Fitness Tips from Consumer Reports

While I was reading about state-of-the-art appliances that I don’t need but really, really want on Consumer Reports’ website today, I chanced upon a couple very cool and useful free items of interest. 

First is a list of fitness tips to help you get moving towards that 500 MET per week goal. Some of the items on the list are obvious (“Take the stairs”) but there are links to other practical topics, like building your own gym for under $100. Once you wrap your mind around the general idea you’ll be able to come up with extras on your own, like parking farther away (Traffic and Parking will thank you), crunches during commercials, or jumping jacks in the kitchen waiting for your Cup- A-Noodles to cook. Believe it or not, these little things add up. Ten minutes of exercise three times a day isn’t quite as good as sweating for 30 minutes straight, but it’s not too far off and it’s a lot better than nothing. Read all about it here.

Consumer Reports has a terrific health section on their website, worth exploring at your leisure. Of particular interest recently was this amusing video about the Ab Circle Pro:

There is also a fairly interesting review on other informercial exercise equipment. Read about it right here.

What I really want is for somebody to exercise for me. Sigh. Well, at least Consumer Reports did the research for me.

Victoria Rentel, MD (OSU SHS)

A stigma-WHAT?

click to enlarge

Have you ever been told you have astigmatism at your eye exam? And have you ever wondered what the heck astigmatism actually is? Well, allow me to bring this very common condition into focus for you.

Astigmatism is a condition in which the light rays that enter the eye do not focus at the same point on the retina, or the back surface of the eye. This results in a blurry image, which may cause you headaches and eyestrain. The light rays may scatter due to the curvature of the cornea, which is the clear front surface of the eyeball, or as they pass through the intraocular lens inside the eye. Thankfully, having astigmatism does not mean you have some scary eye disease! It is actually considered to be a part of your refractive error – the prescription you get for glasses or contact lenses.  

A person can have astigmatism while also being near-sighted or far-sighted. It may be corrected with glasses, contact lenses, or refractive surgery. If you have been experiencing blurry vision, headaches or eyestrain, please feel free to schedule an appointment for a comprehensive vision exam at our Optometry Services at The Wilce Student Health Center. To learn a little more about astigmatism, check out the information and video posted on the American Optometric Association’s website.

Julia Geldis, OD (Student Health Services)

Is it possible to exercise too much?

For you couch potatoes out there with New Year’s resolutions to get out and exercise, you probably want to know how much – or if you’re like me, how little – you can get away with.

Exercise benefits are a tricky thing to measure. How do you quantify fitness? Let’s say you’re interested in how much exercise it takes to go from sedentary to fit.  What exactly is sedentary? How do you objectively measure improvement or decline? What quantities do you use to define athletic? Is there a point at which physical activity becomes too much, in which there is a diminishing return or even a risk of death?  What about mood changes? Can you measure a better mood?  Define exercise. Is gardening exercise? Weight-lifting? Cleaning my basement?

Pick five large exercise studies at random, read them, and find some crudités perhaps, while you try to make sense of conflicting evidence. Methodology, measurements, definitions all vary from researcher to researcher. A little exercise lowers your risk of some things. Or does it? Risk of death decreases until you reach a certain threshold of activity, and then doesn’t change much. Recent research suggests marathon running might not be good for your heart. Huh? Exercise can kill you?

Exercise physiologists do use a variety of measurable data points: blood pressure, heart rate, recovery time after exercise, cholesterol, glucose, and oxygen utilization efficiency to name but a few. There are some validated questionnaires to assess mood around, but clearly there is a strong subjective component to anything asking you how you feel.  With all of this swirling in my mind – along with dreams of donuts – I read a nifty post in the New York Times Health section this weekend, entitled:

Phys Ed: How Little Exercise Can You Get Away With?

The author, Gretchen Reynolds, does a great job of sifting through the evidence and consensus opinions. She makes sense of the latest thinking about METs and what they should mean to you, your body and your mind. Worth a read, then a walk, then a big helping of whole grains and broccoli.

Happy New Year, Buckeyes.  Now get out there and give me 500 METs!

Victoria Rentel MD

Can’t drinking alcohol be good for you?

one drink of alcohol

Q: I heard “moderate” alcohol use is good for you.  Is that true? 

A:  We typically define moderation as no more than 1 alcoholic drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men.  How do you define one drink? 12 oz beer (one regular can/bottle), 5 oz wine or 1.5 oz hard liquor (one shot).  This isn’t averaged over the week, by the way – if you have 7 drinks on Saturday night and nothing the rest of the week, that doesn’t count!

So are there benefits to drinking in moderation?  It is true that moderate alcohol consumption reduces your risk of having a heart attack, stroke, gallstones, and possibly even the risk of developing diabetes.  But put that bottle down!  This is great news for your Dad, but not so much for you.

All of those diseases are much more common in men, old people and people with significant risk factors for heart disease.  For young adults – i.e. YOU – moderate alcohol use increases the risk of the most common causes of death (like trauma and breast cancer) and is unlikely to provide any significant health benefit.  And it’s not just about life span either; alcohol use can lead to injuries, unsafe sexual practices (and their ensuing infections) and other kinds of yuckiness that can make life less pleasant.

You ladies out there should be especially careful when it comes to booze.  There is evidence that drinking more than 1 drink per day in your 20s and 30s can increase your lifetime risk of breast cancer. Studies have shown that taking folate supplements decreases this risk – but you should be taking daily folate anyways, since it reduces risk of birth defects, and we know that 50% of pregnancies are unplanned! Alcohol use during pregnancy can also lead to miscarriage and fetal alcohol syndrome: the #1 preventable cause of mental retardation in children.  Unfortunately, many women don’t even know they are pregnant until the damage has been done. 

So how do you know if your level of drinking is a problem?  Signs of problem drinking may include:

  • You’ve ever felt the need to cut down on your drinking
  • You’ve been annoyed by people telling you that you need to cut down on your drinking
  • It’s caused problems in your relationships, school, work, or especially the law
  • You’ve ever felt guilty about your drinking
  • You’ve ever needed a drink first thing in the morning to cure a hangover or steady your nerves (“hair of the dog,” “eye opener”)

If you’ve ever experienced any of these issues, please talk to the staff at Student Health Services or the counselors at the Student Wellness Center.  We are here to help!

Angela Walker, Med IV (OSU COM)

John A. Vaughn, MD (OSU SHS)

The Androgen Sisters Ride Again!

THE ANDROGEN SISTERS, an education and support group for women diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) or Insulin Resistance (IR) will be resuming their meetings this quarter!

WHEN: Wednesdays from 4-6pm – January 20th and 27th, and February 3rd, 10th, 17th and 24th

WHERE: The Wilce Student Health Center (1875 Millikin Road) in room 360 – right across from the elevator on the 3rd floor.  


  • Medical Review of PCOS/IR
  • Nutritional Lifestyle Changes
  • Approaches to exercise
  • Social Support
  • Strategies for change
  • Positive Thinking Patterns

If you are interested in joining the group, please RSVP by email to Beth Askue at Student Health Services.

The Androgen Sisters is supported by Student Health Services, Counseling and Consultation Service and the Department of Sport and Exercise Science


501 pounds of inspiration!

My brother- and sister-in-law flew out from Portland, Oregon for the holidays last week and my brother-in-law, an avid cyclsist (which I’m pretty sure is a requirement for citizenship in Portland) told me about an unbelievable story he read in Bicycling Magazine.

The story is about a 38-year-old man who tipped the scales at 501 pounds!  He was so obese that he couldn’t even leave his house to work or watch his daughter play in the park.  Doctors told him that his only option was to have bariatric surgery – there was no way he could lose the weight on his own – but that he had only a 50% chance of surviving the surgery because of his weight.  His despair became so ovewhelming that he tried to kill himself by cutting his wrists, but he had so much fat on his arms that the blood kept clotting off.  

I’ll let you read the story, but through a discovery of bicycling and a commitment to healthy eating – no medications or surgery – he got his weight down to 185 pounds and is doing well now.

There are a million weight loss stories and testimonials this time of year, and they’re usually being used to sell us a diet plan or a gym membership or a weight loss supplement while we’re still pumped up about our New Year’s resolutions.  The reason I’m sharing this particular story with you is that there is none of the BS and oversimplification that typically goes into those stories.  Anyone who has ever tried to lose weight (and keep it off!) will sympathize with this man’s plight.  It’s often hard, embarrassing, futile and even painful – this story shows what it’s really like without pulling any punches.

I hope you get as inspired from reading it as I did.  And I hope you have a healthy and happy 2010!

John A. Vaughn, MD (Ohio State Student Health Services)