HLC Pilot Program Tips

Week One: Eat 5

Week One Challenge: Eat 5 cups of fruits and vegetables every day

Why are they important?

We all know that we should eat more fruits and vegetables.  For many of us, incorporating more fruits and vegetables into our diets can be difficult because they are often expensive and time consuming to prepare.  Moreover, children and partners may not be so enthusiastic about seeing extra greens in their meals and raisins instead of chips.  But the importance of eating fruits and vegetables cannot be understated.  They are naturally low in calories and provide a great source of dietary fiber.  They have been also shown to reduce the risk of chronic diseases including type 2 diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Intake of fruits and vegetables varies according to each participant’s age, gender, height, weight and physical activity. For the purposes of keeping it simple and straightforward for the Healthy Lifestyle Challenge, we are asking all participants to eat a combination of fruits and vegetables adding up to 5 cups per day. However, the appropriate amount for individuals can be calculated on this website, which also helps you keep track of your eating habits.   

Examples of one serving are:

  • 3/4 cup of 100% fruit juice
  • 1 medium piece of fruit
  • ½ cup chopped, cooked, raw, or canned vegetables
  • 1 cup raw, leafy vegetables

Examples of two servings are:

  • 1 large apple
  • 1 large banana
  • 2 cups of raw greens
  • 12 baby carrots
  • 1 large orange
  • 1 large bell pepper
  • 1 medium grapefruit
  • 1 large sweet potato

To find a more complete list on fruit and vegetable servings, please visit this website.

The amount you need can depend on your gender, age, and amount of daily physical activity.  To find out more, visit this USDA website and enter in your information to view and print your personalized results.

Sample the spectrum
Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables is an easy way to ensure a bountiful source of nutrients.  
For more reasons to eat a rainbow of colorful fruits and vegetables, visit this website.

Planning your meals
You can also use the shopping tips found in the attached document for the next time you go out for groceries.  Also be sure to check out the CDC's website for suggestions on healthy ideas for:

Use your team members
It can be hard making changes alone, so finding ways to support each other can be extremely helpful.  As a team, why not take turns bringing in fresh fruit or vegetable snacks into the office to be shared among the members?

Week Two: Move 30

Week Two Challenge: Exercise for 30 minutes a day!

During the course of the week, you will be challenged to do 30 minutes of exercise each day along with maintaining your healthy habit of eating 5 servings of fruits and vegetables. Some tips on adding more physical activity into your lifestyle are below.

Why it's important?

Exercise improves your health and can help you live longer. Making lifestyle changes to increase physical activity can lower your chances of chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, depression, etc. Are the jeans feeling a little tight? Is work getting stressful already? Along with eating healthy, physical activity is also the best way to reach your goals of looking and feeling great!

What are the components of physical activity?

Physical activity is any type of activity that gets your body moving. According to national guidelines, the most important kinds of activities are aerobic exercise and muscle-strengthening activities.  

Aerobic exercise or "cardio" gets you breathing harder and your heart beating faster.  Traditionally, we thinking of vigorous-intensity activities like running and swimming, but more moderate-intensity activities like brisk walking from the subway stop and bicycling to the store can also count – so long as they get your heart-rate up.

Muscle-strengthening activities, or resistance training, work all the major muscle groups of your body (legs, hips, back, chest, abdomen, shoulders, and arms). Examples include lifting weights, working with resistance bands, shoveling snow, doing yoga, and doing push-ups/sit-ups. The most important thing is that they need to be done to a point where it's hard for you to do another repetition without help.

Here are some minimum guidelines from the CDC:
Adults need at least:

  • 2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., brisk walking) every week or 1 hour and 15 minutes (75 minutes) of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., jogging or running) every week and
  • muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest,  shoulders, and arms).
If you have more questions about what counts or does not count as exercise, please visit the CDC page and the City's Health Department page.

10 to 15 minutes at a time is just fine!

Although 30 minutes of continuous exercise is desirable, you can still achieve health benefits by breaking it up into smaller chunks of 10 to 15 minutes throughout the day as long as they get your heart rate up. This means that if you take two brisk 15 minute walks between your house (or work) and subway stop each day, you achieved the day's challenge!

Tips to help you get started

  • Take the stairs: Using the stairs is an easy way to fit physical activity into your day. It saves time waiting for the elevator, is better for the environment, and burns more calories!
  • Get off of the subway one stop early: If you don’t have time to work out, you can fit in some extra movement by getting off of the subway a stop earlier than you need to and walking a little further to your destination.
  • You don't have to give up on daytime walks during the winter. Grab a colleague or friend and take a lunchtime walk.
  • Choose activities you enjoy. Many things count as exercise like hiking, gardening, vacuuming, and dancing.
  • Stay motivated by exercising with someone at home or at work and make it a social event.
  • Make a commitment to join a gym this year!  Discounts are available for faculty and staff at several gyms in and around New York City.

Workout at Home

Workout videos are a great, inexpensive way to stay fit in the comfort of your own home.  Netflix has a wide range of fitness videos and often has free trial periods for new subscribers. Also, Hulu has a few health and fitness channels that feature instructional videos, mainly for yoga. 
Podcasts, such as iTRAIN, enable you to download exercise routines to any MP3 player.  The iTunes store has a long list of podcasts, many of which you can download for free.
The Nintendo Wii’s Wii Fit is another fun way to stay active indoors.
Develop your own at home workout. You don’t need expensive equipment to get a good workout—just use your own body weight, and some creativity. Or, you can buy an inexpensive resistance band to aid your home work out.

Free Fitness Classes Near You

Shaping up has never been this easy!  Shape Up NYC, a program run by NYC Department of Parks and Recreation offers free fitness classes every week at dozens of locations across the five boroughs. Shape Up NYC classes are taught by expert fitness instructors who know how to make fitness fun. Class offerings are varied and include aerobics, yoga, pilates and zumba. No pre-registration is required, so just find the location in your neighborhood.

Week Three: Take 10

Week Three Challenge: Take 10 minutes to relax each day

During the course of the week, you will be challenged to set aside at least 10 minutes out of the day and find a healthy way to relax.

Remember that this week’s challenge is in addition to maintaining your healthy habit of eating 5 servings of fruits and vegetables and exercising 30 minutes a day. Here are some resources to help you start relaxing.

Why it's important?

The American Psychological Association recently released the results of its 2010 Stress in America survey. Among the findings: Nearly 75% of Americans who responded to an online survey said that their stress levels are so high that they feel unhealthy.
Behavioral, emotional, and physical responses to stress are usually interrelated. The more intense the physical response, the stronger the emotional response, and vice-versa. Effective behavioral responses can break this cycle; ineffective ones only worsen it and lead to chronic illness like heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and depression.

The Mayo Clinic provides many resources on stress management and relaxation techniques that are worth looking into.

Coping with Stress: Resources at Columbia

Columbia’s Employee Assistance Program offers free, confidential counseling and consultation to help individuals manage their stress. 

Easy ways to help you relax and manage stress

We are all able to do simple relaxation activities, especially if public transportation is part of our morning and evening routine.  Listen to music, do a crossword puzzle, read a book, or play a game!  Here are some additional activities that can guide you… 


Countless researchers in fancy white lab coats have shown how meditation relaxes both your mind and body. Short little deep breathing exercises that take you temporarily out of your work angst. Here’s a technique to try now.

Do you need to take a quick 10-minute break to relax?  The Mayo Clinic offers a short video to help you while you sit at your desk!  Just make sure that your internet browser is flash-enabled.

The Chopra Center also offers a free Winter 21-Day Meditation Challenge in which you 21 daily guided meditations will be e-mailed to you. 

Drink Tea

Both black and green teas contain an amino acid called L-theanine, which produces a sense of calmness and relaxation by releasing neurotransmitters (like serotonin and endorphins) in the brain.


Regular physical activity strengthens your muscles and releases endorphins, which reduce pain and induce euphoria, therefore improving your mood and mental concentration. So, not only is exercise good for the body, but it's good for the mind, too. Try to do a 10-minute stretch or take a yoga class in your community, or at the Dodge Fitness Center.


Sitting behind a computer all day can take a toll on your body. Stretching exercises can help relieve pain, get rid of stiff joints and even give you a break from the monotony of your work day. Best of all, they only take seconds or minutes to perform! If you need examples, you can look at these slides from Mayo Clinic, and animated videos from the Washington Post. 

Take a Bath

It's a proven fact that warm water relaxes your body muscles and rids your body of stiffness and sore joints. Immersing yourself in hot water before bedtime causes your body temperature to rise, which enhances your ability to fall asleep faster. Also, by adding Epsom Salts to your bath (which are made of the mineral magnesium sulfate - a sedative for the nervous system), your skin will absorb the magnesium sulfate which sedates the nervous system and relaxes muscles. Soft music and candlelight is always a nice touch, too.


Journaling, as a stress management and self-exploration tool, is not the same as simply recording the happenings in one’s life, like keeping a log. To be most helpful, one must write in detail about feelings and cognitions related to stressful events, as one would discuss topics in therapy. Journaling allows people to clarify their thoughts and feelings, thereby gaining valuable self-knowledge. It’s also a good problem-solving tool; often, one can hash out a problem and come up with solutions more easily on paper.


It’s not only ‘the best medicine’; laughter is one of the more fun free stress relievers available! It’s also important to maintain a sense of humor in life; it can be a great way to relieve stress, and can make life more enjoyable at the same time. It’s one of those free stress relievers that can relieve stress in those around you as well.

Week Four: Sleep 7

Week Four Challenge: Sleep 7 hours each day

Sleep has many positive effects on health and well-being, but many people report getting insufficient sleep each night. It’s necessary to develop good sleep habits in order to stay healthy and help your body and mind to rest and recharge.

Why it's important?

From A!sleep

•    Promotes memory consolidation
•    Effects processing speed
•    Makes you feel refreshed and ready for work
•    Boosts immune health
•    Helps maintain energy balance
•    Promotes positive coping with stress
•    Improves athletic performance by enhancing motor skills
•    May help you to pay attention
•    It’s a cheap, easy way to look and feel better!

Resources at Columbia

Alice! Health Promotion, a program of Health Services at Columbia provides resources for staff, faculty, and students to get a better night’s rest through the A!Sleep website.  Take a free on-line sleep assessment and receive tips on healthy sleep habits, instant personalized feedback on your sleep behaviors, and incentive prizes for your participation.

Tips to Improve Your Quality of Sleep

From “A Good Night’s Sleep: Stress, Insomnia, and Work Productivity”

Keep a Regular Sleep Cycle
Research reveals that the body operates on a 24+ hour clock. This body clock is called circadian rhythms. For optimal functioning of mind and body, it is best to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day (including weekends). Even if you cannot fall asleep at an exact time, you should go to bed, turn out the lights at the same time each night.

Create an Ideal Sleep Ambiance
Considering the fact that you spend up to 1/3 of each 24 hour period in this state, one might think that this aspect would deserve more attention. The fact is that many of us take our sleep ambiance for granted or ignore it all together. Careful consideration should be given to the following factors: Darkness, a cool room temperature, minimal noise, no distractions (pets on the bed) and the utmost comfort with sleep surface (e.g., down pillows, down comforter, high thread count sheets, great mattress, etc.).

Get Out and Exercise
Sleep experts and exercise physiologists both agree that physical exercise, primarily cardiovascular exercise, promotes quality sleep. Remember that exercise IS the flight or flight response. Cardiovascular exercise, however, is known for flushing the stress hormones that are produced from non-physical stress out of the body (in essence, using them for their intended purpose and then excreting the by-products.)

Decrease Your Caffeine Consumption
First and foremost know that caffeine is a drug--the most used drug in the world. There is a substance in caffeine that triggers the release of epinephrine and nor-epinephrine, neurotransmitters that increase heart rate and blood pressure. In effect, caffeine stimulates the stress response. You do not want to do this in the evening hours before you go to bed. If you have problems sleeping, consider consuming no caffeine after 4:00 p.m. giving your body three to four hours to detox from this stimulant.

Avoid Alcohol & Nicotine
Alcohol - Contrary to caffeine, alcohol is a depressant, and can make you feel drowsy and even make it easier to fall asleep. However, sleep is interrupted more often and is of a lower quality after consuming alcohol. Also, the effects of alcohol are graded: the more you drink, the worse you'll sleep. Additionally, alcohol will have a stronger effect on someone who is fatigued compared with someone who is well-rested. To get a good night's sleep, avoid alcohol within 2-4 hours before going to sleep. For more information about how alcohol affects sleep, visit the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism website.
Nicotine - Nicotine is a central nervous system stimulant. Yet another good reason to quit smoking ...Smokers tend to have poorer quality sleep and wake up more frequently during the night due to withdrawal symptoms.

Move the TV Out of the Bedroom

Many people fall asleep at night with Jay Leno or Dave Letterman. While these and other late night shows are certainly entertaining at times, the television in the bedroom often tops the list of sleep robbers. Computers, cell phones, and other digital devices also qualify as sleep robbers.

Clear Your Late Night Mind
Countless people who say they have a problem sleeping at night say their mind is racing with thoughts they cannot control: worry, anxiety, frustrations, details, work schedules, responsibilities, etc.  All of these are examples of stress. Keeping a pad of paper by your bed to write down thoughts that are stealing your attention is one way to calm your mind. Another is to write down your plans for the next day before you climb into bed so that your time in bed is for sleep, not organizing and delegating. For some people reading works, for others doing some hobby or activity totally unrelated to your career or occupation works. One thing is certain, not clearing your mind or random thoughts, work-related responsibilities or unresolved issues will only steal precious time away from REM.

Avoid Eating Before Bed
With diminished evening light, the body metabolism begins to slow down, including a slight decrease in body temperature, a factor necessary for quality sleep. Eating right before bed not only throws off the body’s internal clock, the digestion process requires energy and this energy creates body heat, rather than decreasing it.  Acid reflux can also be a potential problem. While eating may serve as a way to calm emotions, eating close to bedtime interferes with the serotonin-melatonin balance. It is also associated with increased weight gain.

Week Five: 4 Me

Week Five Challenge: 4 Me!


Healthy Habit No. 1: Eat Breakfast Every Morning

Breakfast eaters are champions of good health. Research shows people who have a morning meal tend to take in more vitamins and minerals, and less fat and cholesterol. The result is often a leaner body, lower cholesterol count, and less chance of overeating.

Healthy Habit No. 2: Add Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids to Your Diet

Besides being a good source of protein and a food relatively low in the bad type of dietary fat called saturated fat, fish has omega-3 fatty acids -- which have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease.

Fatty fish such as mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna, and salmon, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Foods such as tofu, soybeans, canola, walnuts, flaxseed, and their oils contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which convert to omega-3 in the body.

In addition to their heart-health benefits, there is some evidence that omega-3 fatty acids may also soothe an overactive immune system. Even though this benefit is still being studied, she says there appears to be a link between getting more omega-3s in your diet and reducing allergies, asthma, eczema, and autoimmune disorders.

Healthy Habit No. 3: Practice Good Dental Hygiene

Flossing your teeth every day could add 6.4 years to your life, according to Michael Roizen, MD, author of RealAge. In his book, Roizen lists flossing as one of the most important daily activities -- along with exercise and quitting smoking -- that could extend life span.

Researchers suspect that the bacteria that produce dental plaque enter the bloodstream. They say these bacteria are somehow associated with the inflammation that occurs with plaque that blocks blood vessels and causes heart disease.

Healthy Habit No. 4: Take Up a Hobby

Look up the word "hobby" in the Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, and you will find the definition as "a pursuit outside one's regular occupation engaged in especially for relaxation."

Since they are relaxing activities, hobbies are usually enjoyable. Some people find joy in craftwork, bird watching, sports, going to flea markets, walking in the park, or playing cards.

The joy may help people live healthier and recover better from illness. For one thing, taking part in hobbies can burn calories, more so than just sitting in front of the TV.

Healthy Habit No. 5: Drink Water and Eat Dairy

Water and milk are essential fluids for good health, but they can also help with shedding pounds.

If you don't get enough water, the body goes into emergency mode, and clings to every single water molecule it can find. The stored molecules appear as extra weight. The weight is only released once the body gets enough water.

The calcium in dairy, on the other hand, is known to be important for strong bones and teeth. Studies have also shown it can help prevent high blood pressure, kidney stones, heart disease, and colon cancer.

In the weight loss arena, three 8-ounce glasses of low-fat or fat-free milk appear to encourage body fat loss while maintaining muscle mass, according to the ADA. The dairy consumption must be part of a balanced reduced-calorie meal plan.

Healthy Habit No. 6: Drink Tea

"Decaffeinated tea is better", say researchers, noting that the caffeinated variety can be dehydrating, and sugary drinks can lead to weight gain.

There is also some evidence to suggest that tea may help in improving memory, and preventing cavities, cancer, and heart disease.


Healthy Habit No. 7: Take a Daily Walk

We're not talking about taking the time out of your busy schedule to work out -- that's important, too -- but infusing life- and limb-saving movement into your waking hours.

Just move. Pace during phone calls, while you're brushing your teeth, while watching your son's soccer game. Every 20 steps a person takes is 1 calorie burned.

And there are plenty of opportunities to move those legs:

  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Walk to the store.
  • Window shop at the mall.
  • Leave your desk and visit your co-worker instead of sending him an email.
  • Walk and talk with friends instead of meeting for a meal.

Check out a mile-walk about the Morningside campus you can do!


Healthy Habit No. 8: Lower the volume on your iPod

With Apple Computer Inc. reporting total sales topping 220 million since the product's inception-the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) is offering tips to consumers to help them avoid hearing damage from improperly using personal stereo systems like iPods.

The tips include:

  • keep the volume down
  • avoid prolonged, continuous listening to the systems by taking frequent breaks
  • wear headphones that isolate the wanted music from background noise; headphones that fit over the ears are better than the ear buds (headphones that come with the players) that fit in one's ears because they block background noise

Nearly 10 million Americans have hearing loss as a result of excess noise exposure, according to ASHA, numbers which could increase with the popularity of personal stereo systems.


Healthy Habit No. 9: Use Sunscreen

If you're like most people, you enjoy spending time outdoors and feeling the heat of the sun on your skin - especially after a long drawn out winter. But not all the sun's rays are pleasing. Ultraviolet (UV) light - invisible, but intense rays from the sun - can damage your skin and increase your risk of skin cancer.

Though it's not the only safeguard you need to take, sunscreen is one of the easiest ways to protect your skin and is a good first line of defense.


Healthy Habit No. 10: Know Your Numbers


Although this doesn't fall under the category of daily healthy habit, it remains to be one of the most important things people can do to maintain proper health. Combined with a good diet and exercise, health screenings provide people with an understanding of their health and how to make necessary changes. Most doctors recommend screenings at least every five years.

Certain diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure do not exhibit symptoms until there is a major problem. By detecting these conditions early, doctors are better able to use preventative measures and treatments to avoid these conditions. To get started, you can visit the Million Hearts initiative and use their self assessment tool.