Get Inspired with Natural Environments

By Andrew Bailey

Despite working in the department of Health and Human Performance, I’m not a devoted exerciser. That feels like a dark confession in a time where physical activity is at its lowest, with the Southeastern United States reporting the least leisure time physical activity of any region in the country (c.f. I feel bad about it. I wish I liked to run more, or that I could get excited about an aerobics class the way my wife does. Each time I begin a workout with the expressed intent of exercising, I find myself counting down the minutes until I can be done. Yes, I feel good afterward, but that doesn’t take away the memory of the pain I endured to get there. That memory typically prevents me from returning, at least for a while.

I suspect that I’m not alone in my distaste for working out. There is very little in a packaged workout experience that inspires me, and the goal of extending my life a few years is pretty vague and abstract to serve as a motivator. I’m the guy that personal trainers hope they never encounter.

There are, however, active things I do enjoy. I love playing outdoors. I love taking my 5-year-old daughter on hikes and looking for treasures in the form of rocks, leaves, and twigs that will inevitably end up in my pockets and in the laundry. I love taking a new way to the coffee shop and seeing a new street, and I love exploring trails, rivers, mountains, and anything else I can wander into. Because of the joy I derive from these things, I rarely notice the physical activity required to do them. When the mountains call and serious effort is required to explore a more demanding project, the inspiration typically overpowers the dread of a grueling approach. I’ve come to realize that I’m not just lazy and out of shape. I’m overworked and under-inspired.

Positive psychologists tell us that focusing on a negative behavior only induces more negative behaviors (Seligman, 2011). Asking yourself why you are so unhappy only makes you more unhappy. I believe the same is true with physical and mental health. We need to quit asking why we don’t work out more as if more time on a treadmill will solve our problems. Instead, we need to consider how to put ourselves in the path of inspiration. What sounds fun and exciting to you? What would you enjoy doing even if you weren’t counting the calories or mandated minutes of moderate exercise?

It’s true that our bodies weren’t designed to be sedentary, nor are they built to remain in climate-controlled, concrete block spaces for 95% of our day (Mayer & Frantz, 2004). Our minds function at a higher state when our bodies are active (Medina, 2014). Our bodies are most alive when the senses are engaged. Most of our built environments (classrooms and office spaces) are designed for efficiency, not for optimal human performance. Natural environments have consistently been shown to be more conducive to physical activity, to restore mental capacities depleted by work, and to reduce anxiety (Taylor & Kuo, 2009). There is something inherently inspiring, restorative, and activating about the natural world.

I will submit the idea that I’m more outdoorsy than some. The research cited, though, was not conducted on outdoorsy people. It would appear that humans have an inherent connection to the natural environment, either through having evolved in it or through a preference for living things (e.g. Biophilia).

The next time you dread the idea of trudging through another forced march, consider a change of mentality. Instead of dutifully enduring 30 minutes of vigorous activity, explore a new trail, try out paddleboarding or choose from a host of other activities that you may enjoy enough to forget about your heart rate. Walk a new, maybe longer route to the coffee shop at work, and be sure to extend it through that park a few blocks down. If your work environment isn’t conducive to short jaunts, you might get the same benefits as a weekend warrior (c.f. Let your body do what it was designed for, and put your mind in a place that nurtures it. You may find that the recommendation of 150 minutes of physical activity each week is not nearly enough of what you enjoy.

Not sure how to get started? Check out these resources for places to play outside in your community:



Faber Taylor, A., & Kuo, F. E. (2009). Children With Attention Deficits Concentrate Better After Walk in the Park. Journal of Attention Disorders, 12(5), 402–409.

Mayer, F. S., & Frantz, C. M. (2004). The connectedness to nature scale: A measure of individuals’ feeling in community with nature. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 24, 503–515.

Medina, J. (2014). Brain Rules (Updated and Expanded): 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School. Pear Press.

Seligman, M. E. . (2011). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. New York, NY: Free Press.


Andrew Bailey Contact

Andrew Bailey is an assistant professor of Health and Human Performance at UT Chattanooga. His teaching and research focus on tourism, outdoor education, and the human/nature relationship. A firm believer in the need for play, and for places to play in, he advocates for parks, green space, vacation time, and other assets that promote a high quality of life. When he manages to get out of the office, you might find him biking, hiking, paddling, climbing or traveling with his wife and 5-year-old girl.

Posts represent the views, expertise and recommendations of their authors and do not necessarily reflect an endorsement by the University of Tennessee. Furthermore, the content of the blog is for informational purposes only. The content of the blog is not, and is not intended to be used as, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Back Pain and Weight Lifting

By Marisa A. Colston, Ph.D., ATC

The benefits of weight lifting are numerous and range from burning fat to the improvement of mental health, heart health and bone health.  Weight lifting can also minimize back pain, especially the pain and stiffness resulting from sitting at a desk all day. However, protecting your back while lifting weights is important, particularly if you have a history of back pain.  Previous low back injury presents a 3-6 times greater risk of future injury. Guidelines for the management of back pain consistently recommend staying physically active and avoiding bed rest. But how do you do so, without further aggravating the back pain?

Many back problems are worsened by poor training programs, where the cause of injury is unknowingly incorporated into the lifting technique.  The most frequent contributing factors to back injury in lifting weights include extreme flexion (hyperflexion), extreme extension (hyperextension), and rotation (torsion).  Hyperflexion occurs when the low back is allowed to round, and then the weight is jerked up; e.g., rows, dead-lifts, and bent barbell rows.  Hyperextension places excessive compression on the posterior aspects of the vertebrae. Thus, exercises such as the bench press, unsupported overhead press, power clean, ballistic back extensions, prone leg curls, and squats must be used with caution and supervised closely.  Rotational or twisting-type activities frequently occur in combination with flexion or extension, which places the spine in an extremely vulnerable position.

Numerous exercise programs emphasize training the core. The core is comprised of the low back, pelvis, and hips. Muscles around the core function differently than arm and leg muscles, and therefore should be trained differently.  Core muscles function to brace the trunk during motion, acting more as stabilizers, than movement generators.  Initial exercise can be done with just your body weight and then resistance can be added to increase the challenge.  Planking exercises are an excellent way to work multiple muscle groups without high loads to the spine. A forward plank requires weight bearing through the forearms and toes, with the body maintained in a horizontal position elevated above the ground. A side plank is performed with legs extended and feet and hips resting on the ground and stacked on top of each other. The elbow is placed under the shoulder to prop up the torso. Then the core is contracted and the hips and knees are lifted off the floor (perform on both sides).  Plank exercises can be held for 10-30 seconds, gradually working up to a minute.

For dynamic (movement) exercise, power should be generated through the hips which is transmitted through a contracted core. This is quite different from challenging the core muscles, such as the abdominal muscles, through repeated spine flexion or rotation, which is not a good way to train the core.  Activities that emphasize a push, pull, lift or carry enhance hip power generation through a stiffened core. Programs should incorporate exercises that fulfill these tasks, rather than isolating specific muscles of the abdomen or back which create ‘energy leaks’ through bending. More motion in the back may increase injury risk.  Strength without control increases the risk for injury, as well as a lack of endurance to repeatedly execute movements with perfect form.

An important point to remember is that the intervertebral disc, and the spine in general, has only a limited number of bends before damage occurs.  These bends should not be used up in exercise programs. This requires creative exercise design to challenge the trunk and core, without excessive flexion, extension, or rotation.  Unfortunately, there are currently no validated guidelines for lifting volume.  We simply do not know ‘how much weight is too heavy’ or’ how many lifts are too many’. What is known, however, is that the risk of lifting-related back injury increases as the demands (load and frequency) of the task increase. Increases in load elevates spine and intervertebral disc compression forces. In the work setting, the load is one of the strongest risk factors for low back injury. This risk increases substantially when movement mechanics are not optimal.

Finally, the presence of muscles imbalances should be addressed before jumping into a weight training program. For example, an individual who has tight hip flexor muscles will frequently have weak hip extensor (gluteal) muscles. This is a concern because if the gluteal muscles are weak and inhibited, the likelihood to overcompensate by using the hamstring muscles to extend the hip increase, thereby increasing the possibility of a hamstring injury. When muscle imbalances exist, it is important to first stretch the muscles that are tight before strengthening the muscles that are weak. Obtaining full motion of tight muscles ensures that the strength aspect of the program will not occur in a limited range of motion.

Weight lifting and strengthening exercises can help reduce back pain, but avoid focusing on just the muscles of the back. Resistance exercises that include the core, arm and leg muscles will lead to overall body strength which will help to reduce back pain and reduce the risk of back injury.


Almoallim H, Alwafi S, Albazli K, et al. A simple approach of low back pain. Intern J Clin Med. 2014;5:1087-1098.

Bouwmeester W, van Enst A, van Tulder M. 2009; Goertz M, Thorson D, Bonsell J, et al. 2012).

Dugan S. The role of exercise in the prevention and management of acute low back pain. Clin Occup Environ Med. 2006;5(3):615-32.

Goertz M, Thorson D, Bonsell J, et al. Adult acute and subacute low back pain. Bloomington, MN: Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement. 2012:1-91.

McGill S. Core Training: Evidence Translating to Better Performance and Injury Prevention. Strength Cond J. 2010. 32(3): 33-46


Colston_HeadshotMarisa Colston Contact

Marisa Colston is the interim Department Head and Athletic Training faculty in the Department of Health and Human Performance and Athletic Training Faculty at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Marisa’s research focuses on low back biomechanics, injury prevention and management, as well as legal, ethical, and regulatory issues in sports medicine. Marisa enjoys outdoor activities such as running, hiking and biking with her husband and son.

Posts represent the views, expertise and recommendations of their authors and do not necessarily reflect an endorsement by the University of Tennessee. Furthermore, the content of the blog is for informational purposes only. The content of the blog is not, and is not intended to be used as, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Re-Writing Your Resolutions

by Karissa Peyer

Did you make a New Year’s Resolution this month?  Even if you did not formally announce it or frame it as a resolution, perhaps you still had thoughts of exercising more, eating better, quitting smoking or getting more sleep.  According to, over half of Americans make New Year’s Resolutions and the most popular resolution is to lose weight or eat healthier.  Despite all these resolutions, nearly 50% of people fail to carry out these behavior changes beyond the end of January! So how do you stop yourself from joining this statistic?

There are a number of theories (Bandura, 1989; Deci & Ryan, 1985; Prochaska & Velicer, 1997) discussing what it is that makes people stick with health behavior changes, but they have many common threads. Among these is to identify WHY you are making the change, what barriers or supports are in your environment, and tracking your progress.  Below are some tips for sticking with your goals this year:

  1. Know your “Why.” If you know your “Why” you will find your “How.” Spend some time to really think about why you are trying to make this change. What benefits do you expect to see if you are successful?  What will happen if you fail?  How does this change affect those around you? The answer to this question is different for everyone.  While it sounds good to say that you are going to eat healthier because you want to lower your cholesterol, if the truth is that you just want your spouse to stop nagging you, own it!
  2. Adjust if needed. Maybe your original goal was to go to the gym five days a week but you’ve been struggling to make it just two nights a week. Cut yourself a break and acknowledge that two is more than zero! It is better to back off a bit than to quit completely.
  3. Identify barriers. This goes along with #2. What are the things that made it hard to hit your 5 day/week goal? Maybe you’re more likely to make it to the gym if you go in the morning because work or family commitments tend to eat up more time than expected in the evening. Perhaps you struggle with your healthy eating or smoking cessation goal in certain social situations. Identifying these triggers will help you to plan for them.
  4. Find your support. There’s a wealth of research (and personal experience!) showing that people are more likely to stick with behavior changes, especially exercise if they are receiving social support. This be a friend who meets you at the gym, a group exercise class where you make friends and people will notice if you miss, or just sharing regular updates with a friend or on social media to hold yourself accountable.
  5. Track, track, track. Keep track of your progress, including notes about what worked and what didn’t. This can be a reward in itself when you look back at the end of the week and see how much time you spent at the gym or how many vegetables you ate! Adding notes about what you enjoyed or tricks and tips that helped you stick to your goal each day will be good reminders when you struggle in the future.
  6. Reward yourself! While better health is certainly a reward on its own, sometimes we want something more immediate and more tangible. It is ok to reward yourself sometimes for your hard work! Make a contract with yourself to treat yourself to a new workout outfit or a new pair of shoes after 15 trips to the gym. Buy yourself that awesome new dinner set to eat all your healthy food off of when you stick to your meal plan.  Just be sure your reward doesn’t negate all your hard work! A scoop of ice cream for hitting your target at the gym is great – an entire gallon just spoils all that effort!
  7. Most importantly, find what works for you! Your initial goal may not be going as planned, but that’s no reason to quit.  Evaluate your plan, make changes as necessary and keep working at it!

Bandura, A. (1989). Human agency in social cognitive theory. American psychologist44(9), 1175.

Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York ; Plenum.

Prochaska, J. O., & Velicer, W. F. (1997). The transtheoretical model of health behavior change. American journal of health promotion12(1), 38-48.

file-phpKarissa Peyer Contact

Karissa L. Peyer, Ph.D. is an assistant professor in the Department of Health and Human Performance at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. She received her Ph.D. from Iowa State University in Physical Activity and Health Promotion. Karissa’s research focuses on physical activity, childhood obesity and behavior change in both children and adults. Karissa enjoys running, biking, swimming and hanging out with her dog, Mika


Posts represent the views, expertise and recommendations of their authors and do not necessarily reflect an endorsement by the University of Tennessee. Furthermore, the content of the blog is for informational purposes only. The content of the blog is not, and is not intended to be used as, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Exercise in the Winter

by Scarlett Underwood

Getting your daily workout in the winter can become a struggle for many and you aren’t alone.  Luckily, there are things you can do to help make it a little easier.  Whether you work out indoors and you can’t shake the fact that the sun doesn’t rise until later in the morning, or you love to workout outside and you can’t bear the cold.

For those that enjoy the early morning workouts, and find it difficult to wake up while there isn’t a bit of light outside, here are a few tips:

  • Go to bed earlier: slowly move your bedtime back 15 minutes earlier each night until you are able to wake up with ease in the morning
  • Set an alarm on your phone so you know when to be in bed
  • Turn TV, computer, or cell phones off an hour before bed to help the brain wind down

If you enjoy outdoor workouts and can’t find the perfect way to handle the cold weather, there are a few ways to combat that as well:

  • Warm up inside with jumping jacks, running in place etc. for 10-15 minutes before going outside
  • Dress in layers that are easy to pull off as your body temperature rises

Additional ways to create consistency throughout the winter weather is to have a workout buddy.  Having someone who will create accountability with you sets you both up for success.  Plan what time you will get your daily cardio, or pump in, and stick to it.  Put your workout clothes on, and head straight to the gym.  Once you are there, you have come too far to turn around and skip your sweat session.

Scarlett Underwood Contactscarlettunderwood

Scarlett joined UTC Campus Recreation as the Coordinator of Fitness in July.  She loves working out and teaching group fitness classes in her spare time, especially Les Mills BODYPUMP.  In her free time, she is an animal lover and enjoys getting out to explore Chattanooga and all of its surroundings

Posts represent the views, expertise and recommendations of their authors and do not necessarily reflect an endorsement by the University of Tennessee. Furthermore, the content of the blog is for informational purposes only. The content of the blog is not, and is not intended to be used as, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

A Wish for My Children

By Sarah Colby

I have two sons.

One is six feet and 125 pounds and can’t gain weight. He is mostly sedentary and eats atrociously. A few years ago, when he got a respiratory illness, he got worse fast. He did not have the 10 pounds to lose that he lost. It was scary and to this day, I wish I could personally thank the inventors of the medicines that saved his life.

My second son is about six feet, three inches and well over 300 pounds. He goes to the gym, is physically active (much more than my first child but still less than I would like) and eats a pretty healthy diet. He was 18 pounds at 2 ½ months of age, wore size 16 shoes by the time he was 12 and has always been as far above the growth charts as the charts are wide.

The ultimate irony- I am a childhood obesity prevention researcher.

Obesity is a worldwide public health crisis. Medical cost associated with weight-related illnesses may cripple our economy. Many overweight or obese children of today may become young adults with diabetes. If things continue unchanged for those young adults with diabetes, what will it do for the workforce and economy if they begin to lose their eyesight, kidneys, or feet when they are barely even middle-aged? Will our children grow up to be healthy enough to take care of their own families, contribute to society, or to protect our country? Sound dramatic? It is a realistic concern. And that does not even begin to address the human suffering that occurs at every point of this spectrum.

This threat has been widely recognized and many are dedicated to changing the outcome of this story. The great news is that among young children we are beginning to see positive changes in the overweight/obesity trends. The efforts to reach families, schools, and communities, through education, programs, policies, systems, and environmental change appear to be having an impact. That investment of research funds and time may be making a real difference.

So what patterns of healthy eating might be making a difference? In general, most of us need to consume a variety of foods, in moderation, more natural and unprocessed, enough fiber (we almost all need more beans), lean proteins, more water, and eat all the colors. No, sorry, colorful candies don’t count. If you absolutely want to cut something out of you and your child’s diet- added refined sugar. That is the one thing that I can say is fine for almost everyone to cut completely out of their diets.


So if I know all of this, why do I still have one child seriously underweight and one child obese? Because it is not that simple. We don’t have all the answers, but we don’t give up. I talk to them about food not because they should look any specific way, but because I want them to be happy, healthy, and living the life they want to live. It is hard to be happy when we hurt and if we get sick from the way we eat and live, then we hurt. I teach my boys to enjoy healthy food and be active. Our job as parents is to provide healthy foods at every meal or snack, have regular meal times, let our kids see us enjoying eating healthy foods and being active, cook meals with our kids, eat together as a family, not use food as a reward or a punishment, and then, here is the key, not focus on what they are eating or their weight. That is the most and best we can do until we have more answers. I also believe that teaching my boys to love and appreciate their bodies and that they are beautiful the way they are, is most important. Weight matters not because we all need to look a certain way or fit a certain body type, it only matters because it impacts our health and our lives. Celebrate you, love you, accept you and live the life you want to live. That is what I wish for my children.


Sarah Colby Contact
UT Knoxville

Dr. Colby is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Nutrition at the University of Tennessee. She is an obesity prevention behavioral researcher with a focus on health communication through novel nutrition education strategies (including marketing, arts and technology). In addition to her focus on novel communication strategies, she has research experience with young children, adolescents, and young adult populations; community-based participatory action research; Latino and Native American populations; food security issues; and environmental and economic influences on food behavior.

Posts represent the views, expertise and recommendations of their authors and do not necessarily reflect an endorsement by the University of Tennessee. Furthermore, the content of the blog is for informational purposes only. The content of the blog is not, and is not intended to be used as, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Get Out and Play!

by Dawn Coe

Growing up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, I spent most of my free time outside playing with the neighborhood kids.  We played sports and games such as basketball, street hockey, “kick the can” and “washers”.  Although I spent a great amount of time outdoors, very little of that time was spent engaged in nature.  The urban setting offers few opportunities to truly experience nature.

After high school, I moved to Michigan.  Living in Ann Arbor, I began to experience nature primarily through hikes and trips to the arboretum.  I later settled down with my husband on Lake Michigan, taking advantage of the lake and hikes in the surrounding area.  Eight years ago, my family moved to Knoxville.  We immediately fell in love with the area and started going on family hikes shortly after my daughter’s birth; taking her on her first hike at only two weeks old.   As a parent, I know the importance of physical activity for children.  Therefore, my husband and I have always modeled a physically active lifestyle for our children.  I love that our children have grown to love the outdoors and have a natural tendency towards being active.

Favorite activity on the Michigan lakes!
Going on a family hike.

As a pediatric exercise physiologist, I have always known the positive benefits of children engaging in an active lifestyle.  As my research has evolved during my time at the University of Tennessee, my research line has veered towards the measurement of outdoor activity and activity behaviors in children.  Through this research, I have found that activity in nature provides a host of additional benefits to children than what is seen with physical activity alone.  Outdoor play encourages risk taking, providing opportunities for children to become more aware of their bodies as well as engage in vigorous activity.  Play in nature also provides a variety of sensory experiences (i.e. motor, visual, tactile) and the opportunity for active, imaginative play.  These types of experiences not only benefit the child physically but also mentally.  In general, young children (3–5 years old) should accumulate approximately 180 minutes of activity per day, while school-aged children (6-17 years) should accumulate at least 60 minutes of daily moderate (brisk walking) to vigorous (jogging) physical activity that is developmentally appropriate.

The view from the top of Mt. LeConte

I feel the multitude of benefits of outdoor activity provide a strong impetus for me to continue encouraging my children to engage in outdoor play.  While both of my children currently take part in athletic pursuits, they still enjoy our family time outdoor together.  We try to periodically “unplug” and enjoy fun days in the Urban Wilderness or Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Resources detailing the importance of nature play in children can be found in Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods and on the Children & Nature Network website (

Dawn Coe Contact
UT Knoxville

Dawn P. Coe, Ph.D. is an associate professor in the department of Kinesiology, Recreation, and Sports Studies within the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.  Dawn is a Fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine.  Dawn’s research focuses on physical activity assessment in youth, natural playground activity and behavior, and the impact of physical activity and physical fitness on academic success in children and adolescents.  Dawn enjoys watching her children play sports and spending quality time outdoors with her family.


Posts represent the views, expertise and recommendations of their authors and do not necessarily reflect an endorsement by the University of Tennessee. Furthermore, the content of the blog is for informational purposes only. The content of the blog is not, and is not intended to be used as, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Finding time to exercise – can you spare 10 minutes?

By Brian Hester 

As I have gotten older, finding time or motivation to exercise has been an increasingly difficult task.  During my college and younger adult years, there seemed to be plenty of time to fit in a 1-2 hour workout nearly every day.   Nowadays, having a full-time job, completing a PhD and helping my wife raise our 4 year old all take priority over daily fitness.

However, I’ve learned that skipping exercise – even just few days – can have negative consequences that will set me back.  This is especially true in the winter months, when I have even more excuses to skip daily exercising due to shorter daylight, cold, rain, sleet or snow.  If I miss several days of weight-bearing activity during these colder months, I am much more apt to pull a muscle, especially in my back.  When this happens, I am out of commission for at least a couple of days, if not longer. Finding a way to prevent this is a necessity to keep from missing work, falling behind in dissertation writing or missing out on the joys of helping my son with his daily adventures as he learns and grows.

So, what I have discovered – through wiser friends or the internet – is that when it comes to exercising in the winter, or any time throughout the year, less is more.  If I know that if I’m only going to spend 10 minutes a day “working out,” I’m much more likely to allocate this time to fitness and stick to it.   Therefore, my daily cardio and weight workouts have evolved to climbing the stairs at work or using just my own body instead of a gym for core weight-bearing workouts like pushups and crunches, and finding quick five to 15-minute exercise breaks that are most convenient and least likely to be interrupted from work, school or family commitments.  I have broken these times up into roughly four five-minute breaks during the work day hours and 10-15 minutes at home right after work.

At work, twice in the morning and twice in the afternoon (say at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 4 p.m.) I find five minutes to climb the stairs.  I do 10 flights in three minutes – I’m out of breath at the top but not broken into a sweat.  This covers my cardio for the day.  I know you are supposed to get 20-30 minutes and break a sweat, but hey, this is better than nothing.  For weight bearing activity, every day when I get home after work, I spend a grand total of 10 minutes that starts with simple stretches (check out YouTube for tons of good examples), then I do 100 pushups and 50 crunches.  This may sound like a lot to some people (or laughably little to others), but, believe me, you can work up to this amount in  a few weeks.   Supplementing this, three-days-a-week I mix in bicep curls with dumbbells (whatever weight that allows you to just barely finish a set of 10 reps), shoulder shrugs, and wrist curls.  I can get three sets of these exercises done in five minutes. During one week, this equals 15 minutes of exercise time at home on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday, and just 10 minutes on the other four days.

I will assuredly not win any body-building or feats-of-strength competitions with this routine, but I have found that my long-term health and mood greatly benefit from this small amount of daily physical activity.  Yes, there are still those times when my back will go on a 24-hour strike, like after moving heavy objects or throwing Nicholas up in the air for the 20th time he’s requested it, but during the past five years that I’ve followed this routine, I have not had any back pain issues that have lingered more than a day.  Even more amazing, my annual physical exams have consistently resulted in my doctor being fooled into saying, “You must work out a lot!”


Brian Hester and his son Nicholas
Brian Hester with his son Nicholas

Brian Hester Contact
UT System Administration

Brian is the Assistant Director of Institutional Research for the UT System.  He is husband to Alice – a physician’s assistant at East TN Children’s Hospital, and father to Nicholas – who just turned 4 in January 2016.   Brian loves to read – anything on parenting and child development and fiction novels, when he can find the time.  As a family, they enjoy outdoor activities including hiking and fishing, and lots of sports – Brian currently is coaching a 4-5 year old basketball team, on which son Nicholas plays.


Posts represent the views, expertise and recommendations of their authors and do not necessarily reflect an endorsement by the University of Tennessee. Furthermore, the content of the blog is for informational purposes only. The content of the blog is not, and is not intended to be used as, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Making Time for My Sanity: Fitting Exercise into a Hectic Schedule

By Tiffany Carpenter

For years I debated going back to school for my master’s degree, but that seemed impossible with two young children and a full-time job.

I decided to take the plunge two years ago and start my master’s degree in business administration.

With UT’s educational assistance and fee waiver benefit and the convenience of the UT Martin online MBA program, I felt like it was something I couldn’t pass up. There wasn’t going to be a perfect time to do it, so I just needed to buckle down and jump in.

Between two kids, work and school, my days were running from 6 a.m. to midnight. (Did I mention my 3-year-old decided she wanted to wake up at 4 a.m. for about two months…)

I found myself cutting out time for non-essential activities, like sleep and running. I developed a serious caffeine dependency, and my stress level was through the roof. I desperately needed to find time to exercise for my mental and physical well-being.

I didn’t have an abundance of time to spend at the gym, so I needed to find things that would fit into my schedule.

In case my story sounds familiar, let me share a few of my favorite ways for fitting exercise into a busy schedule:

  • Quick jogs around the neighborhood while my 8-year-old rides her bike
  • High-intensity interval training apps that take less than 10 minutes—Quick 4 and 7-Minute Workout Challenge
  • P90X3 workout videos—30 minutes in the comfort of your own home

I’ve just finished classes this semester and will graduate in December! First thing on my agenda—SLEEP and maybe a good run.

Carpenter Family Tiffany Carpenter Contact
UT System Administration

Tiffany brings her love for UT to her job as assistant vice president for marketing for the UT System. Originally from Bristol, Tennessee, Tiffany has worked at UT for more than 11 years in various positions for the UT Knoxville Athletic Department and UT Foundation.  She currently lives in Knoxville with her husband, Allen, two daughters, Emily and Avery, and furry daughter, Bailey. When not at work, you might see Tiffany at a UT sporting event or at Dollywood with her family. She is a graduate of UT Knoxville and recently completed her MBA from UT Martin.

Posts represent the views, expertise and recommendations of their authors and do not necessarily reflect an endorsement by the University of Tennessee. Furthermore, the content of the blog is for informational purposes only. The content of the blog is not, and is not intended to be used as, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

3 Dietitian-Recommended Steps for Losing Weight

By Chelsi Cardoso

Did you know the majority of adults in the U.S. are overweight or obese?

Being overweight or obese increases the likelihood of developing several diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.

As a result of increasing health concerns, many adults want to lose weight. But despite the availability of weight loss programs, achieving and maintaining weight loss is difficult for many adults.

Understanding Weight Loss
Our weight is a reflection of energy balance—calories in versus calories out.

Weight loss occurs when we consume fewer calories than we burn or when we achieve a calorie deficit. This equation sounds simple, but the complicated part is that we need to make lifestyle changes—specifically changing eating and activity behaviors—to achieve a calorie deficit.

What behavior changes are known to help people achieve their weight loss goals? People who have successfully lost weight do the following:

  • Reduce caloric intake by 500 to 1,000 calories a day to assist with a slow steady weight loss of 1 to 2 pounds a week. A calorie reduction can be achieved with any type of diet.
  • Engage in 60 to 90 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity.
  • Limit television viewing to less than 10 hours a week.
  • Track the intake of all food and drink.
  • Measure body weight on a weekly basis.

So how can you begin to apply these changes to your everyday routine?

Let me share some key strategies with you that are known to be effective for weight loss and provide suggestions for starting a successful weight loss journey.

Step 1: Start tracking your current eating and physical activity. This allows you to see what adjustments you may need to make for weight loss.

Step 2: Start setting achievable weight loss goals. Goals can make a difference when working on changing behaviors. Use the guidelines below to help design your weight loss goals:

Helpful goals are: Example
Positive “I will plan dinner menus with no more than 500 calories.” Instead of negative: “I will stop eating so much.”
Specific “I will walk 20 minutes on Tuesday after work.”Instead of vague: “I will get more physical activity.”
Something You Control “I will stop buying ice cream and ask my spouse to only eat ice cream when he eats out.”Instead of what you can’t control: “I will get my spouse to stop eating ice cream.”
Time Specific “I will lose 2 pounds by June 15.”Instead of open-ended: “I will lose 2 pounds.”
Small Enough So You Can Reach Them “I will decrease the number of times I eat out from 4 times a month to 2 times a month.”Instead of: “I will never eat out again.”
Broken into Small Steps “I will buy carrots and celery at the grocery store, cut them into sticks and put them in the refrigerator in small plastic bags for my lunches this week.”Instead of not broken down: “I will eat carrots and celery sticks for lunch.”
Related to a Reward “I will buy a copy of my favorite magazine if I pack my lunch three times this week.”Instead of: “I will pack my lunch three times this week.”

Step 3: Come up with a plan to help you achieve your goals. Achieving a healthy weight is more than following fad diets and changing what is in the cupboard. It’s about making lifestyle changes and sustaining those changes over time. Do a little research to find a plan that’s right for you, and talk with your health care provider if you have questions or need some guidance.

Use the comment section below to share other tips and strategies that have worked for you. Good luck!

Chelsi CardosoChelsi Cardoso Contact
UT Knoxville

Chelsi is a registered dietitian and a research associate III at UT Knoxville, where she manages the Healthy Eating and Activity Laboratory (HEAL) under the direction of Dr. Hollie Raynor. HEAL conducts research on factors that impact eating regulation and energy balance and that can be used to improve behavioral obesity prevention and treatment programs for children and adults. Chelsi enjoys powerlifting, cooking, watching sports, hiking and going everywhere with her two dogs, Capone and Angelou. 

Posts represent the views, expertise and recommendations of their authors and do not necessarily reflect an endorsement by the University of Tennessee. Furthermore, the content of the blog is for informational purposes only. The content of the blog is not, and is not intended to be used as, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Enjoy the Magic of Fall

By Synthia Clark

Fall is magical. I look forward to the crisp air, beautiful colors and leaves falling all around—creating a nuisance for some adults and an opportunity of fun for children.

Some of us are lucky to live where we can get the full experience of the season.

The autumn months signal the beginning of many holidays. I take full advantage of the local festivals and the opportunity to take great photographs.

It’s the perfect time to capture interesting scenes in nature like the unique colors and fun textures. Yes, the colors are the result of a scientific process, but that doesn’t make it any less magical. Plus, not as many bugs are on the attack.

Fall foliage is a beautiful passing with promises of an even greater beginning. So, get out there and experience the magic!

Here are some resources to help you get the most out of the season:

Synthia Clark Synthia Clark Contact  Website
UT Knoxville

Synthia works in the Department of Educational Psychology and Counseling at UT Knoxville as an administrative support assistant and acts as webmaster, writer and photographer. She enjoys staying busy with hobbies like photography, travel and music.

Posts represent the views, expertise and recommendations of their authors and do not necessarily reflect an endorsement by the University of Tennessee. Furthermore, the content of the blog is for informational purposes only. The content of the blog is not, and is not intended to be used as, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.