Scuba Pic (Day of Car Accident 2013)

Eudaimonia Society Spotlight: Ryan Arroyo

Eudaimonia is defined as: a sustained form of wellbeing that goes along with finding meaning and purpose in life or human flourishing. The Healthy Campus Initiative launched a new Eudaimonia Society in order to recognize and highlight extraordinary members of the UCLA community who live their lives with purpose and meaning while inspiring others to do the same.

Ryan Arroyo was recently nominated for the Eudaimonia Society because he is someone who inspires others through his own personal journey of growth. Ryan was the victim of two severe car accidents: one in 2001 when he was 19 and one four years ago when his heart stopped after being brought into the ER at the UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center, and he had to be resuscitated. Following the traumatic experience, he overcame grueling months of recovery, rehabilitation, weight gain, and mental trauma. Through it all, Ryan harnessed his hardship to cultivate an inspirational and positive spirit to help others. Ryan, now thriving, fit and healthy, shares his experience with others through volunteer service, coaching, and training to be on American Ninja Warrior for a second time.

Ryan feels eudaimonia is best represented in his life through his “unstoppable human spirit, the driving force to invoke positive change and growth both for yourself in your own life and affecting the lives of others.” He felt that he moved beyond the “mindset that I really wasn’t able to step into my greatness” and became unstoppable once he realized that ‘I am capable, I am worthy, that I am going to succeed.’”


He came to this epiphany after a great soul searching. Ryan described:

“Before I got into a very severe car accident when I was 19, I was young and completely lost and I didn’t really know what I wanted to do in life. I definitely suffered from imposter syndrome but everything changed when I decided and made the commitment to pursue my passions and unique calling through courage and determination at UCLA. But it wasn’t until I started working for Teach for America that I found my passion. I was exposed to the side of working with others and helping other people find their own path because we don’t just have one specific calling in life but rather many things.”

He believes that one way that we, as individuals, can move forward is understanding the crucial role all of our experiences have on us:

“This moment we are living in and tomorrow are not guaranteed, and yesterday’s already gone; so we have to live in the moment. I realized [through] all of these experiences that it has all been priceless training. Everyday is a new challenge so we just have to make sure we are putting ourselves first but also pushing ourselves to be the best we can.”

Through his experiences and the traumas in his life, Ryan learned a lot about himself and his own purpose in his life, asserting:

“Life is all about the journey and the struggle, and always having a positive mindset can change everything. After my very severe car accident when I was 19 and my second car accident four years ago, I was temporarily disabled for a year and had to learn how to walk again, feed myself, how to open up jars, and squeeze toothpaste. By going through that whole process as a teenager and again later in my life, it opened up my eyes to the world and was definitely a blessing in disguise. When I started to understand that any mishaps are stepping stones towards my growth, I started stepping into my purpose and my greatness.”


Ryan also loves volunteering and participating in American Ninja Warrior for the past year because he’s surrounded by similarly passionate people. Ryan said,

“Whether it’s at animal shelters, working on the board of the UCLA Alumni Association, or any volunteer service, volunteers are there because they are just genuinely passionate about life. There’s also a very similar vibe at American Ninja Warrior. They are all so passionate about the art of ninja and competing. I think that’s what drew me into that bubble and environment: they are just as passionate as the volunteers that I work with, and it’s kind of how like attracts like.”

And for anyone wondering how to find your own purpose in life, Ryan advises

“Never lose that fire that drives you in your day-to-day life: the more excited about life that you feel, the more you’re going to be successful. Find what it is that sets your heart on fire, and don’t ever stop doing that. The best way to predict the future is to create it: be resourceful and be positive and watch the positive results manifest in your life.”

In concluding our interview session, Ryan wanted to give one more takeaway that he learned after facing the adversities in his life:  

“The one thing the world desperately needs is love, and even though it sounds really corny, the love this world needs is what you can give. So pay that inspiration forward too: whatever you find in life that lights your soul on fire, continue to pay that inspiration forward. Success, victory, and greatness: all those three things don’t happen by accident: plan your work and work your plan, and you’ll all do great!”

Although the Eudaimonia Ceremony for this year has passed, start thinking about who you want to nominate in the fall for the 2019 Eudaimonia Society. We look forward to inducting more amazing people like Ryan into the HCI Eudaimonia Society next year.

Tiffany Hu is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics. She is a blogger for Move Well of the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative. She is the Assistant Commissioner of the Student Wellness Commission. Tiffany is also the Special Projects and Alumni Coordinator of the UCLA Care Extender Internship.

Image from Google

ThursYAYs: Get Ready to Start Moving in South Campus!

Hello my Bruin Movers and Shakers! I hope you are all getting the rest you deserve during this Spring Break and are ready for some amazing things we have in store for you during Spring Quarter!

Image from Rebecca Ferdman

Image from Rebecca Ferdman

Most students, staff, and faculty would agree that UCLA’s campus is gorgeous. However, most of us spend our time zooming through from one stop to the next. There are few outdoor spaces that invite us to destress and get moving. And sometimes the gym isn’t quite the right place to just relax or get moving for five minutes to kickstart the rest of your day. Well, we’ve got news for you!

HCI’s MoveWell pod is collaborating with BEWell to activate the Court of Sciences North and will launch activities starting at the beginning of Spring Quarter. More specifically, beginning on April 3rd, Mindful Music will play at noon on a monthly basis. And beginning April 5th, every Thursday at noon will now be dubbed ThursYAYs. Every ThursYAY in the Court of Sciences, UCLA REC and MoveWell will bring in loads of movement equipment, including yoga mats, ping-pong tables, a giant Jenga set, and sidewalk chalk, in order to help the students, staff, and faculty all across campus add a little more movement to their day or have an area just to relax with friends, just with a little more fun!

Image from Google

Image from Google

The pilot activation project includes adding and revising some of the landscape, adding some “connected” furniture as well as providing a storage unit for the games and equipment UCLA REC will provide for noon activities. This project was facilitated by pod leaders of BEWell and MoveWell, Renee Fortier and Angelia Leung, respectively. Leung says, “the Court of Sciences is a great space that could be really used well,” and explains that they created this project because they wanted to “utilize underused spaces that the campus community typically just walks through.” Fortier says that “with 75,000 people on 419 acres, the campus can’t really afford for these spaces to just be pass through spaces. We need to make these spaces active, alive, and contribute to the health and well-being of the campus.”

The Court of Sciences North was specifically chosen as a starting point because it has “a lot of people passing through but the space itself has very little in the way for amenities that could give people a chance to pause from studies, work, or stresses,” Fortier explains. “We wanted to give students, staff, and faculty a place to relax, to sit down and talk with colleagues, [to] meditate, or [to do some] impromptu nerf ball tossing.”

Image from The Tech Edvocate

Image from The Tech Edvocate

The ultimate goal is to have a place to help individuals deal with the fast-paced life of a college campus, whether by “being alone, to sit and meditate and relax, or engaging and being social,” Fortier says. Similarly, Leung shares that HCI as a whole wants to inspire the campus to “go beyond the sedentary habits” and “know when it’s time to get up and stretch or get out of the room and take a little walk to destress for two minutes.” By activating this space, HCI hopes to draw more attention to how easy it is to incorporate small breaks into one’s everyday life to help reduce stress and combat sedentary habits. We hope that many activations will follow all over campus that would include more fun activities!

Get ready for some de-stressing activities coming at you in the Court of Sciences! Later in the quarter, there will even be a kickoff event on Tuesday, May 1st, from 11:30 am – 1 pm, when HCI will celebrate this new initiative to transform the Court of Sciences into an inviting space for healthy activity and social engagement. Come join the fun, where there will be free food, prizes, games, fitness assessments, and more!

Your Thursdays will be looking like ThursYAYs!

Tiffany Hu is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics. She is a blogger for Move Well of the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative. She is the Assistant Commissioner of the Student Wellness Commission and the Special Projects and Alumni Coordinator of the UCLA Care Extender Internship.


Movement Breaks: A Colorful Adventure

Hello, Bruin Movers and Shakers! Ever felt like you just need a break during class when the lecture is droning on and your body is getting lethargic? Ever just wanted to get up for a quick second to get the blood moving through your body? Well we have another amazing example to show you!

Taking a “movement break” means moving in any way you like for at least a minute (could be for longer) to get your body grooving and to get the blood pumping!

Last year, we talked to the wonderful Dr. Elginer, faculty from UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, to get the inside scoop on how she incorporates movement breaks into her class to combat the effects of long term sitting. Now, we had the chance to speak with Elisabeth Nails, Graduate Student Researcher (GSR) for the MoveWell pod, to get her take on how to engage in movement breaks!

Tiffany Hu (TH): How did you come up with the idea of using scarves in your movement breaks?

Elisabeth Nails (EN): I learned about dance scarves through UCLA’s Center for Arts and Healing. I took a workshop with them and one of the facilitators introduced them in an assembly room full of adults at 9am. It was a bit stiff at first, but suddenly everyone was laughing and connecting and moving and all of the self consciousness dropped; people were just together having an experience, while having fun and moving.

TH: How did you first start incorporating movement breaks into your life?

EN: As an undergrad, I was a theatre major. I’ve directed many plays, so I’m always looking for different ways to warm up while building group energy. I also try to bring arts into everything I do, because the arts can do things that other things can’t. For the dance scarves, there’s a connection developed, even between strangers, derived from this feeling of “I see you” and “you see me” as we move together. The social and emotional benefits of that may seem really simple, but that can’t be beat!

TH: Have you done other kinds of movement breaks? How do you think using scarves is different than “typical” movement breaks (e.g. choreographed movements)?

EN: I appreciate any and all breaks, but for me, because I’m not trained as a dancer, I do not have that skill set as a facilitator; I want to bring something else to the table. I think that [movement breaks are] something anyone can do; the dance scarves take off the pressure of having to be a “cool mover” and help people feel confident in how your body moves. There’s something about [the scarves and their] simple structure that adds a layer of delight and freeing feeling.


“We need to grow a culture where we allow for moments where we completely shift gears to foster a culture of collaboration and listening.”

TH: How do you think movement breaks have enhanced your life? Have you seen the difference they make in other people’s lives (for example, a “change in the air”)?

EN: I’ve recently changed from being a staff member to a grad student and I realized how sedentary the student life is. I’ve been forcing myself to do my own fit breaks (like 30 second dance parties) which are super fast, but research backs it up that holding certain poses or doing certain movements reduces cortisol levels. I also think that we can’t ask people to sit for so many hours and ask them to be their best, their most creative, and engaged and open self.

TH: What advice would you give for professors or students who want to incorporate movement breaks in either their classes or their lives?

EN: I completely understand hesitation to shift the culture. It’s a vulnerable thing to put yourself out there and go: “Okay everybody we’re gonna break now and move.” The MoveWell pod is making a resource page for the variety of movement breaks with videos that can help you lead. You could also ask students to form a small committee who would be interested in leading these as well as create a class playlist. If you (the instructor) just create the space, then other people can come and fill it in. It’s also important to consider differently abled people and to always make room for that. It is important to be as inclusive as possible with the language, as not everyone can stand and not everyone can move in the same way. So make sure to offer multiple ways for people to participate!

TH: What’s your favorite part about doing fit breaks?

EN: Honestly, I love how at the end, there’s this slight shift and there’s this brightness in people’s eyes. It’s so subtle, but to me, it is so joyful to see! I hope to see more people embrace it, even just a trial, as it will create a shift!

We hope you all are as excited about these movement breaks as we are! Now that we gave you all the inside scoop on these movement breaks, for undergraduates and graduates, would you want them incorporated in your classes?  Share your opinions in the comments and let your professors know as well!

As always, keep moving, my Bruin Movers and Shakers!

Tiffany Hu is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics. She is a blogger for Move Well of the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative. She is the Assistant Commissioner of the Student Wellness Commission. Tiffany is also the Special Projects and Alumni Coordinator of the UCLA Care Extender Internship.


YOGAtta check this out!

Hello, Bruin Movers and Shakers! Hope your quarter is wrapping up nicely as we make it to the end of finals. But just because our brain is getting a workout doesn’t mean we should forget about our bodies! And what better way to get some movement into your day than some free mindfulness yoga? Courtesy of the Healthy Campus Initiative, UCLA offers *FREE* yoga (yes I did say free!) on Fridays, both on campus and on the Hill!

The Flexible Fridays classes I attended were an absolutely refreshing experience! The instructor, Marco, is positively wonderful and makes the whole yoga session relaxing. After signing in, Marco verbally checks in with everyone and then gets on with the show! He does a marvelous job at guiding the participants through different poses and yoga movements. He uses a very positive and cheerful tone that simply encourages students to do their best, while still pushing their yoga limits. The classes, in my opinion, are magnificent, even if yoga is not typically your preferred movement!

Last Friday, I also had the opportunity to speak with a few of the Flexible Friday yoga students about their experiences. Some have been coming for years, while others have only dropped in once or twice. Here is what some Bruin yogis had to say:

I love that it is good exercise and it feels good after. I like that it always leaves you less stressed than before. It is definitely relaxing and is a time where I can be with my own thoughts. It helps me to feel happier, along with relaxed too. Yoga is also really amazing because along with mental benefits, it definitely has physical benefits, such as preventing injury and strengthening the core.”

I think that [yoga] helps me become more flexible and less stressed. This class is especially helpful with reaching relaxation because the class is outside, which makes me feel even better. It helps with my mood but also keeps me more active by encouraging movement that is not so work intensive.”

“Definitely helps that UCLA offers free yoga! I don’t want to pay a lot of money when I’m still unsure about the class. Also, if the price is too high, I might not be able to afford it, as the class could be $40/quarter from the Wooden Center. It’s really helpful that I can try out yoga more, without having a huge strain on my budget.”

(All quotes are from anonymous testimonies.)

So if you want to feel the amazing effects derived from yoga (like feeling happier, relaxed, and less stressed) or just want to take your first *FREE* yoga class, please swing by and check out Flexible Fridays!

The classes are:

  • 12-1pm at the Court of Sciences
  • 2:30-3:30pm at Sunset Rec Lower Lawn/Pool
  • 3:30-4:30pm at Sunset Rec Lower Lawn/Pool
  • 5-6pm at Hedrick Movement Studio

For more information about Flexible Fridays, check out the Facebook page here!

Tiffany Hu is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics. She is a blogger for Move Well of the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative. She is the Assistant Commissioner of the Student Wellness Commission. Tiffany is also the Special Projects and Alumni Coordinator of the UCLA Care Extender Internship.


Funtastic Benefits to Taking Breaks

Hello, Bruin Movers and Shakers! Everyone here at MoveWell hopes that you are hitting those finals out of the park and keeping up with a healthy lifestyle!

Those of you completely invested in studying may feel like you can’t bear to take a quick break, but breaks will definitely help your studying process in the long run!

Here are some benefits to taking breaks:

  1. Gets the brain moving again


    Photo via Google Images

    Regardless of what kind of break you are taking, whether it’s to watch that fifteenth (fiftieth if we’re honest) cat video or eating a snack or getting up to dance to your favorite song, these breaks help rest our brains and get you back on track. Although that sounds counterintuitive, it definitely works! Recent studies have shown that by taking a break, we’ll have renewed focus because studying straight for a long time causes the brain to numb and check out. So take that break to get back on track!


  2. Taking a movement break helps us physically and mentally


    Photo via White House Archives

    What’s even better than a snack break? A movement break! If you are feeling the inevitable slump of studying, get up and start moving! Movement will not only help your body, but also your mind. As the Scientific American states, moving for even a few minutes, whether it’s dancing to your favorite song or doing some jumping jacks, helps circulate blood around your body and brings more oxygen to the brain. Help your body and brain out by making sure to move around a bit after sitting for awhile!


  3. A change of scenery can help you both refocus and recall better


    Photo via Flickr

    Heading outside or just moving to a new place to study helps you refocus by giving your brain a new place to feed off of. Completely new stimulus will help bring your brain out of its lull. Also, by studying in new places, the brain will be able to form connections to the information quicker and better. The brain is constantly making connections between what you are studying and the environments where these connections were made. By changing your scenery, you will help your brain make better connections with what you are studying so that, by the time test day comes, your brain will be able to recall the information faster.


  4. Fresh air can help with stress and boost your immune system


    Photo via Google Images

    Did you know that a simple walk outside could help boost your immunity? (And who wants to get sick during finals?) Whether it’s a short walk or a full exercise regiment, some light movement outside will build your immunity. According to Ather Ali, ND, MPH, exercise can help create an increase in the body’s creation of natural killer cells, which increase immune function. Strolling outside smelling fresh air, especially near some greenery, helps reduce stress and increase happiness- as studies have shown. And as winter (finally) hits us with some rain, the smell of the downpour can help relieve stress as well. According to Smithsonian Magazine, we associate the smell of rain with the color green, which could be linked with the growth of things we eat. Regardless of the reason, taking a stroll outside helps for loads of reasons so get out and start walking!

Remember all this next time you feel guilty about taking a break. They can only help you!

Tiffany Hu is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics. She is a blogger for Move Well of the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative. She is the Assistant Commissioner of the Student Wellness Commission. Tiffany is also the Special Projects and Alumni Coordinator of the UCLA Care Extender Internship.


MoveWell into Fall at UCLA

Hello, Bruin movers and shakers! I hope you all had a wonderful summer, filled with fun activities. Now that we are back for fall it’s time to get back to the grind! But just because the quarter can be a little overwhelming sometimes doesn’t mean your movement has to be too! Here are some amazing new things that UCLA has to offer to (pumpkin) spice things up and keep you moving!

1. Fitness Assessments

You know how you should get a physical every year so that you’re certain your health is in check? Well you should be doing the same for your fitness! Even if you know what types of routines you should do to make progress when exercising, it’s always nice to double-check with some trained professionals.

Lucky for you, UCLA Recreation has got you covered! On Thursday, October 26, from 11 am to 1 pm in the Court of Sciences, UCLA Recreation will be out on the grass performing fitness checks! For more information and to sign up, check out this link!

Photo via UCLA Recreation

2. Bruin BikeShare

Ever wanted to bike around campus to get your daily movement in and check out our amazing campus? Now you can!
Bruin Bike Share offers students, faculty, and staff the use of bikes for a small fee. There are loads of options in the bike share programs and the bikes are located at multiple locations on campus.
For more information on pricing and how it works, check this link out here!

Photo via UCLA Transportation

3. Free Yoga

Did someone say free? What does a college student love more than free stuff? (Answer: absolutely nothing!)
If you’ve ever been interested in trying out yoga or just want a free option for weekly yoga, come check out our Flexible Fridays where we have sessions on campus at the Court of Sciences and Sunset Recreation, in additional to the Hedrick Movement Studio on the Hill.
If you are a bit hesitant about yoga being the right fit for you, DEFINITELY check it out! Yoga is a great way to both relieve stress and embrace the world of mindfulness. Be on the lookout soon for our article interviewing other students and staff who love the program. For more information on the schedule and the program, check out our link here!

Photo via Yoga At UCLA

Those are just a few of the amazing programs and events happening at UCLA! Be sure to follow us here and on social media for constant updates for new programs and tips on how to live a healthy life.

Tiffany Hu is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics. She is a blogger for Move Well of the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative. She is the Assistant Commissioner of the Student Wellness Commission and the Special Projects and Alumni Coordinator of the UCLA Care Extender Internship.


Spring Clean Your Fitness Routine!

Hello, my Bruin Fitness Pals! I hope you are having a great spring quarter so far! Speaking of spring, do you know what that means? Spring cleaning! Although that usually refers to actual cleaning, we’re going to help you spruce up your fitness routine.

Here’s some tips to help revamp your fitness regiment:

1. Try group exercise/training!

Photo via Wiki Commons

If you’re wondering what group exercise/training entails, think SoulCycle and CrossFit! These types of group exercise/training are amazing because they are way cheaper than having to get a personal trainer and way more motivational than working out by yourself. You get the same kind of training as you would when exercising by yourself, but now you just have a whole host of other people going through the same thing and cheering you on.
If you haven’t tried any type of group exercise/training before, you can definitely find a type that you’d enjoy! Although this type of exercise isn’t for everyone, it is a really fun way to get back into exercising if you’ve been lacking some motivation or variety in your workouts! For some more pros and cons of group exercise training, check out this article!
If you are interested in an option at UCLA, UCLA Rec offers group exercise classes if you purchase their fitness pass, which is $25 a quarter! And if you find that maybe group exercise isn’t for you, the fitness pass allows you to take loads of other classes there as well!

2. Try “functional training”!

 Photo via Flickr

Now if you’re like me and were a bit unsure as to what “functional training” is, the workout really is in its name! Functional fitness refers to a type of training that helps you enhance your ability to perform daily activities, from moving your furniture to carrying your many bags of groceries home.
The main areas of muscles that this type of workout focuses on are the abs, hips, and scapulas. A great example of this type of training can be found here.
This is a great type of training because it helps improve coordination, balance, and endurance! If you’ve ever needed more of a reason to mix up your exercise routine, this is a great way: help train your muscles to function better just for daily life!

3. Try hitting the outdoors more!

Photo via Google Images

I know that this tip doesn’t sound like anything out of the ordinary but honestly, this is a great way to spruce up your routine! For those of you who typically hit the gym, a change of scenery will rejuvenate you and give you more energy to continue, according to the New York Times.
The outdoor paths also affect how you exercise, as runners flex their ankles more. And since outdoor terrains are more variable, the exercises tend to be more strenuous, which means you get more out of your workout when you exercise outdoors.
So if you are in a time crunch and want to feel happier while exercising, try shifting your workout environment from the indoors to the outdoors! Let that sun raise your exercise spirits!

4. Try a different type of workout!

Photo via Google Images

Whenever I find a great workout, I tend to just stick with it but it does get a bit boring after time. Try a different type of workout! Instead of just circuit training, add in some flexibility training. Instead of just weight training, add in some cardio.
And if you are one of those amazing people who do engage in all kinds of exercise, do some research and see if you can find something you weren’t aware of before.
Changing your routine will help you by preventing injuries, build new muscles, and keep your brain healthy, according to OneMedical. If you continue the same routine, you’ll overuse the muscles that you are always working out and your body won’t be able to heal itself while not building any new muscles, according to The Huffington Post. And as we all know, exercise keeps your brain healthy but if you follow the same routine, you’ll just go on autopilot and stop exercising your brain.
So try new workouts, especially those that you know will train different parts of your body!

5. Try a new genre of exercise or sport!

Photo via CEC and SWC

If you have the time, start trying new genres of exercise! For all you gym-lovers, try all the different types that the gym has to offer! From Zumba to racketball, try out something that you always wanted to try but never got around to.
According to the New York Times, learning a new sport or activity could also help improve your brain activity because it could improve our brain’s ability to control movement. Even though people think that they need to strengthen their brains through academic pursuits, such as sudoku, learning a new activity produces the same results, just on a different, just as important, part of the brain!
And for those of you interested in trying Zumba for the first time or just getting into it more, the Campus Events Commission and Student Wellness Commission are teaming up to put on an amazing Zumba program on Wednesday, May 17th from 8 – 9:30 pm, with celebrity DJ Krewella! If you are interested in learning Zumba from licensed Zumba instructors with a free concert in the background, go to and reserve your ticket! For more information, also check out the event page!

I hope that these tips were helpful for you all when trying to get back into exercising and spring cleaning your fitness routines! Good luck on your fitness journeys and keep moving, amidst the chaos of midterms!

Tiffany Hu is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics. She is a blogger for Move Well of the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative. She is the co-Director of the Student Health Advocates, which focuses on educating students on various intersections of health. Tiffany is also the Special Projects and Alumni Coordinator of the UCLA Care Extender Internship, which helps students volunteer at all departments in the UCLA Medical Centers.

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Movement Breaks: Choose Your Own Adventure


Hello, my Bruin Fitness Pals!

 Photo via Tiffany Hu

Do you ever feel that some classes are just way too long and you need a break? Do you ever feel like sometimes you just can’t stand to sit for any longer, even in those 50 minute classes? Well some amazing professors have a solution for you!

Photo via Dr. Julie Elginer

The Move Well pod was able to interview a professor who has integrated “movement breaks” into her classes: the lovely, Julie Elginer, Dr.PH, MBA, faculty in the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health (pictured above with her two sons). We were able to get the inside scoop on incorporating “movement breaks” in class to help combat the feelings associated with long periods of sitting. They are not mandatory for students, as they can “choose their own adventures”, and just serve to help fight a sedentary lifestyle.

To get you all well-versed on “movement breaks”, here are some questions we asked Dr. Elginer to learn more about what they are.

Question: Could you please explain what movement breaks are?

Dr. Julie Elginer (JE): They are an opportunity to incorporate short, active sequences (5-7 minutes) into the class structure to break up extended sitting periods.

Q: When did you start including movement breaks into your class? Is this the first quarter or have you been doing this for some time?

JE: I am a product of Dr. Toni Yancey in that I was a doctoral student when she was actively publishing and practicing her work on Instant Recess. While my doctoral research did not focus on the issue, I observed the impact it had on reducing sedentary practices and improving health outcomes. I am in my sixth year of teaching at FSPH. I started incorporating movement breaks during my first quarter in Winter 2012 while I was pregnant with my second child.

Q: How do you come up with ideas for your movement breaks?

JE: I incorporate elements of my own personal workouts. For example, I will offer them a chance to do a “plank challenge.” During this, you plank for 10 seconds per day, adding 10 seconds for each day of the month. On Day 1, you plank for 10 seconds, on Day 12 for 120 seconds, etc. I’ve done as much as 4 minutes with my class. Nearly a dozen students participated. Not all of the movement breaks are that intense. Sometimes we will hold a few yoga poses with some deep breathing.

Q: How much do you think your students enjoy these breaks and why?

JE: I think they love them, as evidenced by the fact that (a) it brings together students who may not naturally gravitate towards one another, (b) students inquire what we will do each day, and (c) different groups of students participate each week. Last year, the students created a Facebook group to share photos of themselves continuing the plank challenge outside of class. They found it motivational and fun.

After we learned a bit more on what movement breaks entail, in addition to interviewing Dr. Elginer, we got to check out one of their movement breaks and interview four of her amazing students (all pursuing Masters in Public Health, concentrating in Health Policy and Management) on their thoughts and feelings for the breaks!


Photo via Tiffany Hu

Q: (To graduate students) What were your initial thoughts to the movement breaks?

Allen Taing (AT): Loved them! Really looked forward to them and it’s hard to find time to work out so it’s nice that she integrates them into her class!

Eesha Jagtap (EJ): I heard about movement breaks during orientation, when the John Wooden Center came to speak. I thought the break was great because orientation is about 6 to 7 hours. I told them there that they should definitely come to all of my classes. I really like it! And Dr. Elginer is super active and encourages us to do these.

Q: Do you think that this has improved either your class time or your life? If so, why?

Dr. Elginer (JE): My classes are intense, generally 3 hours each. I teach topics that require students to “move outside of their comfort zones” with Healthcare Financial Management (HPM 436), Reproductive Health Advocacy (CHS M430) and, to a lesser extent, Healthcare Marketing (HPM 445). My classes are skills based and require students to produce deliverables that replicate what they will be expected to do for employers. I have high expectations for them and their work quality because I want to provide feedback to prepare them for internships and full time roles. I recognize this is difficult, at times. I would like to think that by incorporating movement breaks and demonstrating that faculty can have fun alongside students, it breaks down barriers.

Bryan Keyes (BK): This has improved my class time because it engages our diffused memory system instead of focused memory system. In focused memory systems, we are actively thinking about what is presented to us and trying to store that short term memory. When we switch to diffuse, by doing things that are less mentally taxing (such as moving), we refresh our minds.

Andrew Lowberg (AL): Yes! I am a runner and exercise regularly, so these breaks are a nice way to change up the pace and do something different. I have also heard that my classmates have adopted some of the workout challenges to do on their own.

AT: It created an atmosphere for bonding within our class and it was great seeing my classmates encourage each other to hold on for another half minute or push for one more squat. It’s a short time to destress, get more oxygen into our brains, and I know it definitely helped me come back to the material refreshed — which has motivated me to incorporate more movement breaks into my studying outside class.

Q: Would you recommend that other teachers incorporate these types of breaks in their classrooms?

JE: Definitely. I realize that space is an issue. I’ve incorporated breaks into the classroom and the hallway. We try to be mindful of open doors so as to minimize disruptions. I’ve actually had people come into the hall to see what we are up to. I love talking to them about it. We haven’t had anyone join us yet, but I’m making it my goal to do so.

EJ: Yes, we are a public health program and we need to be aware of health. Even though we do get a short break during long classes, I think intentional breaks for physical activity are necessary, and people can decide whether or not to participate.

Q: What are your thoughts on the statement “sitting is the new smoking”? And do you think that movement breaks could help with that?

BK: The adverse health effects of sitting are similar to smoking. Both shorten your life expectancy significantly. Both share a co-morbidity. Movement breaks can change that because we re-engage our body and restart the negative effects of sitting.

AL: I totally agree. Increased technology use has led to us sitting while doing most of our work and studying. In my previous job before starting graduate school at UCLA, I had a sit/stand desk and often chose to stand as I feel it greatly increased my productivity. In a time when we are all busy and overwhelmed with work, it is great to have a break for a quick workout.

Q: What is movement to you and do you believe movement is important to daily life?

JE: I like to say to my students, “This isn’t the School of Sedentary Living. This is the School of Public Health.” If we are creating policies to promote population level health, we need to model it.

AT: I came from a life science background and I think it’s amazing how many components need to work together in order for us to move. Overall, I think movement is a big blessing and a joy.

EJ: Movement is any activity that increases your heart rate. As a child, I played sports so I never viewed that as exercise but as an adult, when I spend 80% of my day sitting, I have never valued movement more.

BK: Movement is incredibly important. I made sure that my apartment was walking distance to campus because I wanted to make sure I was moving every day. Just look at what has happened to humans over the past 200 years. Since the invention of the car, combined with the shift of american labor moving from manufacturing to professional jobs, we must take more action to move ourselves.

Now that we gave you all the inside scoop on these movement breaks: to undergraduates and graduates, would you want them incorporated in your classes? A few other professors have already started adding them into class and with more positive feedback, we’ll be able to entice more into including them! We hope you all are as excited about these movement breaks as we are!

Ttll us and tell your professors your opinions on these as well! Let us know your thoughts and feelings about them in the comments or email us!

As always, keep moving, my Bruin Fitness Pals!

Tiffany Hu is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics. She is a blogger for Move Well of the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative. She is the co-Director of the Student Health Advocates, which focuses on educating students on various intersections of health. Tiffany is also the Special Projects and Alumni Coordinator of the UCLA Care Extender Internship, which helps students volunteer at all departments in the UCLA Medical Centers.



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Yoga and Yogis: You’ve Gotta Check it Out

In a place like Los Angeles, we hear about yoga almost everywhere we go: celebrities use it to stay fit, just about every other person walking next to you has a yoga mat slung over their shoulder, and Lululemon products are popping up all over the place — but, what exactly is yoga? A quick scan through Google can give you the textbook definition, somewhere along the lines of “Yoga: a Hindu philosophy that teaches a person to experience inner peace by controlling the body and mind.” Whenever you pass someone holding a bright, neatly rolled, cylinder-like object on their back or arm, feel free to think of them as a “Yogi: a person who practices yoga.” That’s just a bit of lingo to keep you sounding hip.

As a passionate, backbending yogi myself, I have a deep interest in the practice and what it can do for mental health and for the body. If you’re already interested, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved with yoga on or close to campus, like UCLA Recreation Center, CorePower (which offers a free class every Saturday), and Flexible Fridays (which holds free yoga classes on the hill for UCLA students). Yoga for Flexible Futures (YFF), a nonprofit organization here on campus that teaches yoga and nutrition to elementary school children at the UCLA Community School, has recently begun holding yoga classes/workshops, open to everyone, every Thursday from 7-8pm in Squash Court A at the John Wooden Center. Some of the workshops so far, taught by YFF club members, many of whom are certified yoga instructors, have been on acro-yoga, inversions, and vinyasas. If any of these catch your interest, please email with any questions or requests. I sat down with two of their yogi members to find out more about their experiences with yoga, the effects it has had on their lives, and why the practice has become so popular.

Meet the Yogis

Ailey Word Simpson is a charismatic fourth year student, with a love of architecture and mathematics. She’s an adult-certified yoga instructor who has had a passion for handstands since she began her practice six years ago. She also has a secret talent of being able to touch her elbow to her toes (I have seen it happen with my own eyes!) and baking cakes on the weekends. Katie Salow is also a fourth year student and long time member of the club. Her interests are Psychobiology and Global Health on the school front, and triangle pose and headstands on the mat. She enjoys eating cookie dough ice cream, pottery, and looking at corgis dressed in costumes (though, not all at the same time).

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Photo via Aubry Freitas

Questions and Thoughts

Q: Tell me a little bit about YFF from your point of view. What does it mean to you?

Katie: Our organization makes health and mindfulness fun and accessible to kids that wouldn’t normally be exposed to the practice. Yoga serves as more than exercise, and helps the kids become more confident and comfortable with themselves while learning new and cool “tricks,” as they call them. (You guys can all see their smiling faces in the adorable pictures below)

Q: Why do you think it’s important for kids to take part in the practice of yoga and have knowledge of nutrition?

Katie: Yoga enhances Physical strength and flexibility, and encourages more novel uses of a variety of muscle groups. Not only is it physically beneficial, but it helps build focus and concentration, traits that are incredibly applicable to all aspects of development.

Ailey: Getting kids excited about living healthier and more mindfully at a young age will, hopefully, allow them to develop ways to carry that positive lifestyle along with them as they grow. We try to make the lessons applicable to their everyday lives, so that they can carry what they learned off the mat.

Q: Why did you start practicing yoga?

Ailey: I grew up dancing ballet, and I first started practicing yoga as a supplement to dance training. I started practicing consistently years later, and have developed an appreciation for all of the benefits that yoga can have, aside from strength and flexibility.

Q: Have you experienced any changes in your life because of the practice, like less stress, a calmer mind, or just an overall more positive way of living?

Katie: Absolutely. Yoga is a great workout, but the practice teaches you to focus and let go of negative thoughts that aren’t adding to your quality of life. It is a moving meditation that helps ground your thoughts and creates balance in all aspects of life.

Ailey: Having a consistent yoga practice has definitely changed how I approach my day-to-day life. At this point in my yoga journey, I am more comfortable with my body and have learned to practice better self care physically and mentally.

Q: What would you tell someone who was thinking about getting into yoga, but was worried that they weren’t flexible enough to participate in the practice?

Katie: Lesson plans for classes are geared towards valuing the variety of everyone’s bodies: whether you’re more flexible, strong, energetic, or still. (There’s many different aspects of the practice, it’s not all about being able to twist into a pretzel shape.)

Ailey: No one is good or bad at yoga, and there is no one way that each pose should look! Embrace your current level of flexibility and strive to find the variation of each pose that feels right in your body, rather than the extreme instagram version. (We all know what she’s talking about!) Yoga is all about how you feel, not how you look.

Yoga is a beautiful practice that will allow you to work on silencing your mind, exploring the abilities of your body, and, ultimately, find balance (literally and figuratively here, people.) It’s for everyone, and every age, and it’s because of the diversity it holds within itself that so many people are drawn to it. Try out some of the local yoga options mentioned above, or try finding others that may appeal more to what you are looking for out of the practice, or maybe, just maybe, these yogis and I will see you on Thursdays in Wooden.

Aubrey Freitas is an undergraduate student at UCLA double majoring in English Literature and Psychology with a minor in Italian. She is a blogger for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative in the Mind Well section, which focuses on the importance of mindfulness and mental health. Aubrey is the founder of the organization Warm Hearts to Warm Hands, which teaches the skill of knitting to people of the community in return for their donation of an article of clothing they create with the skill, to be given to local homeless shelters.


How to overcome your fear of the gym



Photo via Google Images

The first time I ever entered a gym I was intimidated, I was afraid. I loved to work out; all throughout high school I did sports every season of the year, so I considered myself an athlete. Physical activity…it was my entertainment, my distraction, and my stress reliever. But, I realized I had never stepped into a “real” gym before until I came to college. My little rural town up in NorCal had a gym the size of the Circuit Room inside John Wooden! (Imagine all the UCLA population trying to workout in there all at once — yikes!).

It wasn’t until I entered the John Wooden Center (JWC) that I realized how insecure I was about working out in a gym setting. As a woman of color, a Mexican American, I felt I did not belong when I didn’t see others with similar characteristics to myself roaming around the gym floors. But, I soon realized that it was my own self-consciousness triggering these thoughts, because the reality is a different one: the gym is for all people of all ages, sizes, shapes, and skin colors.

Studies have shown that university students have “problematic levels of inactivity” which results in serious health implications in the future of the student. Because there are health disparities in certain communities  and a continuous prevalence of high rates of obesity in young adolescents and adults in the United States, I decided I wanted to change this pattern of inactivity due to intimidation not only for myself but for others with similar experiences.

So what do you do when you’re feeling overwhelmed by a gigantic work out space filled with people who sure look like they know what they are doing? What do you do when you want to fix these “problematic levels” of inactivity in your life that can lead to chronic health implications, but you are intimidated by the gym?

    1. Find a workout buddy– Studies show that a main predictor for college students who workout is social support. Lack of a workout buddy has shown to decrease the willingness to workout. Finding someone that can accompany you to the gym not only erases the feeling of loneliness, but it also creates a sense of moral support which results in encouragement and motivation.
    2. Attend group exercise classes– The JWC offers a variety of group workout classes which are open for all students with the purchase of a fitness pass. These classes can help you get into the rhythm of working out whether it is a total body challenge class or a barbell class. The instructors in JWC are the best at what they do and their mission is to create a comfortable place for everyone to workout in. Working out in groups allows you to learn from others and, similar to a workout buddy, it helps give social support. Also, being in a group setting provides the opportunity of observational learning which introduces one to new ways of working out if you don’t know where to start. That way next time you enter the gym you already have a foundation to start with.
    3. Ask Questions– A lot of the reason why people end up giving up on their commitment to working out is because they are afraid to ask questions. The JWC is filled with a numerous amount of employees who are there to help you get the best of your experience in the gym. If you are unsure of how to use a treadmill or an elliptical machine, simply ask and you’ll be given guidance!
    4. Watch YouTube videos- Nowadays what can you not learn through YouTube videos, right?! YouTube has become the 4th most accessed website on the internet. You can access all sorts of videos from crash courses to videos on how to ride a pony! Therefore, YouTube can provide you with the opportunity to learn how to workout! Yes, indeed! If you are insecure about how to use a certain machine all you need to do is search it up on YouTube, watch, and learn.
    5. Join FITTED!– FITTED is a 9-week progressive training program completely FREE to the entire UCLA community. FITTED’s mission is to get students to feel comfortable not only in the gym setting, but comfortable in their own bodies. FITTED targets those college students whose communal health disparities have greatly affected their health as a college student. Many students who have attended FITTED have gained skills that have allowed them to become healthier and more physically active. I myself can testify to this as I am the director of this project and have personally seen and recorded testimonials, and have been told upfront the impact FITTED has had on student’s lives. To become part of FITTED all you need to do is attend any of our services which are listed below:
      • Monday & Thursdays: Group workouts at Pardee Gym inside JWC from 4-5 pm
      • Tuesdays: FITTED EATS from 4-5 pm. Come get a healthy snack and a chance to talk to our Dietician Eve Lahijani who covers a different wellness topic every Tuesday !

Feeling intimidated by the gym to the point that you do not even want to workout should not be any student’s problem — students already have enough to stress about, especially considering UCLA’s rigorous quarter system! As a community that cares about the well-being of every student, we are here to help. I overcame my intimidation of the gym thanks to FITTED and today I am here to help others alleviate this feeling which can lead to an unhealthy lifestyle if not targeted. With the flexible learning environment here at UCLA it is best to build up habits now than having to suffer the consequences later.

Monica Aguilar is a third-year undergraduate student majoring in Chicano/a Studies and minoring in Spanish. She is the project director of FITTED a health and wellness student-run project held in the Community Programs Office.