Exercise: The forgotten pharmaceutical

From the Hilbert College Wellness Center

The forgotten pharmaceutical
By Kirsten Falcone, RN

We all have heard that exercise is good for us. Imagine a future where, instead of prescribing medications, physicians will consider daily exercise the “drug” of choice. This is what scientists are currently studying to bring about in the near future.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) are currently undergoing a study to determine exactly how particular types of exercise affect the human body, specifically in relation to disease prevention and treatment. The five-year study, begun in 2015, includes a sample diverse in age, gender, race, and fitness level. Parallel studies are using animals for gathering information on vital organs, such as lungs, heart, liver and the brain.

You may have heard, “Sitting is the new smoking.” This clause is attributed to James A. Levine, M.D., Ph.D., Mayo Clinic, Phoenix, Arizona, whose 30 years of research has concluded that too much sitting is a major cause of obesity, diabetes, breast cancer and dozens of additional chronic diseases and medical conditions. There is now a trend toward solutions such as using standing desks, and encouraging breaks for walking and stretching. Reducing sitting time is crucial to good health, even if you meet the recommended amount of exercise per week.

Exercise is crucial to good health. Performed properly, it lacks the long list of side effects frequently seen with pharmaceuticals. Therefore, a new mindset is emerging in the medical world. This new mindset is one that at the very least includes exercise in its pharmaceutical regimen, and at best replaces pharmaceuticals that have been all too commonly prescribed in its absence.

Imagine a medical system that replaces pharmaceutical prescriptions with exercise prescriptions. It might begin to look something like this:

Exercise instead of…

  • Anxiety and depression drugs: Exercise decreases depression, lifts your mood, dampens stress, and decreases anxiety.
  • Prescription and over-the-counter acne medications: More efficient blood flow will deliver oxygen and nutrients to your face and upper torso, including your back and other problem areas.
  • Botox injections/expensive skin cream: Exercise can help you look younger and live up to five years longer because it helps slow down cell aging.
  • Insulin, pain medications, and heart medications: Exercise helps prevent type 2 diabetes, alleviate osteoarthritis by strengthening bones and joints, and strengthens your heart muscle.
  • Diet pills and weight loss medications: If you are overweight, exercising and portion control are enough to lose weight. Exercise will help build muscle and shrink fat cells.
  • Hearing aids and cochlear implants: According to University of Florida researchers, exercise may help prevent age-related hearing loss. They believe this is because regular exercise reduces inflammation in all parts of the body—even the middle and inner ear.

Amount of exercise recommended: According to the Department of Health and Human Services, most healthy adults need 150 minutes per week of “moderate” aerobic activity (five days of 30 minutes, three days of 50 minutes, two days of 75 minutes). Interspersing “vigorous” aerobic activity will lessen the amount of time required. “What is the difference?” you say. Moderate activity includes brisk walking, lawn mowing and swimming. Vigorous aerobic activity includes jogging, dancing and bicycle riding.

In addition to aerobic exercise, many experts also recommend strength training. This includes weight resistance with each muscle group. You can perform these anywhere, not necessarily in a gym. Hand weights can be stored under the bed. You can use your own body weight for many strength-training exercises. There are also outdoor sports that strengthen muscles, including kayaking, hiking and rock climbing.

Also of importance is stretching. Many stretching exercises are essential for before and after aerobic exercise. Some of the benefits of stretching include improving posture, increasing blood flow to muscles, calming your mind, and reducing injury. Yoga and pilates use stretching and strength training simultaneously.

A relatively new kind of exercise program is called HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). Please see the link below for “Everyday Health.” Basically, this involves alternating between moderate and vigorous activity in one exercise session.

If you think you don’t have time to exercise, think again. There are more types of exercise than structured running, treadmill, gym-type activities. Other kinds of exercise include anything that keeps you moving. Raking leaves, vacuuming, walking, dancing, swimming, running up and down stairs, jogging around the mall, hopping from classroom to classroom. All of these are exercise!

In the future, physicians will be writing “exercise” on their prescription pads, based on the results of current studies. You do not have to wait until the results of the studies are in; you can exercise now!


For additional information on the benefits of exercise, visit these Web sites:

Everyday Health.com:

CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, How much physical activity do adults need?:

CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Benefits of physical activity:

UF News (University of Florida), Exercise is good for hearing:

National Institutes of Health, Study information:

Mayo Clinic Links (Sitting and health, Dr. James Levine, and How much exercise?:

The Active Times, “Sitting is the New Smoking—7 Ways a Sedentary Lifestyle is Killing You”:

Lifehacker.com, Why Stretching is Just as Important as Exercise:




Feeling Disconnected? How to conquer homesickness while away at college


Feeling Disconnected?
How to conquer homesickness while away at college
By Kirsten Falcone, RN

Are you, or someone you know, feeling a little blue lately? It isn’t difficult to imagine that this is a common problem across college campuses right now. The excitement of being away from home and the novelty of new classes have worn off, and reality has set in. This is hard work! Plus, you miss your family, friends, and even your pets! Everything is a little overwhelming, to say the least. Sometimes it is easy to fall into a brief pit of depression.

It is, therefore, helpful to know the difference between depression and homesickness. Depression has these signs and symptoms: feeling down, hopeless, worthless, helpless, irritable, restless, disinterested in activities you formerly enjoyed, difficulty concentrating, difficulty making decisions, disturbed sleep patterns, weight gain or loss, and sometimes thoughts of death or suicide. Homesickness usually exhibits milder symptoms and is accompanied by longing thoughts of people and places left behind, and a feeling of loss, especially loss of real connection.

If these feelings are new to you, perhaps you indeed do have a bit of homesickness. You are not alone! Homesickness is normal! Even seasoned college students have this feeling from time to time. The good news is homesickness can be only temporary, if you make some adjustments. Here are some ideas:

  • Sleep. Make sure you are getting the right amount. Seven to nine hours of sleep at the same time every night does wonders for the mood. It is also crucial for good health.
  • Exercise. Just a brisk half-hour walk three times per week is enough to change your outlook, especially if you take a friend. On Hilbert’s campus, Don Vincent leads a group on runs or walks on Wednesdays at 3:15 p.m., meeting out back by the service road in between the soccer fields.
  • Fresh air. A dose of fresh air can lift your spirits. Go outside!
  • Sunshine. Besides improving our moods, sunshine actually has a reaction with your skin that produces vitamin D. Studies show that vitamin D could lessen the symptoms of depression.
  • Vitamin D Supplements. You can also supplement with vitamin D. However, since your body uses fat to absorb vitamin D, you may want to consult your doctor before taking large doses. The best bet is to add food rich in vitamin D to your diet. Some foods that have vitamin D are salmon, swordfish, mackerel, tuna, sardines, egg yolk, beef liver, and fortified cereal and milk.
  • Proper nutrition. Skip the sugary pop, junk food and fried food, and opt for some fresh veggies and a lean piece of meat. Add vitamin D fortified milk (see above) and some whole grains, and you will feel human again.
  • Hydration. Drinking enough H2O is actually energizing. It increases a sense of well-being by helping to maintain almost every chemical reaction in your body. In fact, depression is one of the symptoms of dehydration.
  • Socialization. This is what you especially need right now. One idea is to attend religious services. Mass on Hilbert campus is Sundays at 7:30 p.m., Wednesdays at 12:30 p.m. and Thursdays at 8:00 a.m. in St. Clare Chapel. There are also numerous churches in the area who will welcome students warmly. Other ideas are joining a club, attending social events on campus, and becoming a volunteer. Hang out with new friends. Be patient if you don’t connect with everyone you meet on the first try. Just don’t spend too much time alone. Be selective, and choose positive people.
  • Talk therapy. Go talk to someone who is trained to help walk you through. Sometimes having an expert there to hold your hand is just what you need. At Hilbert College, that expert is Psychologist Phyllis Dewey, who is located in St. Joseph Hall. Phyllis is eager to help all students with this and any other issues that crop up. Phyllis’s phone number is 926-8930, and her email address is pdewey@hilbert.edu.
  • Avoiding alcohol. Alcohol is a known depressant. Overdrinking on a regular basis can cause brain damage and change your brain chemistry. Currently, the only alcohol considered healthful is five ounces of red wine per day for women and 10 ounces per day for men.
  • Antidepressants. Use these only as a last resort after you have made lifestyle changes, and only if you experience long-term depression. There is no “happy” pill. In fact, these drugs take several weeks to take effect. Antidepressant medication has side effects that are…well…depressing! Their dosage also needs regular fine-tuning. However, some people do show improvement on these drugs, and physicians prescribe them quite regularly.
  • Perspective. Get off-campus once in a while. Plan to go home for the weekend occasionally, if possible. (But, ideally, not every weekend!) Try something new, or go see a movie. Drive to Lake Erie to watch the sunset. Visit downtown Buffalo’s waterfront. Take a trip to a museum, or visit a local park. Do something to take your mind off your homesickness.
  • Keeping organized. Write down all your assigned work, classes, and events in an agenda. The Student Life office, in Franciscan Hall, has free Student Handbooks with an academic calendar contained inside. Writing everything down will increase your sense of control, thus reducing your homesickness.
  • Journaling your feelings. Vent your concerns safely in a journal or diary. This will help you become more aware of your feelings, so that you can move forward.
  • Play music. Listen to upbeat music. Make certain its message is positive. You might even want to sing along, which can help move oxygen throughout your body and brain. If you can play an instrument, go ahead and serenade your roommate!
  • Calling home. Give yourself permission to call home as much as you need to, right now. A phone call is better than a text or an email (or even snail mail!) because your voice inflections can be heard, and you can hear theirs. One useful suggestion is keeping a picture of your loved ones handy to remind you how much you are loved.
  • Focusing on the positive. “Eighty percent of success is showing up.”—Woody Allen. So, just show up. Don’t miss class, even if you don’t feel motivated. Get involved in campus activities, even if you doubt yourself. Invite a new friend to go to lunch with you, even if it feels awkward. Remember, everyone else feels that way, too, even if it doesn’t appear that way. Ask your R.A. for advice. But most of all, give it time. Give yourself a break. Take a deep breath. Things will get better!

For additional information, visit these Web sites:

WebMD general information:

Focus on the Family

Allegheny College:


Flu Shots are on the Way!

From the Hilbert College Wellness Center

Roll up your Sleeve:
Flu Shots are on the Way!
By Kirsten Falcone, RN

If you have not received your flu shot yet, here is good news! There are two dates approaching on which you may be able to attain your flu vaccine on campus in the West Herr Atrium. Mark your calendar for:

Wednesday, October 11 from 10:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., or

Wednesday, November 1 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Here is what you need to know about the flu vaccine:

What is the flu? Influenza (flu) is a contagious infection that spreads most easily each year from October to May (flu season). A virus causes the flu, and coughing, sneezing and personal contact are the ways it spreads. Everyone is susceptible to the flu virus, but symptoms can vary by age and immunity status. Typical symptoms are fever with chills, sore throat, achy muscles, unexplained fatigue, coughing, headache and a runny or stuffy nose.

The flu causes thousands of deaths in the United States every year. Many more are hospitalized. Most of these people are immunity challenged, such as infants and young people, people 65 and older, pregnant women, and others with compromised immune systems.

How can I prevent contracting the flu? Even if you are not immunity challenged, one of the best ways to stop the virus from spreading is by attaining a flu vaccine. A flu vaccine can also keep you from contracting the flu, or it may help make your symptoms less severe. Because there is no “live virus” in the vaccine, a flu vaccine cannot cause the flu. (As always, remember hand washing is the ultimate way for you to prevent the spread of viruses.)

Can I still get the flu if I get a flu vaccine? Yes. A flu vaccine contains only those strains of the virus thought to be most prevalent for the year in question. The flu vaccine offered on campus will be “trivalent,” meaning it will protect against three common flu strains. (There is also a “quadrivalent” flu vaccine available many places, upon request.) It is possible to contract a rarer strain of the virus. Further, because the vaccine takes approximately two weeks to become effective, you may still become ill within that two-week window of time. However, once immunity is established, it will protect you for the entire flu season.

There are illnesses that look like flu, but are actually other illnesses. This may explain why some people have claimed that the flu vaccine caused them to contract the flu. This is really not the case.

Should some people forgo the flu vaccine? Yes. People who have had Guillain-Barre Syndrome, or someone not feeling well, should not get the vaccine. In the past, people with egg allergies could not receive a flu vaccine. However, now only a very small percentage of those people ever have any kind of reaction. If you have a history of a severe egg allergy, you should still get your flu shot in a medical setting, and be monitored for 30 minutes.

For otherwise healthy people, side effects of the flu vaccine can be rare or mild. But, according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), they may include skin soreness around the area of the vaccination; hoarseness; itchy, sore, red eyes; cough; muscle aches; fever; itching; fatigue; and headaches. These mild effects usually last one or two days, but they are a much better alternative than contracting full-blown influenza. Most health professionals agree that the flu vaccine is a worthy effort in keeping healthy through the winter months. So go ahead and roll up your sleeve!


For more information, visit these Web sites:

Medline Plus

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Rite Aid Flu Shot Information