All posts by Terrence E. Sweeney Ph.D.

Presentation of NY Times Health & Fitness Articles

Today each student presented a NY Times article that spoke to the latest understanding of health and fitness. Below you will find each student’s brief summary of the article, as well as a link to the original article…

Ryan Clarkson’s Presentation

The Fats You Don’t Need to Fear, and the Carbs That You Do
Efforts to correct past dietary sins have caused the pendulum to swing too far in the wrong direction.
JANE E. BRODY, NY Times, OCTOBER 19, 2015

This article went into detail about a false rule that many people live by and have adopted into their daily life. Jane Brody sheds light on the topic of how many people believe that a completely fat free diet is the healthiest way to live. In believing this, many people are taking in bad carbohydrates, which is very bad for you and can lead to obesity and Type II diabetes.
Fats and carbohydrates are an important part of our diet. It’s just a matter of eating the right ones. Saturated fats that you can find in junk foods are fats you should avoid. The fats you find in things like nuts and olive oil should be eaten regularly. Carbs are the same way. Certain carbs such as ones that can be found in things like white bread and baked goods aren’t good for maintaining a healthy diet. Ones that you can find in whole wheat pasta are good for you.
The article says that we need to educate people to try and break this bad habit. If we don’t, the number of people with cardiovascular diseases and poor diets will continue to rise.

Virginia Farrell’s Presentation

Lifting Lighter Weights Can Be Just as Effective as Heavy Ones
In a study, participants’ muscles got bigger and stronger whether they lifted heavy or light weights as long as they lifted until they were tired.
GRETCHEN REYNOLDS, NY Times, JULY 20, 2016

This article takes a look at the idea that working with lighter weights and heavier weights might have the same impact on muscle growth. Several tests have been performed to support this idea. Similar muscle growth was found in the people using lighter weights – who would perform more repetitions – as in the people using heavy weights – who performed fewer repetitions. Researchers found that the key to maintaining similar results was to have the subjects grow tired and attain total muscular fatigue.
However, this article does not prove that one workout regimen is better than the other. It does encourage people who would otherwise be afraid of heavier weights to start lifting lighter weights because they could expect to achieve the same results.

Gared Zaboski’s Presentation

PERSONAL BEST: Fitting Heat and Humidity Into Your Workouts
No matter how much you train in the heat, it will never be easy, athletes and researchers say.
BY GINA KOLATA, NY Times, JULY 3, 2008

This article begins with a list of commonly asked questions about exercise in the heat. These include inquiries about heat’s impact on performance times and how best to adapt to and mitigate the influence of heat on athletic events.
The author responds to these rhetorical questions by citing several studies and pieces of anecdotal evidence. The work of Dr. Cheuvront, a researcher at the Army Institute, is featured heavily. Through a study, Dr. Cheuvront found that heat does significantly and unambiguously decrease performance. He also observed several adaptations that people can make by training in hot conditions. The article states that “blood volume expands, which reduces the strain on the heart from increased blood flow to the skin and muscles.”. The article also encourages its readers to ensure they are sweating as much as possible, and it is ideal for that sweat to evaporate, as this allows the body to cool.
The article concludes by repeating the finding that heat is a negative influence on physical performance, and that athletes must “accept discomfort and slowness” despite the possibility for some adaptation to be made.

Eva Rine’s Presentation

For Athletes, the Risk of Too Much Water
Are we putting young athletes at risk when we urge them to drink lots of fluids during steamy sports practices and games?
BY GRETCHEN REYNOLDS, NY Times, AUGUST 26, 2015

Overhydration is a problem for athletes. Athletes are urged to hydrate all the time and often consume more fluid than they can get rid of, leading to hyponatremia, low blood sodium concentration. Forced to maintain the osmotic balance between the cells and the blood, cells take in water, making them swell. If this happens in the brain it can be fatal.
Often athletes will drink water or sports drinks to try to alleviate muscle cramps or to avoid heat related illnesses. They will consume gallons of fluids that their bodies cannot get rid of. This is even more harmful than dehydration. Athletes should drink water when they are thirsty and minimal amounts other times.

Day 10 – Eales Nature Preserve at Moosic Mountain – Prescribed Fires

Today (which happened to be Dr. Sweeney’s birthday!) we hiked The Dick and Nancy Eales Nature Preserve at Moosic Mountain.

Sherwood. Human Physiology; Brooks-Cole
Sherwood. Human Physiology; Brooks-Cole

Before we put on our hiking boots and hit the trails, we again discussed in the lab “what is going on in our bodies when we exercise?” Dr. Sweeney showed us several diagrams, breaking down how our bodies react to exercise.  One specific diagram showed the flow distribution of blood at rest versus during moderate exercise. There were some significant changes – digestive tract blood flow reduced from 1,350 ml/min to 600 ml/min – proving that our moms were correct saying “no swimming after dinner.” The biggest shift was in the skeletal muscle. Muscle goes from 750 ml/min to 8,000 ml/min, which comes as no surprise.

We then went on to look at other diagrams, but the most impressive one we saw was made by Dr. Sweeney himself. He showed us his cardiovascular model, in which he broke down each component of the cardiovascular system into tubes, pipes and even a balloon.

Scranton Cardiovascular Model
Scranton Cardiovascular Model

Once he explained all the different functions of the model, we began to test it. He showed us what happens with dehydration – immediately the heart ejected less blood. Along with the model, we were able to see all the functions being charted on the computer, with the ability to start and stop the heart whenever we chose.

After a couple hours in the lab we headed to Moosic Mountain.  We were met by  Times-Tribune reporter Kathleen Bolus and photographer Michael Mullen, who were there to help document the endeavors of the EP NEPA class. Read Kat’s story about the course here http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/extreme-physiology-nepa-edition-1.2073248.

We also met with Jenny Chase, who explained to us everything that goes on and is going on across this land. Moosic Mountain is part of The Nature Conservancy, a non-profit organization that fights to make sure natural lands and waters are conserved so that a diversity of life can continue.

Jenny Case describes the history of the Eales Nature Preserve (photo courtesy of Michael Mullen, Times-Tribune)
Jenny Case describes the history of the Eales Nature Preserve (photo courtesy of Michael Mullen, Times-Tribune)

The 2,250 acre property was obtained over time. It was originally set to be made into a prison, and then into a business park, but through the Nature Conservancy’s eventual acquisition of these lands, they were able to prevent that and instead preserve this ecosystem.

The Eales Preserve has been maintaining the original nature of this ecosystem through a pattern of “prescribed fires”. These prescribed fires wipe out the more mature vegetation of the region in order to reduce the risk of wildfires, improve wildlife habitat and control weeds. The native vegetation of this “ridge-top heath barren” does well on barren soil. They begin downwind, make a circle of fuel and light it.  The crews that carry out the prescribed burns are highly trained.  (Don Jacobs, who documented our trip to Peck’s Pond at Delaware State Forest, has also recently produced a piece on prescribed burns, which can be viewed here http://wnep.com/2016/07/31/prescribed-burn/).

Moosic Mountain is opened to hiking and mountain biking and is maintained with the help of a number of dedicated mountain bikers.

After saying goodbye to Jenny, we hiked a couple of miles with a crew that included some Arizona Extreme Physiology alumni… the hike could’ve been shorter if we didn’t rely on Dr. Sweeney’s GPS, but it was his birthday so we let it go.

Heading out, under the steady leadership of Dr. Sweeney (photo courtesy of Michael Mullen, Times-Tribune)
Heading out, under the steady leadership of Dr. Sweeney, with reporter Kat Bolus next in line (photo courtesy of Michael Mullen, Times-Tribune)
The EP NEPA crew with Biology Faculty Specialist Vince Marshall (right) and EP 2015 alumni Gabby Prezkop and Marissa D'Avignon (2nd and 3rd from left, respect.)
The EP NEPA crew with Biology Faculty Specialist Vince Marshall (right) and EP 2015 alumni Gabby Prezkop and Marissa D’Avignon (2nd and 3rd from left)

Virginia, for the EP NEPA crew…

Day 9 – Clarks Summit to Nicholson Ride; UofS Sustainability Initiatives

Today the group went on a 27 mile bike ride in the morning, from Clarks Summit to Nicholson and back again in a loop. We were met at the beginning of the ride by Times-Tribune photographer Michael Mullen, who saw the crew out on the ride.

The EP NEPA crew sets out for Nicholson, from Clarks Summit (photo courtesy of Michael Mullen)
The EP NEPA crew sets out for Nicholson, from Clarks Summit (photo courtesy of Michael Mullen)

Although the ride was shorter than last week’s ride, the hills that we had to climb certainly made it more challenging.
Route_Elevation_plotThe ride covered over 2,400 feet of ascent, and gave us a spectacular view of the Nicholson Viaduct.
NIcholson_bridge_shot We even had an EP record – a second second breakfast stop at the Bluebird Diner.
IMG_1942After finishing the ride and returning to campus, UofS Director of Sustainability Mark Murphy led the class on a descriptive lecture/tour of the University’s various sustainability projects. Mr. Murphy detailed the numerous steps Scranton takes to conserve resources and funds, including Solar Panels, hand dryers, LED lighting, and recycling programs. Scranton also engages in some community based sustainability activities, like the shared garden just up the road from campus.
IMG_1943UofS Director of Sustainability Mark Murphy (back, car-right) with the class at Scranton’s Community Garden.

Residents are able to purchase small plots of land and take advantage of University provided resources to cultivate some crops, a portion of which are donated to a nearby food pantry. The tour was facilitated by the bike share program at the library, in collaboration with the Lackawanna Heritage Trail. This project allows bikes to be rented to both students and non students alike at no cost, encouraging the use of a low impact form of transportation.

Gared, for theEP NEPA crew…

Impressions – Week 2

  • I really enjoyed Lackawanna State Park. The lecture was interesting, and I enjoyed learning a little more about our state parks. The hike was fun and Vince’s mini lectures were cool. The bike ride was awesome. I was nervous about that but it wasn’t too bad except for the hills, and then I had the pleasure of telling my family I biked 33 miles. Rickett’s Glen was fun too. I liked hiking the whole thing because the last time I was there I only hiked the falls trail. I didn’t really enjoy kayaking because of all the weeds, but I thought the fire tower was pretty cool. I would describe last week as pretty lit, as the kids say.
  • Week two was filled with two of my favorite things and one of my least favorite things. I loved the hiking at Ricketts Glen State Park and the kayaking at Peck’s Pond. That 33-mile bike ride though… that was a killer. All in all, it was a very fun week. I learned that an answer someone might give as a “just give me an answer” is actually something that happens in our bodies. We actually grow more capillaries as a response to a demand in the muscles. I think that is really cool. Throughout the week I began focusing more on what my body was doing during all of our exercise. I began paying more attention to using the different muscle groups and how to monitor breathing and heart rate.
  • I’ve had the most fun this week. From getting a better bike to kayaking to hiking Ricketts Glen to even white water rafting, my expectations have been exceeded. I haven’t had this much fun doing physical activity since my service trip a year ago. I don’t feel as physically challenged as I did the first week. I hope to continue doing these types of activities in the future.

    A "classic" selfie after whitewater rafting with EP 2015 (Arizona) alumni
    A “classic” selfie after whitewater rafting with EP 2015 (Arizona) alumni
  • I enjoyed the hike to Rickett’s Glen. Even though it was a trail I have done countless times since my early years, its always a nice place to revisit. The trips to Lackawanna State Forest and Pecks Pond were both new to me. I preferred Lackawanna to Pecks Pond, as kayaking on a body of water infested with plant life was not as fun, despite the informative nature of the trip. The lengthy bike ride was a challenge, especially the hill leading in to Forest City, but completing that excursion proved to be rewarding.

Day 8 – Peck’s Pond in the Delaware State Forest

The class arrived at Peck’s Pond and prepared for a kayak adventure with a lecture from Tim Dugan, DCNR’s District Forester for the Delaware State Forest.
IMG_2025Also accompanying us today was Don Jacobs, of WNEP’s Pennsylvania Outdoor Life, and his cameraman Brian Hollingshead, who were there to produce a segment about our course and the upcoming drawdown of Peck’s Pond.

L to R, District Forrester Tim Dugan & WNEP's Don Jacobs and Brian Hollingshead
L to R, District Forrester Tim Dugan & WNEP’s Don Jacobs and Brian Hollingshead

(Don’s POL segment can be viewed here: http://wnep.com/2016/07/31/university-of-scranton-extreme-physiology-at-pecks-pond/

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PEC Intern Alec Cottone (2nd from left) and District Forrester Tim Dugan (right) with the EP NEPA crew

District Forrester Dugan spoke about plants that are taking over the pond such as milfoil and several species of lily pads.

There are about two meters of muck (decayed plant matter) and only one meter of water in the pond. Normally, the pond would be allowed to take its course of eutrophication (which is pond to swamp to marsh to meadow to forest,) but the residents had pressed for something to be done about the weeds, so the it will be drained. It will take about 3 weeks to drain the entire pond, and this will allow the weeds to be exposed to excessive sunlight and also be treated with herbicide before they go dormant for the winter.
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The class then kayaked for about two hours and saw the extent of the milfoil and lily pad infestation, which made it difficult to kayak.

Alec documents the state of the pond
Alec documents the state of the pond

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They also saw two beaver lodges and collected various artifacts from around the lake such as flowers, a beaver stick, and a dead fish.

After kayaking, the class enjoyed lunch and then drove to the top of the mountain to see the High Knob Fire Tower. The fire tower is used to spot forest fires and help triangulate them, in conjunction with another fire tower.

Fire Tower map used to triangulate position of forest fires
Fire Tower map used to triangulate position of forest fires

Eva, for the EP NEPA crew…

Day 7 – Rickett’s Glen State Park Hike

Today we hiked at Rickett’s Glen State Park. Accompanying us on the hike were PA Dept of Conservation and Natural Resources Regional Advisor Christine Dettore and Eastern Regional Manager Lorne Possinger.

DCNR Regional Advisors Christine Dettore and Lorne Possinger
DCNR Regional Advisor Christine Dettore and Eastern Regional Manager Lorne Possinger

This park is known for its beautiful waterfalls and its long and difficult Falls Trail. IMG_0977There are also many other amenities at the park such as recreational boating, picnic areas, campsites, and in the winter the park allows climbers to try their hand at ice climbing on their frozen waterfalls.

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Ricketts Glen Park Mgr. Ben Stone

We hiked around four miles and then met up with park manager Ben Stone for a talk about the park and all of the exciting things it has to offer.
He explained to us a little bit how he became the park manager and what he has done in his four years of service as manager at Ricketts Glen State Park.

He also spoke about the process of controlled burns to study forest regrowth. This process involves taking around a 15-foot area and burning everything out to create a barrier from the forest to study its progression.

IMG_2021Ben also talked about why making stone statues along riverbeds is not a good idea. It removes many different species from their homes and causes disturbances in their ecosystems.
IMG_2020After lunch we hopped back on the trail to hike down the other side of the waterfalls. This was about another five miles down steep inclines.
IMG_0962IMG_0986Eventually we arrived back where we started and decided that what we really needed was some ice cream. So, off we went to Hillside Farms Dairy for some fresh and delicious ice cream to end our excursion.

Ryan, for the EP NEPA crew…

Day 6 – Blakely to Forest City – Bike Ride #2

IMG_2016Today was the first full-day bike ride. We met at Blakely Park and biked on the Lackawanna River Heritage Trail to Jermyn.
It is a nicely paved trail that is primarily wooded and shaded and it offers nice views of the calmly flowing river.  Thanks to trail signage in Jermyn, we learned that Jermyn was founded in 1874 and is known as “The Birthplace of First Aid in America” because the city offered the nation’s first class on first aid to coal miners.

IMG_2008After getting off the trail in Jermyn, we used a variety of roads in Mayfield and Carbondale to get to Forest City,IMG_2015

IMG_2012 with the last leg of our journey taking us up the relentless incline of Route 171 and past views of the Waymart wind turbines.

IMG_1901 We finally stopped for a “second breakfast” at the Bakery, Café, and Eatery attached to the Citgo station where we had omelets, muffins, pancakes, eggs, homefries, toast, and a lot of chocolate milk! IMG_1905The service was great and our waitress was nice enough to take a group photo and send us off with a wave.  We retraced our tire tracks back to Blakely, completing the 33 mile ride,  but not before thoroughly enjoying IMG_2011
the Rt 171 descent into Carbondale, a lot of roadside Queen Anne’s lace IMG_2010and other wildflowers alongside the road … and of course some photo ops.

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The crew biking through downtown Carbondale

Tara, for the EP NEPA crew…

Day 5 – Lackawanna State Park Hike

The class started off the day with lectures by Dr. Sweeney and Professor Fay. Dr. Sweeney’s lecture was about oxygen consumption and how oxygen is distributed throughout the body and to muscles during exercise. Professor Fay’s lecture was on nutrition and how different nutrients are used by the body, such as proteins, lipids, carbohydrates, and vitamins and minerals.

After the lectures, the class drove to Lackawanna State Park for a hike with Dr. Vince Marshall, a Biology department ecologist. As soon as they got out of the car, it started pouring, so they had to go to Plan B, which was to have the lecture of Lackawanna State Park Environmental Educator Angela Lambert before rather than after the hike.

Angela began her lecture with a video on state parks and followed up with a wealth of information about Pennsylvania’s state park system. There are currently 121 state parks covering 300,000 acres with 335 million visitors each year. There is a Get Outdoors PA (GOPA) Program, which was set up to help families get outside and appreciate and respect nature. Almost all aspects of the program are free, and it is led by state park personnel. There also is a rating system for state parks. The PA goal was to have all parks have at least a silver leaf rating, and all of PA’s parks do. There is a Leave No Trace program, which teaches people how to take care of parks and leave little impact on the land during recreational activities such as camping.

Angela then talked about how park management offices often manage more than just one park, as is the case for the Lackawanna State Park management office. Angela also passed out maps and showed the class conservancy properties. A conservancy property is owned by a private landowner but the rights have been given to the park to use.

State parks also serve as sites for research, such as on bird migration, and as a habitats for many different species. State parks with bodies of water such as lakes will often have “rain gardens” which capture rain water and essentially filter it through plants to remove chemicals, silt, and other pollutants from the water that then drains into the lake.

After the lecture the rain had finally stopped, and the class drove to the trail and began the hike. While on the hike, Dr. Marshall pointed out one of the many stone walls found in the park’s forest lands and explained that the forest had once been a field, and the wall was a property marker. There is no old growth in the forest, with the area having been a farm in the 1800s. Vince also explained that no earthworms are native to the area, as they had all been wiped out by glaciers. All the earthworms in the area now had been relocated from other continents such as Europe.

Extreme Physiology students with Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC) Vice President Janet Sweeney and her intern Alec Cottone (left). Janet is External Lead to the Pocono Forest and Waters Conservation Landscape, which coordinated selection of course activity sites.
Extreme Physiology students with Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC) Vice President Janet Sweeney (left) and her intern Alec Cottone (center). Janet is External Lead to the Pocono Forests and Waters Conservation Landscape, which coordinated selection of all course activity sites.

The class stopped for a brief photo op on a bridge before heading back.

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The class with Dr. Vince Marshall (right), who described the local ecology and history along the hike, and with PEC Intern Alec Cottone (third from left).

Impressions – Week 1

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Ryan Clarkson
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Virginia Farrell

•  Going into this course I knew it would be a challenge. I’m not in great shape and science was never my strong subject. I wanted both of those aspects to change. I knew it wouldn’t take overnight but this looked like a good way to start. I really appreciate seeing all of places I could go to walk, bike or hike. I really look forward to kayaking. As challenging as some of these activities are, I wouldn’t want anything to change. It has to be a challenge for it to work. I can’t stop recommending this course to my friends and I really do hope it becomes popular.

•  I enjoyed the fitness testing earlier in the week. It was interesting to have my own capabilities quantified, instead of guessing at them subjectively. The hike at the Bear Creek Preserve and the ride on the Lackawanna Heritage Valley Trail were nice, as they were both new territory for me. The only minor issue I had with the activities so far was the street bike ride in Scranton. I’m not quite as confident riding in traffic, and consider trails a more comfortable location. I suspect, however, that this sentiment will not be as prevalent with more experience in that style of biking.

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Gared Zaboski
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Eva Rine
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Terrence Sweeney
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Tara Fay

•  My impressions of the course… Well I really didn’t know what to expect. I had a basic understanding of exercise and how to stay healthy but from the first meeting we had before class started, I could tell I was about to get into a whole lot more. After finishing the first week I realized that there is a lot more to exercise than just running and keeping active. Many of the tests we did showed me that the course was really going to be “extreme.” I thought the first week went very well. I learned a lot of new material about what physiology really was and some things I could apply to my daily routine. I can’t really think of anything that I would like to see more or less of. I’m just excited to see what other activities we will get to do during the next few weeks!
•  I didn’t really know what to expect last week, but it turned out to be awesome. The first couple days were painful, but even though I was really sore, I was sorry to miss the first bike ride. The lectures are all really interesting, and the activities are enjoyable. The professors, classmates, and guests are all really friendly.

Day 4 – LHVA Scranton Trail – Bike ride #1

Today began with morning lectures by Michael Landram, Asst. Professor of Exercise Science, who described Principles of Exercise Training, and by Dani Arigo, Asst. Professor of Psychology, who described the Psychology of Exercise.

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Exercise Science Asst. Prof. Michael Landram

LHVA_CNJ_RailroadAfter a quick lunch, we met Owen Worozbyt, Trail and Environmental Projects Manager, at the Lackawanna River Heritage Trail office on Railroad Ave and he led us on a bike ride on the Central New Jersey Railroad portion of the trail, stopping at a few points of interest.
Between Elm Street and the end of the paved portion of the trail in Taylor, there are several wood sculptures, including an American Indian, that Tom Austin from PennDot sculpted (more info here: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/native-american-carved-out-of-tree-stands-sentry-over-river-trail-1.1413175).

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LHVA’s Owen Worozbyt (right) describes wood sculptures along the trail

There is also a trailside multi-use athletic field, an amphitheater, and a medicinal herb garden on the trailside.  Owen also took us to the section of the trail that is a spur to Providence Rd. near Scranton High School and showed us the recent trail work that widened that section of trail to make it more inviting to pedestrians.

Mural created along the newly improved CNJRR portion of the trail
Mural created along the newly improved CNJRR portion of the trail

Eventually Owen had to return to work, but the Extreme Phizzers continued on a ride through Scranton’s city streets.  Our ambition got the best of us as we were forced to take cover in the vestibule of a local elementary school while a thunderstorm boomed overhead.  Luckily, the storm passed quickly and we were able to resume our ride.  We traveled out to Green Ridge, did a lap around the Plot, huffed and puffed up Electric Street, and cruised back to the University of Scranton through the Hill Section.  Overall, it was an educational and exciting ~ 12-mile ride!

(The whole EP crew is indebted to the LHVA, who loaned the students beautiful hybrid bikes to use for the duration of the class. Thank you, LHVA!!!)

Tara Fay, for the EP NEPA crew…