Sustainable Schoolyards: Sowing the Love for Our Natural World

WHS-LGAndi Cooper, WRD Environmental, shared the following article in the Sierra Club’s Fall 2014 newsletter.

WATCH caterpillars mysteriously transform to a chrysalis then butterflies, FEEL the silkiness of a seed pod brush against your cheek, or SMELL the pungent aroma of dill crushed between your fingers. It is moments like these that powerfully shape one’s views of the world. These rich experiences illustrate how manipulating the natural world touches our senses, creating lasting memories and connections to our environment.

Unfortunately, nature’s allure is lost when our children spend countless hours mesmerized by screens – stuck indoors. A recent Nature Conservancy survey reports that only about 10 percent of today’s youth spend time outdoors each day, and kids ages 8 to 18 spend a devastating 53 hours a week using entertainment media.

Why? Their reasons are a lack of access to natural areas, and general discomfort.

So what can we do to help create more accessible spaces for youth to head outdoors, while outfitting them with ways to stay comfortable?

When you take a close look, local schools and communities have demonstrated how they can allure our children back outside – connecting them with nature. In Lombard, Illinois Hammerschmidt Elementary School, in partnership with the Lombard Park District, the Village of Lombard, the DuPage Community Foundation, DuPage FORWARD and DuPage County, is creating the WHS Learn+Play Gardens. This green schoolyard aims to inspire students and community members to go outdoors, connect to nature and get active – hence “leave no child inside.”

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How To Limit The Damage Of Halloween Candy Excess And Viable Alternatives To Halloween Candy

pumpkingirlsmallFOCUS ON ATTRACTIVE, HEALTHY ALTERNATIVES: Parents can make a conscious and yearly effort to create alternative Halloween traditions that place the focus on activity, not on treats – i.e hosting your own Halloween costume or craft party, coordinating a scavenger hunt (with toys, not candy, for prizes), participating in many of the candy-free harvest carnivals offered by churches and community centers, or spinning spooky tunes in the front yard to entertain passing neighbors.

A recent Halloween study found that children between three and fourteen were just as likely to chose toys as candy when offered both. So don’t sweat offering alternatives to gooey goodies. Non-food Halloween items like pencils, stickers, and temporary tattoos are great alternatives. You can also chose healthier foods for trick or treaters like individual packages of graham crackers, mini boxes of raisins, or sugar free gum.

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Is Your Child Overweight or Obese?

toad_or_frog_wearing_a_wizards_hat_0521-1010-2412-4121_SMUFamily Fitness Expert, writes: you may look at your kids and think, “He’s strong and sturdy,” or “She’s still got a bit of baby fat.” But check again; that baby fat could have big consequences for her health. Child obesity can leave kids at risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, and even depression.At regular check-ups, your child’s doctor should check his height and weight and calculate his body-mass index, or BMI (see an online calculator that helps you check against thresholds for child obesity).

  • A child is considered overweight if her BMI is at or above the 85th percentile (but below the 95th percentile).

Because kids’ growth patterns are different from adults, a child’s BMI can’t be directly compared to an adult’s. Special BMI-for-age charts help doctors know which kids are at risk. So do growth patterns over time, and so does questions doctors may ask about diet and fitness, such as:

If the BMI, the lifestyle questions, and/or family medical history raise a red flag, the doctor may order follow-up lab tests, such as a lipid profile (which checks the level of cholesterol in the blood), and recommend lifestyle changes for the whole family or other treatments.


Soda may age you as much as smoking

downloadThe Daily Herald Newspaper ran an interesting story about soda on October 27, 2014.  It said that we knew that drinking sugary sodas could lead to obesity, diabetes and heart attacks — but, according to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health, it may also speed up your body’s aging process, The Washington Post reports.

As you age, caps on the end your chromosomes called telomeres shrink. In the past several years, researchers at the University of California at San Francisco, have analyzed stored DNA from more than 5,300 healthy Americans in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from some 14 years ago. And they discovered that those who drank more pop tended to have shorter telomeres.

The shorter the telomere, the harder it is for a cell to regenerate — and so, the body ages.

“We think we can get away with drinking lots of soda as long as we are not gaining weight, but this suggests that there is an invisible pathway that leads to accelerated aging, regardless of weight,” said psychiatry professor Elissa Epel, senior author of the study.

According to the research, drinking a 20-ounce bubbly beverage every day is linked to 4.6 years of additional aging. You get the same effect by smoking, said UCSF postdoctoral fellow Cindy Leung, lead author of the study.

Things that could shorten your life

Here are some surprising things that could shorten your life, from Robert Palmer, CEO of PotentiaMED:

Not drinking enough water: We all know that water makes you look good and feel good, but Palmer says, “Drinking water is key when it comes to flushing out your body. It’s one of the most important ways to keep your kidneys and your prostate functioning properly.”

Being a night owl: Research has shown that people who work the night shift have myriad health risks. One surprising risk factor for breast cancer is working the night shift., Palmer says. Doctors theorize it could be the stress, lack of sleep, or simply an off-kilter circadian rhythm.

Not having kids: Maybe hard to believe. “People often think that stressing about their children gives them gray hairs and takes years off their life, but actually it’s the other way around,” Palmer says. “People with children live longer, healthier lives.”

Get Your Flu Shot Now!

doctor with female patientEdward Hospital Physician Dr. Jonathan Gibson says, ” First it’s back to school, then comes flu season.”

About this time of year doctors begin talking up the importance of flu shots, and with good reason – it’s an antidote that can reduce your chances of catching a flu virus by 70 to 90 percent.

You know you should get one, but when?

Flu shots are typically offered starting in September and October, slightly ahead of the usual October-May flu season. If you get it too early, will it wear off before the flu season ends? Although the flu season doesn’t peak until about January or February, a flu shot administered in early fall should carry you through most of the season, says Dr. Jonathan Gibson, MD, a primary care physician with Edward Medical Group.

“The earlier in the season you get your shot, the less likely you are to catch the flu,” says Dr. Gibson. “It’s also important to note that the vaccine can take up to two weeks to become effective.” Continue reading

Healthy Tips from Arbor


Arbor Food Management included these simple, easy healthy tips in its October, 2014 newsletter:

Kids need at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day to stay  healthy. Get the entire family involved to encourage a healthy and active family environment!

• Break it up into smaller segments of at least 10 minutes.
• Climb the stairs instead of taking the  elevator or escalator.
• Try a new activity, sport, or club.
• Walk to school together or take a family walk after dinner.

Five things you should know about Ebola

ebola-virus237Edwards/Elmhurst Hospital shared this valuable information in their recent newsletter:

In light of the evolving situation in Texas related to the Ebola virus – and with the safety of you, your family and our staff in the forefront of our minds – here are five things you should know:

1.     The Ebola virus is containable.  Other hospitals in the U.S., including Emory University Hospital and the University of Nebraska Medical Center, have shown this to date.  With a vigilant, aggressive plan, we are prepared to do the same in the unlikely event we care for a patient with the Ebola virus.  To date, no one in Illinois has tested positive for the Ebola virus.

2.     If you or someone you know is experiencing Ebola symptoms (click here for symptoms), and has recently traveled to West Africa, the patient should not go to their doctor’s office, but should call the nearest Emergency Room and then proceed to that ER.  You can minimize your risk of transmitting or contracting other types of infections by washing your hands and by avoiding contact with the body fluids of people who are sick.

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Fall allergies are nothing to sneeze at

sneezingHere are some simple and practical allergy tips, reported by FOX News, to help you:

• Wear oversized sunglasses to block airborne pollens and molds from entering your eyes and lids.

• Wear a hat. Go for a wide-brimmed one and avoid hair gels that turn your ‘do into a pollen magnet.

• Pollen levels are highest on windy, dry and sunny days. Check your local weather reports to identify high allergy days.

• Get your seasonal allergies confirmed. Simple in-office allergy tests can pinpoint your problem.

• Start early with allergy treatment. Many medications will work better (nasal antihistamines/steroids, oral antihistamines and eye drops) if you start them even before symptoms begin.

• Consider allergy shots and/or sublingual allergy treatment. These are the only immune-based therapy that will help reduce allergy symptoms. The goal is to provide excellent long-term relief, in a large majority of allergy sufferers.

Green Surroundings Linked to Higher Student Test Scores

outdoorsThe District Administration website shared an article by Tom Jacobs  that asked “How well is your child doing academically?” Parents with concerns tend to focus on what’s happening inside the school (Are the teachers good? The class sizes small?), while also monitoring behavior at home (Is homework getting done?).

While both are important, a new study suggests there may be another, less-obvious factor at play: The walk or ride between home and school, and whether it involves immersion in the natural world.

Exposure to nature has long been linked to lower stress levels andmental alertness, but a new, first-of-its-kind study finds it is also associated with higher scores on a standardized test.

Even after controlling for factors such as race and parental income, Massachusetts third-graders with greater “exposure to greenness show better academic performance in both English and math,” reports a research team led by Chih-Da Wu of National Chiayi University in Taiwan. Its study is published in the online journal PLoS One. Continue reading

Friends Can Help You Stay Healthy

healthy_choices(1)A Year Of Being Well recently asked, Isn’t everything more fun with a friend? And the answer is YES! Wellness buddies can help you implement a healthier lifestyle, become more active and encourage you to stick to your routine. Research shows that people may be more successful at losing weight through physical activity when they have buddies or support partners.  The same is true for kids: They tend to eat healthier and be more physically active if their friends are, too. So find someone you enjoy spending time with who has similar goals – a friend, family member, colleague or neighbor – and invite them to partner with you.  Determine the activities, times and locations that work for both of you. Then get moving together! Share ideas. Motivate each other. If you stumble during your journey toward achieving your goals (and you might), don’t fret. Pick each other up. Eating better and being active with a friend is more fun.  So is celebrating success.