Archive for January, 2009

If you’re like me,  you enjoy playing sports and hanging out with friends. Sometimes, hanging out with your friends includes playing sports, but that’s not always the case. If you want to play basketball, for example, you could play 1 on 1, but its much more fun to play with full sides of 5 on 5. Even if you have 10 friends that like to play basketball, it’s usually hard to find a time when everyone is willing and available. So what are your options? First, intramurals and club sports at Columbia are always a great option. There are flyers by the entrance to Dodge, the Columbia gym, with contact information for all the teams. Also, you can check out the bulletin in front of the gym in Barnard Hall for information about signing up for Barnard intramurals. If you’re looking to get off campus, to explore the city, or to join a fitness group that’s not sports-focused, there are also options. There’s a great site called “meetup.com” where you can type in any sort of interest and find out where you can meet other people with the same interest. I typed in “fitness” and found options for women’s boxing and day trips of hiking and walking. So whatever your fitness interest may be, if you want to pursue it while meeting other people around the city, try hitting up meetup.com.

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Like tasty food and live music? Even if you’re not so hungry, head downtown and check out Salsa night at Gonzalez y Gonzalez. Held every Thursday, the popular Mexican restaurant houses a live band that plays even livelier music from 9:30pm-11:15pm. For those who dare to go beyond merely sitting and listening to the Latin beats, the establishment offers a modest space for dancing as well. Don’t know how to Latin dance? Grab a partner who does and learn how. You’re guaranteed to have a laugh, and possibly make a new friend. Even if you don’t quite get all of the fancy-footwork down pat, any fast-paced dancing is sure to increase your heart-rate and help you burn a few calories (or that bean burrito you ate earlier). If you find yourself free tonight, make sure to pop in and bust a move or two.

Address: 625 Broadway NY, NY 10012 between Houston and Bleecker.
Call (212) 473-8787 for more information.

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In case you got buried in school and missed the news, in October the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released its first comprehensive Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Without a clear policy for well over a decade, the government finally reviewed the scientific findings about the effect of physical activity on health and published recommendations for adults, children over six, pregnant and postpartum women and persons with disabilities. The guidelines unequivocally underline the health benefits of exercise, citing strong evidence that exercises lowers the risk of early death, heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, breast and colon cancer, stroke, high cholesterol, and metabolic disorders. In addition, there is solid evidence that exercise improves chances of weight loss and guards against injuries associated with weak bones. 

Why should college students care about these guidelines? Many of us know our parents are on statins for cholesterol, or that heart disease runs in our families. In our late teens and early twenties, though, we seem to be more concerned with our healthy, present selves. We get yearly physicals, practice safe sex, and maintain a standard of personal hygiene (when not studying for finals). We plot our trajectories, taking certain classes and applying for certain internships, looking ahead to dream jobs, stellar careers, ideal partners, and thrilling bucket lists. This forward thinking is invaluable–really, some classes are intolerable without viewing them as a challenging step on a bigger, better path. The problem arises when a disconnect exists between present habits and the reality of the future. Many of us, myself included, get so wrapped up in the demands of school or the pleasure of our most rewarding activities that we can often de-prioritize physical fitness. 

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, and the multitude of organizations who endorsed the guidelines (including the American College of Sports Medicine, the American Heart Association, and the American Council on Exercise), to ignore exercise is to ignore our own mortality. The report repeatedly emphasizes that any exercise benefits a person more than remaining sedentary. Living in New York City, hardly any of us can truly stay sedentary, but we do tend to spend more time bent over the computer than engaging in aerobic activity. So, if we spend hours in the library to ensure that eventually we can afford to spend hours reading great works of literature with our lovers on the beaches of Tahiti, shouldn’t we ensure that our health will also be up for it? (more…)

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CUDM 2002

This weekend, from noon on Saturday until 4PM on Sunday, Columbia University will hold its annual Dance Marathon.  This means that for those 28 hours, over 100 Barnard and Columbia students will be on their feet dancing the day and night and next day away in Roone Arledge Auditorium.  The cause for dancing is the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, a charity that works to end the epidemic of AIDS among children.  “It’s for the kids!” the dancers remind each other, when the going gets tough–which it does indeed.  Frequent eating, constant stretching, water, interperative dancing, and coloring books are all sources of strength for fatigued dancers.  But the greatest morale booster of all is support from the community.  So, be sure to stop by this weekend and dance!  It’s a blast, it’s a workout, and it’s for the kids!

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Looking for a cheaper way to take workout classes? As the semester gears up (once again…), check out Barnard and Columbia’s non-credit fitness classes. These fun, once or twice weekly group sessions will strengthen your body and your resolve to work out. Currently, the Barnard FITbear program offers four “passes” to class – cardio, yoga, pilates, and sculpt at prices ranging from $20 to $60 (depending on the number of times you plan to attend per week). At Columbia, they offer many more options for classes at a slightly higher price. Most classes at meet once per week cost $36 to attend, and $48 dollars to go twice a week. These classes also tend to be more crowded than those offered at Barnard.


For a complete schedule of classes at Barnard, click here: http://barnard.edu/fitbear/fitness.htm

And at Columbia: http://www.gocolumbialions.com//pdf4/370073.pdf?DB_OEM_ID=9600


To register for Barnard classes, bring cash or check to 206 Barnard Hall in the exact amount of your class. Registration continues until the first day of class (February 1st). To register at Columbia, report to the Lou Gherig Lounge on the 3rd floor of Dodge between February 4-6 (MT 8-2, 4-6, W 8-2) with cash, check or credit card. Or use a credit card and go to this website to pre-register: http://online.activecommunities.com/columbiarecreation/Activities/Activities.asp?SCheck=909981645&SDT=39840.4057994213   Classes begin February 7th.

For questions, feel free to contact: fitbear@barnard.edu OR barnardbarbelle@gmail.com.

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Your best friend = Your partner in crime/fitness

Your best friend = Your partner in crime/fitness

In the depths of winter, it’s normal to find your favorite jeans a little tighter than usual or to consume more food; in the Northeast, it seems to be part of life. However, you might want to take a look at your close relationships in order to better understand the additional pounds. A study conducted over 30 years (1971 to 2003) and published in 2007 by the National Institute of Health claims that in close relationships where one individual gains weight, the other’s weight is negatively influenced. With over 12,000 people involved, this study examined all kinds of “close relationships” – spouses, siblings, close friends of the same and opposite sex. Their findings indicated that as one half of the pair gained weight, the other did as well.

The only exception, according to this study, was found in siblings of the opposite sex, and to a lesser degree, friends of the opposite sex. The psychological effects of weight gain on each other are obvious: as one person begins abusing food or taking poorer care of himself, the other mirrors this behavior. Does this mean that because your roommate is gaining the freshman 15 that you are doomed to the same fate? Definitely not. However, consider this not-so-pretty figure: Among close same-sex friendships, 71% of friends of the obese became obese themselves. Along the same vein, heterosexual couples tended to be affected by their obese partners 37% of the time.

What does this study mean for the United States? It cements social ties and learned behaviors as main instigators of weight gain, and explains the rapidly rising obesity figures that threaten Americans. Our close relationships exponentially augment the expansion of our waistlines, and it seems this “epidemic” is as close to contagious as mono. However, negligence can no longer be our excuse. Most notably (read: importantly), The Biggest Loser’s seventh season has recently commenced on NBC, but this time, couples have signed on to makeover themselves and their lives. As they struggle together and apart to lose weight, we will be able to see their parallel journeys and how their motivational pairs help them achieve their goals. Hopefully, we will be able to translate this experience into our own lives in order to combat the study’s figures. Find a gym buddy, commit to a healthy lifestyle with your suitemates, and most importantly, take care of each other as you would take care of yourself.

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As someone who exercises most every day, I often reach a burnout point with cardio equipment, weight training routines, and too-often jogged paths. This New Years, I made a fitness resolution not to increase my workouts, but instead to find ways to build exercise into my day in a way that engages not only my muscles but my mind. I’ve incorporated new dance and aerobics classes into my weekly mix of workouts, because the choreography requires me to stay present and mindful of my body. Instead of pushing myself to go harder or farther, I challenge myself to commit a new skill to muscle memory. I also eliminated one standard gym workout per week. Rather than plateau, or worse, frustrate myself into avoiding exercise altogether, I try to find an activity every weekend where I can both move and see new things. One weekend I walked from the Metropolitan Museum of Art to Midtown with a friend, window shopping and running errands. Another week, I just took the stairs everywhere that day, and did some pushups and ab workouts in my room. Anything to be outside the gym, without the stress of changing clothes or the annoyance of having forgotten socks, a magazine, or deodorant.

So, as part of my resolution, I’ve discovered the Upcoming Events calendar on the website of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. Many of the parks offer walking tours, which are both educational and active. The park rangers lead historical and nature-oriented programming, including activities like birdwatching and winter hikes. This weekend, I’m thinking about joining up with their walking tour of Union Square. Check out the offerings and find a way to incorporate a low-stress, informative, and engaging activity into your day that still allows you to break a sweat.

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