Exercise makes you feel good- When you exercise neurochemicals called endorphins are released. These endorphins are our body’s natural pain killers and they help create feelings of well-being.
As a part of my series about “5 Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jennifer Wegmann. Dr. Jennifer Wegmann is a professor in the Decker School of Nursing, department of Health and Wellness Studies at Binghamton University. She teaches a variety of classes including Stress Management, Contemporary Health Issues, and Women’s Wellness. Professor Wegmann’s research focuses on the influence stress mindset has on relationships between personality, stress appraisal, and college student well-being.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the story about how you first got involved in fitness and wellness?
I have been interested in fitness in wellness since I was in high school. I was an athlete in both high school and college and I was keenly aware of the role fitness and wellness played in my athletic performance. As an undergrad I was able to foster my passion for athletics, wellness, and science through my studies as a biology major.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
In May 2018 my oldest son graduated from the institution where I teach with a bachelor’s degree. While this in and of itself may not be interesting what makes this unique is that I also graduated the same semester with my PhD. I was not able to attend my graduation ceremony because my son was also a student athlete on the Baseball team and they had an away game on my graduation date. However, I was actually able to sit on stage during his graduation and greet him as he shook hands with the President and received his diploma.
Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?
One year early in my career I was giving an exam in a Nutrition course I was teaching. Back in “those days” we needed to send out exams to the copy center on campus. I mistakenly included the answer sheet with the test. When I handed out the test in class the answer sheet was included on the last page! I ended up giving everyone in the class a 100 on the exam. Students were happy, we all laughed, and I now triple check exams before I copy them.
Can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the fitness and wellness field? In your opinion, what is your unique contribution to the world of wellness?
I have been teaching in Binghamton University’s Health and Wellness Studies department for 24 years. I am immersed in the topic and literature every day. My research currently focuses on stress and well-being in the college population. I am also an American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Certified Exercise Physiologist. I am fortunate to have a career that affords me the opportunity to help students apply the principles of fitness and wellness in their lives. Additionally, I have interviewed on the topic for national and global publications and I have written for The Conversation whichoffers informed commentary and debate on the issues affecting our world.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I am blessed to have so many amazing people in my life who have fostered my growth and development as an educator, researcher, and as a human being. While I am grateful for all the amazing people in my life, my father has had a powerful impact on my life. He has always helped foster my passions. As a young girl who was athletic and passionate about fitness and sports, I had a strong male role model who treated me as capable and as an equal. Growing up in the late 80’s and early 90’s I witnessed so many friends being confined and pigeon holed to certain social roles based on their gender. My father, and my mother too, raised me to believe there was nothing I could not accomplish and that my gender was not a limitation.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, exercise more, and get better sleep etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the 3 main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?
1- Lack of awareness people have about their personal exercise and eating habits. I have seen so many students over the last 20+ years believe their diets were healthy or believe they are making healthy choices but in reality they weren’t. Doing nutritional analysis in class was always very eye opening.
2- Feelings of invincibility — I am healthy now so why do I need to change what I am doing? There is a sense that “other” people need to worry about what they eat — the unhealthy people.
3- Lacking motivation — many people do not want to change their habits. They are living in their comfort zone and as we know people like it there. Making healthier choices seems difficult for many people. They feel they won’t like healthy foods or it will be too expensive. Therefore there is no motivation to change
Can you please share your “5 Non-Intuitive Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”? (Please share a story or an example for each, and feel free to share ideas for mental, emotional and physical health.)
We all should be striving to eat a healthy well balanced diet and we all should make time to move our bodies most days of the week. However, there are many other ways a person can improve their well-being that are simple and free.
1- Effectively Manage your Stress –
a. Managing your stress in a health way allows individuals to actually utilize the stress in their life to make themselves more productive and healthier.
2- Practice Gratitude-
a. Gratitude is a powerful positive emotion and when we express it, our connections to other people is strengthened and gives us the opportunity to develop new and healthy relationships.
3- Get off Automatic Pilot — Be Mindful-
a. Being mindful, which is a state of awareness, allows you to live in the moment and stay focused. When we are mindful we do not miss the opportunities life presents to us.
4- Get in touch with your emotions and express yourself
a. Healthy awareness and expression of your emotions is called Emotional Intelligence. Processing and managing your emotions in a positive way is an excellent way to manage stress and foster meaningful relationships.
5- Foster your social self by making healthy connections –
a. Connecting socially improves the emotional, mental, and physical components of wellness.
As an expert, this might be obvious to you, but I think it would be instructive to articulate this for the public. Aside from weight loss, what are 3 benefits of daily exercise? Can you explain?
1- Exercise improves mental health. Research has shown that exercise can improve symptoms of anxiety and depression
2- Exercise can help improve sleep — Research suggest regular exercise helps you fall asleep faster and improves sleep quality
3- Exercise makes you feel good- When you exercise neurochemicals called endorphins are released. These endorphins are our body’s natural pain killers and they help create feelings of well-being.
For someone who is looking to add exercise to their daily routine, which 3 exercises would you recommend that are absolutely critical?
1- Yoga — not only helps improve flexibility but promotes mental health and helps relieve tensions associated with stress
2- Walking — Its low intensity and everyone can do it.
3- Strength train — even low intensity strength training can lead to gains in muscle mass and strength. This helps boost metabolism, helps prevents falls, and makes every day functioning more efficient.
In my experience, many people begin an exercise regimen but stop because they get too sore afterwards. What ideas would you recommend to someone who plays sports or does heavy exercise to shorten the recovery time, and to prevent short term or long term injury?
One of the best things people can do to recover is stretch. Working on flexibility is an underrated principle of exercise.
There are so many different diets today. Can you share what kind of diet you follow? Which diet do you recommend to most of your clients?
I do not follow any diet. — Diets don’t work and they set people up for failure. Rather, I focus on eating foods that are healthy and wholesome while making room for foods that may not be classified as “healthy” but that I enjoy and make me happy.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?
The Upside of Stress by Kelly McGonigal — I changed the way I thought about and taught stress. It has changed my perspective and giving me a passion to research and teach about stress in a different way
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Body Love and Positivity — I believe that body angst and hatred is associated with many destructive behaviors we see people engage in.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Oprah!! She constantly on a search for new ways and perspectives to improve not only her life but the lives of others.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!