How Clothing Provides Natural Sun Protection

In summer, you have the chance to spend more time outside doing the things you love most – like swimming, hiking, gardening and more. But with these long hours outdoors, harmful UV rays can damage your skin.

Wearing sunscreen and limiting exposure are two common deterrents, and clothing also serves as natural sun protection. Clothing is the most basic method of sun protection, but not all garments are equal when it comes to blocking the burn.

More Is Better

The damage done to exposed skin actually accumulates over your lifetime, adding to your risk of accelerated aging and skin cancer. So the more skin that’s covered, the better. Because forearms are always exposed, a long-sleeve shirt protects you more than a short-sleeve. Long pants offer greater protection than shorts, as well. And a wide-brimmed hat blocks more of the sun’s rays than a baseball cap.

Consider Tight Fabric

Of course even with adequate clothing protection, the type of material also makes a difference in how much natural sun protection you receive. Most fabrics are composed of small fibers woven together, but because there are often small spaces between these fibers, UV rays can pass directly through them to reach the skin. The tighter the weave of the fabric, according to Dr. Joshua Zeichner, the greater the sun protection.

Tough, Synthetic and Shiny

Denim is a great example of a tough fabric with a tight weave, whereas an open-weave fabric offers significantly less protection. Fabrics may be made from cotton, wool, nylon and other synthetic materials. Synthetics such as lycra, polyester and acrylic offer more protection than cotton or wool fabrics. Shiny fabrics such as rayon, however, reflect more UV rays than a matte material like linen.

‘Factor’ in Protective Clothing

Although clothing that naturally protects against UV rays is always beneficial, you may want to consider purchasing items that have special coatings designed to offer superior burn prevention. On the clothing label, notice the “UV Protection Factor,” which may be written as UPF. As the number goes up, the greater your protection from UV rays. There are also products available like laundry detergents that can increase the UPF value of otherwise unprotected clothing. These can add a layer of protection without changing the texture or color.

Consider these options, and choose clothing that either offers natural sun protection or has been treated to protect bare skin. Clothing may not block all UV rays, but shiny, thickly woven materials allow you to literally wear the best sun protection.

Advice or recommendations are for informational or educational purposes only, not a substitute for a visit or consultation with your doctor.

Standing Desk Benefits: Is the Latest Workplace Trend a Good One?

With computers and desks now centerpieces of the modern workplace, it’s easy to spend most of the day parked in a chair. To combat a sedentary lifestyle, standing desks — one of the newest professional trends — are offering employees a reason to get up. Studies suggest sitting too long can increase one’s risk of heart disease and diabetes, which means getting up out of a chair can keep illness at bay. But the standing desk benefits don’t stop there. A study in BMC Public Health showed that standing 10 hours during the work week ultimately increased physical activity.

There are just as many challenges to this work style, though. Thinking about implementing a standing desk option for your office? Here are some things to consider.

Sitting Versus Standing

There is a slightly higher calorie burn when standing up. According to the British Medical Journal, standing burns .83 more calories per minute than sitting, and increases the heart rate by 10 beats per minute as well. Ultimately, the change from sitting to standing is good for heart health. Standing at work also makes it easier for you to move around, both by shifting your weight at your desk and by walking more readily to other areas of the office. Even just moving between standing and sitting positions is helpful.

Mentally, standing keeps workers more alert than when they’re sitting down because it requires them to constantly rebalance themselves without even realizing it. By moving their feet and shoulders in this way, their focus slightly sharpens in the process. A study in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that elementary school children also had better focus when using standing desks in their classroom. Their energy increased along with it, which is crucial considering how long students are inside during the day.

Learn more about workplace wellness.*

Can’t Stand It?

Standing too long, however, can increase leg and feet soreness. It can also cause varicose veins, which are enlarged vessels that have lost some of their natural elasticity. Veins in your legs are most prone to becoming varicose because of the gravity needed to pump blood from the legs into the middle and upper parts of your body.

Some employees simply aren’t comfortable or physically able to stand for long periods of time. And no one should be forced to use a standing desk if they’d rather not. Given certain dress codes, those wearing high heels may want to bring another pair of shoes to change into. Some prefer to wear sneakers that are good for walking, as they provide cushioning and comfort when they’re on their feet all day.

Bridging the Gap

The saying, “everything in moderation” applies to standing desks as much as anything else. Standing desks come in a variety of types, and there should be options to change between standing and sitting positions quickly. It’s harder to do that with stationary standing desks, because they often involve moving the computer and other work items to another surface each time. Adjustable work stations get around this by allowing a person to move his or her work surface by lifting the computer upward and downward, switching easily between standing and sitting positions.

A standing desk benefits employees who are looking to be more active, but there are several ways for workers to get moving. Conduct small group meetings while walking instead of in conference rooms, reposition printers so they’re further away from their desks and propose that colleagues deliver certain messages in person instead of email.

Advice or recommendations are for informational or educational purposes only, not a substitute for a visit or consultation with your doctor.
For employers: Wellness programs are regulated by federal and state law. Consult your legal counsel before implementing any program component.

What You Need to Know About Essential Oils

What are essential oils, and why are they so popular?

First, essential oils are fragrant liquids extracted from flowers, herbs and trees, and can be inhaled, ingested or absorbed through the skin. Many cosmetics and household cleaning products include them. Aromatherapists have used them for centuries.

But do essential oils also have medicinal value? They have become a hit with consumers, and it’s worth understanding their merits.

Reasons for the Trend

Many cultures have historically used plant extracts and essential oils for medicinal purposes, including the Ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. They’re popular in Asian communities as well, but until recently, most Americans knew very little about them.

Now, thousands of blogs and social media groups are dedicated to this topic, while dozens of new companies produce and distribute essential oils both online and through independent consultants.

This trend also comes from people’s increasing interest in natural medicine. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, one third of U.S. adults used some method of alternative health just three years ago, mostly to complement (not replace) traditional medicine.

Even skeptical consumers have been influenced by scientific studies that demonstrate real health benefits. For example:

Although a few studies suggest certain essential oils kill cancer cells, the NIH only recognizes the use of aromatherapy to improve quality of life for cancer patients, not necessarily to treat them.

A Word of Warning

Not all essential oils, or their manufacturers, are created equal. Many oils on the market today are diluted with alcohol and other chemicals that make these products less effective or even hazardous to people with certain conditions.

Even quality items may be harmful when not used as directed. Keep in mind, warns the Mayo Clinic, you can irritate your skin or cause ultraviolet (UV) sensitivity when applying oils directly. We may also need further research to verify their safety for those who are pregnant, nursing or taking other medications along with it.

Advice or recommendations are for informational or educational purposes only, not a substitute for a visit or consultation with your doctor.

Four Reasons Why Chattanooga Is One of the Best Outdoor Cities in America

Tennesseans aren’t the only ones calling Chattanooga one of the best outdoor cities in the United States.

Four years ago, readers of Outside magazine ranked Chattanooga the “Best Town Ever.” The New York Times included it on its list of “45 Places To Go in 2012.” Now, the Scenic City has reclaimed its title as Outside’s 2015 Best Town Ever.

So what makes this city on the banks of the Tennessee River so great for outdoor enthusiasts? Consider these four ways to enjoy your leisure time in Chattanooga:

Swim and Sail

The Tennessee River flows right through the middle of Chattanooga. And just a few miles north, the river’s dam creates Chickamauga Lake — with plenty of boating, sailing, swimming and fishing opportunities to explore. Also nearby is the Ocoee River, which hosted the 1996 Olympics’ whitewater rafting competition. Because of its fame among rafters, the Ocoee gets crowded, especially in the summer. Nonetheless, you’ll find 30 lesser-known creeks with class IV runs or higher within a half-hour drive of Chattanooga’s downtown. Additionally, the “Head of the Hooch” is an annual rowing regatta that takes place in early November, and attracts more than 2,000 boaters each year.

Fly and Glide

The Cumberland Plateau encompasses 24,000 acres between Kentucky and Alabama. Right around Chattanooga, the plateau’s ridges tower 1,000 to 2,000 feet above the city, providing many beautiful vistas. Probably the most famous spot is Lookout Mountain, where, on a clear day, you can see into seven states in every direction. For the most adventurous, the area is a hotbed of hang-gliding activity. The Cumberland Plateau forms the eastern ridge of the Sequatchie Valley, heralded for years as the hang-gliding capital of the East Coast. A national competition takes place annually in nearby Dunlap, Tenn.

Climb and Scale

The plateau is also home to some interesting topography around Chattanooga. Craggy ridges, deep gorges, boulder gardens and caverns are just waiting to be explored. Stone Fort, sometimes called Little Rock City, is located 20 minutes from downtown and provides quite the versatile spot for boulder climbers of all abilities. Chattanooga is also well known among rock climbers for its hard sandstone bluffs, which range in difficulty from easy to expert.

Hike and Bike

With the Cumberland Plateau to the west and the Appalachian mountains to the east, Chattanooga is full of places to explore on foot or bike. More than 100 miles of forest service paths, greenways and single-track trails offer mountain bikers plenty of interesting rides. Hikers will find 150 miles of trails on public lands, whereas backpackers can take the city’s Great Eastern Trail north to the Appalachian Trail or south to meet up with the Pinhoti Trail in Georgia. The Cumberland Trail State Scenic Trail provides ample opportunities to meander through the plateau’s gorges in the greater Chattanooga area. And, within an hour drive of the “Best Town Ever,” you’ll get to explore 7,000 caves that include the popular destinations of Raccoon Mountain Caverns and Ruby Falls.

With so much to offer, it’s no surprise the city of Chattanooga is considered one of the best outdoor cities in the country. To learn more about its recreation, you’ll have to see for yourself!

How to Help Someone With OCD

It’s easy to say that you’re there for a friend through challenges. But how do you help them with a challenge that you don’t understand? Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a much talked about, but often misunderstood condition that may control much of your friend’s life.

Here’s a few tips on how to help someone with OCD:

Understand the Condition

Becoming familiar with obsessive compulsive disorder is your first step toward helping. Learn a bit about the condition and speak with an expert. OCD is an anxiety disorder that involves repetitive, intrusive thoughts and behaviors, such as counting, checking or washing things to fulfill a personal sense of comfort. About 1 percent of American adults have this condition, with about half of these people experiencing severe symptoms, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Make Sure Your Help is Productive

You might think you’d benefit your friend by helping to complete these tasks — such as checking locks for them — but this only encourages the compulsion. And it isn’t productive in the long run. Instead, be attentive to your friend and watch for any changes in behavior. Call often to see how they’re doing. Do some enjoyable and stress-reducing activities together, like Pilates, nature walks, shared hobbies and watching funny movies.

Listen and Encourage

Good listening skills are always important in friendships, but even more so when figuring out how to help someone with OCD. Listen to your friend talk about the condition. Ask open-ended questions: “How does it feel to deal with these habits?” “How can I best support you?” and “What do you need from me?” Don’t give unsolicited advice, but feel free to offer ideas if asked. Strive to be kind, patient and sympathetic.

As is the case with any personal issue, keep whatever you discuss with your friend private. It could be devastating to them if they were to discover you told someone else about their personal struggles. It can also ruin their trust in you and even the friendship itself.

Avoid Passing Judgment

Accept your friend without judging or criticizing. It’s difficult enough to struggle with OCD, but even more so when they’re also fighting negativity from you.

Promote Access to Resources

Encourage your friend to seek clinical resources, such as health practitioners who have expertise in working with those who have OCD. Offer to make phone calls or send emails to find the best type of help, and go with them to counseling or support appointments if they’re not comfortable going alone.

Without minimizing their struggles, keep a positive attitude when interacting with your friend. There is always hope for improvement, especially when a support system is in place. Even if you can’t make the challenges go away, you’ll offer comfort by reminding them they’re not alone.

Advice or recommendations are for informational or educational purposes only, not a substitute for a visit or consultation with your doctor.

What’s the Best App for Tracking Calories?

Think of a food-tracking app as your own personal nutrition assistant. Whether you’re trying to maintain your weight or lose a few pounds, an app makes it easier to keep tabs on your calorie intake, eat a more balanced diet and stay motivated to live a little healthier.

But with so many to choose from, it can be hard to know which is the best app for tracking calories. Here are five fantastic (and free) options:

MyFitnessPal

Unsure how much you should be eating to see results? Enter your current weight and weight-loss goals, and MyFitnessPal gives you a recommended calorie budget. Track your daily intake by entering food from its native nutrition database, add custom foods or enter nutrition facts for packaged items manually using the built-in scanner. You can also enter your daily exercise to keep tabs on how many calories you’ve burned. The app is available for iPhone and Android.

Lose It!

Visual food icons, a comprehensive supermarket and restaurant meal database and built-in pedometer make it easy to track your daily calorie intake and activity level on Lose It! You can even create calorie counts and serving sizes for your favorite custom recipes. To determine how many calories you should be consuming, the app offers personalized recommendations that match your weight-loss goals. It’s available for iPhone and Android.

Noom Coach

Noom Coach marks foods as green, yellow, or red to make healthy eating simple. You’ll stay motivated to make smart choices, too, with a daily dose of nutrition tips and tricks and a built-in pedometer. Upgrade to the pro version for $9.99/month for access to personalized support groups and recipe ideas. The app is available for iPhone and Android.

Calorie Count

If you’d rather not type every single detail of your diet into your phone, Calorie Count is the app for you. Using voice interpretation, you can literally say, “salmon with broccoli and brown rice” for dinner and move on. The program’s goal-setting feature also lets you create and check off health-related to-dos, like eating five servings of produce or jogging for 30 minutes after work. The coolest part? At the end of the day, you get a letter grade to let you know how you did. The app is available for iPhone and Android.

My Diet Diary

This comprehensive app helps you track your daily food choices together with exercise, weight-loss and hydration. You get a comprehensive rundown of your daily nutrient intake, making it easy to know if you’re getting enough of one vitamin or falling short on another. For motivation and support along the way, check out My Diet Diary‘s daily health tips or community forums. The app is Available for iPhone and Android.

Ready to eat healthier? Grab your phone, download a program and get tracking. The best app for tracking calories puts a more nutritious diet a tap away.

Reviews are not scientific and are the sole opinions of the reviewers, not an endorsement by BCBST of any specific mobile application.

Making the Most of the Memphis Riverfront

The Mississippi River is the second-longest river in the United States and runs through much of the Southeast, serving as a top attraction — especially the Memphis riverfront. It shapes the western border of the city, running next to Riverside Drive downtown and can be accessed by many parks in the Memphis area.

You can enjoy five miles of public land along the riverbank, including the following parks:

    • Mud Island River Park
    • Greenbelt Park
    • Mississippi River Park
    • Vance Park
    • Memphis Park
    • Butler Park
    • Tom Lee Park
    • Martyr’s Park
    • Ashburn-Coppock Park
    • Crump Park
    • Chickasaw Heritage Park

Find out why visitors to Tom Lee Park have increased 250% since August, 2014.

Mud Island River Park

Although each of these parks features its own unique attractions, Mud Island River Park remains a primary destination for tourists and locals alike. Check out this park’s Riverwalk attraction, which is a scale model of the Mississippi River and features historical events that happened on or near the river. This is bound to be the most educational five-block walk you’ve ever taken. After following the Riverwalk south, climb aboard one of the pedal boats. From the one-acre water area, you can appreciate the best view of the Memphis skyline at your own pace. Be sure to capture a great view of the city with a trip on the park’s monorail as well. These Swiss-made cabins take passengers at a leisurely pace through the views of downtown Memphis, the river and the park itself.

Enjoying the Riverfront

Year-round, this area provides the perfect setting for a wide range of activities. During the summer, try nautical activities such as canoeing, fishing, sailing and kayaking along the river. For local families in the chillier months, take in the simple scenery with a dose of exercise to stay warm. Most people walk, jog and bike next to the river. When looking for a place to kick back and relax, join the hundreds of people who go to the Memphis riverfront to read, paint or simply observe the calm of nature.

Take a Trip on a Riverboat

Consider scheduling a riverboat trip. There is no better way to experience the historic area than through a leisurely journey on the water. The largest steamboat in the world, the American Queen, is located in Memphis. Book a trip down the river on this famous craft for a fun family adventure.

Mississippi River Museum

A river as long as the Mississippi has many stories to tell. Learn more about its history at the Mississippi River Museum. This comprehensive facility features 18 galleries that all tell the tale of the river that helped shape a vital part of the United States.

Riverfront Bar and Grill

Last but not least, enjoy your favorite Southern cuisine along the water at the Riverfront Bar and Grill. This restaurant specializes in Southern food made only with the freshest ingredients. Take note of the Beale Street Bologna sandwich and blackened catfish, which are true Southern staples at their best.

Planning a Trip

Every year, Memphis hosts hundreds of riverside events, from concerts to tours. When planning a trip, be sure to view the Memphis Riverfront’s calendar of events. Both locals and tourists can enjoy all the Memphis riverfront has to offer.

How the Right Playlist Can Improve Your Workout

Running that last half mile or doing 50 extra crunches is a little easier if the right song is pushing you. That’s because music helps you exercise longer and faster without feeling as tired. In the words of sports psychologist Costas Karageorghis, music is like “a type of legal [performance-enhancing] drug.”

Sync and Flow

The effects of music on exercise consist of three parts, according to ACEfitness. First, music establishes synchronization during your workout, encouraging you to pedal to its beat or run to its tempo. Second, it increases your sense of arousal by making you want to move rather than sit still. Music also distracts you from the sometimes uncomfortable aspects of exercise, such as bad weather.

Combined, these processes allow you to stay more positive, think you’re not working as hard, use less oxygen to accomplish a given task, exert energy more efficiently and help you reach the state of “flow” — that feeling where your body seems to be running on autopilot.

Beats Per Minute

Hip-hop, pop and rock are the most popular genres of music for workouts, but your personal tastes should guide you when making a playlist. Instead of focusing just on genre, think about how many beats per minute (BPM) there are in a catchy song. Songs with 120 BPM may actually appeal to one’s inner rhythms — particularly when performing between 30 and 70 percent effort, says Dr. Karageorghis in Live Science. When walking or snapping their fingers, people naturally settle into this pace.

While running, some people like to listen to songs with a faster BPM, say 160 or even 180. However, 150 BPM is where most associated benefits drop off. To determine the BPM of specific songs on your playlist, you can use a site like songbpm.com, pacedj.com or any number of mobile apps that analyze your favorite tunes.

Ten to Try

When making a playlist, consider a music service like Spotify, Rhapsody, Last.fm, 8tracks or Google Play. You can create your own or even borrow from other users’ lists. For some inspiration, here’s a sample.

  1. “SexyBack” by Justin Timberlake
  2. “Enjoy the Silence” by Depeche Mode
  3. “Take it Easy” by The Eagles
  4. “Sun King” by The Cult
  5. “Home” by Daughtry
  6. “Since You Been Gone” by Kelly Clarkson
  7. “Mixed Bizness” by Beck
  8. “Battles” by Atlas
  9. “Suddenly I See” by KT Tunstall
  10. “Good Life” by OneRepublic

Notice anything? These songs all hover around 130 BPM, which is perfect for a moderate walk or bike ride. Tune up your fitness this season and see what the effects of music on exercise do for you.

Consult your doctor before beginning any diet or exercise program.

UV Protection and You: Keys to Staying Safe

As the weather gets warmer, you spend more time outdoors. Enjoying sunny days certainly has its emotional benefits, but it also comes with its share of downsides. Sun exposure damages your skin and can lead to burning or peeling in the short term. Over time and without UV protection, however, you may even develop significant damage and symptoms of skin cancer. Although the dangers of sun exposure are highly recognizable, it’s important to learn more about why the sun causes skin damage in the first place.

What Is UV Radiation?

Ultraviolet radiation (UV), according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, is a part of the light spectrum the sun emits. Because it has shorter wavelengths than visible light, you can’t see UV radiation, and there are three known types: UVA, UVB and UVC. Due to its shorter wavelength, most UVC rays are absorbed by Earth’s ozone layer, and do not reach the Earth’s surface. When others reach your skin, they penetrate through the outer layers and ultimately damage your cells. Long-term exposure can produce mutations that lead to skin cancer.

UVA vs. UVB

Although both of these UV rays damage your skin, they have different effects. UVA radiation accounts for most of the radiation that reaches your skin. Because they penetrate your skin more deeply than UVB rays, according to the National Institutes of Health, they have long been known to play a significant role in aging, wrinkling and cell damage. Tanning booths primarily use these UVA rays.

UVB rays are the chief cause of burning, because they damage the outer layers of your skin. This type of radiation also plays a significant role in skin cancer, and the intensity of these rays varies with season, time of day and your location. Even though you are exposed to the most significant amounts of UVB from April to October, your skin can become damaged year-round, especially at higher altitudes and in the winter, due to reflective surfaces like snow and ice.

Limiting UV Exposure

Because UVA rays penetrate glass, consider adding UV-protective film to your car’s windows. This film blocks radiation without decreasing visibility.

When you’re outside, dress to limit UV exposure. You can actually purchase sun-protective clothes with an ultraviolet protection factor of 30 or greater. Even wearing brightly-colored clothes provides some protection over pastels and bleached cottons. Wear a broad-brimmed hat and sunglasses that shield your eyes from direct sunlight.

Ultimately, your best option to prevent skin damage is to wear sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Sunscreen is available with sun protection factors (SPF) of 15 and greater. SPF indicates how long it takes UVB rays to redden skin while wearing it, so higher SPF-value sunscreens are best. The World Health Organization recommends wearing an SPF of at least 15 or higher for adequate UV protection.

Advice or recommendations are for informational or educational purposes only, not a substitute for a visit or consultation with your doctor.

Things to Know When White Water Rafting in Tennessee

East Tennessee’s mountain rivers offer plenty of great spots for white water rafting. Before you head out for an exciting adventure, you should learn how rivers are classified and some safety tips for white water rafting in Tennessee.

Rapids are classified by experience level, so boaters know which rivers they can travel safely. You’ll find all five classes of rapids on Tennessee’s rivers.

Beginner

The easier classifications are great for novice rafters who are just learning to ride a river. Class I rapids are just fast-moving water with a few small waves. The few obstacles are easy enough to spot and avoid.

You might need to maneuver around rocks and slightly bigger waves with Class II rapids, but with a bit of training, they’re pretty easy to miss.

In Tennessee, you’ll find Class I and II rapids on many waterways, including the Hiwassee River, the Watauga River, the lower Pigeon River and the lower Nolichucky River.

Intermediate

Intermediate rafters can tackle Class III rapids, which have moderate, irregular waves that might not be as easy to dodge. These rapids can include stronger currents, especially on large-volume rivers.

You shouldn’t attempt intense Class IV rapids until you’re an advanced rafter. These involve precise boat maneuvering, large waves and sometimes constricted passages.

Class III and IV rapids can be found on the Ocoee River, Obed River, upper Nolichucky River, the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River and upper Pigeon River.

Expert

Only expert rafters should attempt Class V rapids. These could take you through large drops with unavoidable holes and waves, steep, tight chutes and long series of rapids between pools. Rafters need to have extensive experience before attempting Class V rapids. You’ll find Class V rapids in stretches of rivers and creeks, including the Chattooga River, Deep Creek, the Elk River and the Doe River.

When white water rafting in Tennessee, it’s important to remember these safety tips:

  1. Know how to swim and be able to handle yourself underwater.
  2. Always wear a life jacket and a solid helmet that fits correctly.
  3. Stay in control of your boat. Do not enter a rapid unless you are fairly certain you can navigate it safely or swim it without injury.
  4. Learn to look out for signs of hazards like high water, water colder than 50° F and submerged brush and trees.
  5. Get trained in CPR, first aid and self-rescue techniques like the Eskimo roll, especially if you boat in rapids rated higher than Class IV or in cold water.
  6. Carry emergency gear like a knife, a throw rope, a whistle, waterproof matches, and some footwear to protect you when you walk out.
  7. Refrain from wearing bulky or baggy clothing or shoes that can make it harder to swim.
  8. Know what to do if you fall out of the raft. Grab the outside safety line or look for a passenger to extend a paddle or a throw bag.
  9. Hold the T-grip on your paddle securely to avoid hitting other riders in the head.
  10. Wear sunscreen, even on overcast days. Sunlight reflects off the water and can easily cause sunburns.

White water rafting in Tennessee is an enjoyable way to spend a day with your family and friends, but make sure you know how to be safe while shooting the rapids.

Most outdoor activities have some level of risk, and you may need to consult an expert before engaging in the activity. Always check the current weather conditions before embarking on any outdoor activity.