a way to bridge the focus between sex research and public health research, and to shift the focus of public health research from focusing solely on the potential negative effects of sexual behavior, such as HIV or unintended pregnancy, to being more inclusive of the role sexuality plays in the human experience and the positive contributions sexuality makes to quality of life.

“We never believed you should be studying outcomes of sexual behavior without trying to understand the sexual experience more holistically,” Reece said. “We wanted to try to change the landscape of work in our field by focusing on these more comprehensive understandings of sexual behavior, not just its negative outcomes.”

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Actress Glenn Close visits IU to help unveil the new U Bring Change 2 Mind bus campaign

glenn close

Glenn Close poses with IU students in front of the U Bring Change 2 Mind bus in Bloomington. Photo by April Toler.

Indiana University Bloomington welcomed a special visitor Tuesday when acclaimed actress Glenn Close stopped by campus to unveil the new U Bring Change 2 Mind College Toolbox Project bus campaign.

The lime-green bus features the U Bring Change 2 Mind logo along with a scenario about the effects of stigmatizing someone dealing with a mental health issue. The bus is meant to spread the message of U Bring Change 2 Mind, which aims to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness.

“Our vision with U Bring Change 2 Mind College Toolbox Project is to track students’ attitudes around mental illness and stigma, because stigma is the core problem with people getting help and being able to talk openly about what they are living with and how they are dealing with it,” Close said. “Stigma promotes shame, it promotes isolation, it promotes fear, and a lot of it comes from misunderstanding. It’s still incredibly toxic.”

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IU experts and public safety officer give their takeaway on the Pokémon Go phenomenon


Players dip their toes in the Showalter Fountain as they play Pokémon Go. Photo by Thom Atkinson.

Although you might not know exactly what a Pokémon is, by now most people have heard of the wildly popular Pokémon Go, an augmented reality game that exploded on the scene early this month.

Throughout the country, people of all ages are hitting the streets, cellphones in hand, attempting to catch virtual creatures known as Pokémon. With the game’s popularity has come a number of stories (some true, some internet tales) highlighting both the instantaneous success of the game and how far people are willing to go to catch a Pikachu or Clefairy.

Health and Vitality reached out to a few Indiana University Bloomington experts and public safety officer for their takeaway, and tips, on the world’s latest mobile phenomenon.

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