- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
There's something magical about exercise. It impacts the body in many different ways, and all of them are good.
Exercise burns calories, improves cardiovascular health, tones muscles, boosts mood, and now scientists are learning that it also thwarts one of the most-feared symptoms of aging, memory loss.
Researchers at UC Irvine are conducting a 15-site national study on the effects of aerobic exercise on adults with mild memory problems. They are hoping to document evidence that will allow physicians to write prescriptions for exercise.
“Exercise is medicine,” said James Hicks, director of UC Irvine's Center for Exercise Medicine and Sport Sciences.
To date, no effective drug therapies to treat dementia have been found.
“Since 2002, 420 clinical trials on drugs targeted for Alzheimer's have been launched. All of them failed,” Hicks said. “No drug will change its trajectory. But physical activity might.”
Another UC Irvine professor, Carl Cotman, agrees.
“That concept has exploded. That's where the future is: understanding how exercise alters disease trajectories and improves outcomes,” Cotman said.
Cotman's research showed that exercise increases production of a substance called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which aides in learning and memory and facilitates connections among nerve cells. It's so critical to brain function that it has been dubbed “Miracle-Gro for the brain.”
“Exercise builds brain health,” Cotman said. “It makes you more efficient. You're thinking cleaner. It introduces a state of readiness.”
UC ANR educators encourage Californians to exercise
While scientists study the impact of exercise at the molecular level, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources nutrition educators continue to emphasize the importance of physical activity when they teach youth and families ways to improve their lives with healthy eating and movement.
UC ANR's Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) is offered in 24 counties in California. It is administered by UC Cooperative Extension offices. EFNEP educators help limited-resource families gain the knowledge, skills, attitudes and behavior necessary to choose nutritionally sound diets and improve their well-being.
Families who participated in the program have said that it transformed their lives for the better. They have changed what their family eats, switched to low-fat milk instead of whole milk and have fruit for snacks. They eat more vegetables and fruit and thaw meat and poultry in the refrigerator. Some walk daily, others play games with their children. Almost all use store ads and unit pricing to get the best shopping deals.
CalFresh Healthy Living, University of California is another nutrition education program administered by UCCE. It helps children and adults choose a healthy lifestyle by encouraging good food habits and decision making skills. Adult nutrition education is provided at no cost to low-income families. The youth nutrition education program provides support and resources to preschool through high school teachers in low-income schools to deliver nutrition and physical activity education in their classrooms.
CalFresh Healthy Living, UC helps families find parks in their neighborhoods so they can stay active, and shows how they can join sports team and locate public pools. The training acknowledges that it can be difficult to add exercise to busy lives, and helps participants overcome the barriers.
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend:
- 2.5 hours of moderate physical activity per week, or 30 minutes five times per week
- Strength and resistance training two times per week
- Flexibility exercises two to three times per week
“Perhaps the most common barrier is a lack of time,” said CalFresh Healthy Living, UC nutrition program coordinator Austin Cantrell. “In order to implement an exercise routine into our lives, many of us will need to plan out our day and see where we can fit exercise into our schedule.”
An important thing to remember, Cantrell said, is that exercise doesn't have to happen all at once.
“If you exercise for 10 minutes three times throughout your day, you will have met your 30-minute requirement,” he said. “If we exercise for 10 minutes before we go to work, take a 10-minute walking break while at work and exercise for 10 minutes after work, we will meet our recommended amount of physical activity for the day.”
A way to save time is engaging in vigorous physical activity, which cuts exercise time recommendation to 75 minutes a week. How can you tell the difference between “moderate” physical activity and “vigorous” physical activity? Examples of moderate activity are walking or gardening. Vigorous physical activity includes running, sprinting or swimming.
“Typically, you will be able to hold a conversation during moderate activity, but will be unable to sing,” Cantrell said. “During vigorous activity, you will not be able to have a conversation without considerable shortness of breath or pausing.”
Some people feel more motivated to be physically active by combining it with activities they enjoy.
“Spend time with your children playing outdoors or playing sports,” Cantrell suggests. “Seek social support by joining walking clubs or recreational sports leagues.”
Should doctors write prescriptions for exercise? By Shari Roan, UC Irvine
Overcoming barriers to exercise By Austin Cantrell, CalFresh Healthy Living, UC
- Author: Deepa Srivastava
EFNEP, UC Cooperative Extension's Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program, partnered with Culinary Arts Program in Tulare County to celebrate EFNEP's 50th anniversary. Chef Jeff, who is leading the Culinary Arts Program, sponsored and conducted a two-hour workshop in May 2019 for EFNEP parents, with a focus on basic cooking principles. The participants learned how to make and tasted a creative grilled salad.
The parents had just completed the EFNEP Eat Smart ● Be Active nutrition education series at Tulare Adult School. Mariana Lopez, a bilingual nutrition educator, led the EFNEP classes from March 19 to May 21. Ten participants completed the series and graduated. The graduates expressed interest in a cooking workshop. Deepa Srivastava, the UC Cooperative Extension nutrition, family and consumer sciences advisor, reached out to Chef Jeff to initiate this collaboration and Lopez coordinated efforts to organize the cooking workshop.
Chef Jeff started the workshop by introducing his culinary program. He shared cooking methodology and the use of "mother sauces," basic sauces that serve as a bases for flavoring different dishes. All participants had great questions for the chef, which indicated their interest in learning more about the measurements, ingredients and the application of "hot and cold" cooking techniques.
The main course
EFNEP participants learned the art and science of putting together a healthy vinaigrette and grilled salad. In this process, Chef Jeff provided information about the importance of food safety and sanitation, knife skills, cutting and chopping, and healthy salad ingredients. He demonstrated how to wash, cut and chop variety of vegetables followed by grilling the vegetables on the stove top. Participants loved the taste of the colorful grilled vegetables. Additionally, Chef Jeff explained the many creative ways to eat grilled vegetables, including lettuce wraps. Participants were mesmerized to see him create a rose from sliced tomatoes.
Icing on the cake was the take-home message and the potential for a long-term collaboration between EFNEP and Tulare Culinary Arts Program. The two-hour workshop was packed with cooking knowledge, skills and creativity. Participants' meaningful comments about the workshop included, “it was fun, creative, and new information.”
“I really enjoyed taking part of this special collaboration between our Tulare EFNEP Program and the Tulare Culinary Arts program with Chef Jeff," Lopez said. "It gave me the opportunity to connect with my participants in a more personal level, because I was also a participant — learning and taking with me fun and exciting tips to share in my classes with my food demos as well as in my home with my family's meals.”
The workshop ended with the chef happily packing grilled salad for participants to take home. Indeed, Chef Jeff inspired participants to cook healthy with fun and creativity!/h3>/h3>/h3>
- Author: Deepa Srivastava
- Editor: Suzanne Morikawa
EFNEP, the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program, partnered with UC Master Gardeners in Tulare County to celebrate EFNEP's 50th Anniversary! The UC Master Gardeners provided a one-hour workshop about container gardening for parents of young children. The parents had just completed the EFNEP Eat Smart•Be Active series at Conyer Elementary in Visalia, Calif.
Mariana Lopez, a UC nutrition educator who speaks English and Spanish, led the EFNEP classes from Jan. 30 to March 27, 2019. Seven of the 10 participants completed the series and graduated. The graduates expressed interest in participating in a gardening workshop. Deepa Srivastava, the UC Cooperative Extension nutrition, family and consumer sciences advisor, reached out to Susan Gillison, the UC Master Gardener coordinator, to initiate this collaboration and Mariana coordinated the gardening workshop.
UC Master Gardeners provided full support
The Master Gardeners provided the materials such as soil, pots, basil seedlings and cilantro seeds. The guidance and knowledge received from Dana Young, the Master Gardener volunteer – also known as The Plant Lady – was very helpful! Parents participated with their children in the hands-on container gardening activity. Dana explained that container, or pot gardening, is the practice of growing plants in containers instead of planting in the ground. Herbs and other edible plants can be grown in containers. The participants also learned about healthy soil and gutter gardening.
Parents enthusiastically shared their experience from participating in this hands-on activity:
“Knowledge about gutter gardening was very helpful!”
“It was exciting to be a part of this activity, my child loved it!”
Indeed, the EFNEP and Master Gardener collaboration in Tulare County was successful. The Site Coordinator of Conyer Elementary expressed interest in holding additional meaningful workshops like these for parents during the school year!
- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
The USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture presented awards to two California women for their role in the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP). EFNEP participant Johana Zacarias of Yolo County and Leah Sourbeer, the UCCE EFNEP Supervisor, where honored at the 50th Anniversary celebration at the National EFNEP Coordinators Conference in Virginia, March 11-14.
Zacarias, a young mother of four children, participated in EFNEP at Cedar Lane Elementary School in Olivehurst, Calif. EFNEP educator Sonia Rodriguez suggested participants check with their doctors before making changes to their exercise and dietary habits. Zacarias visited her doctor and discovered she had early stage fatty liver disease.
Zacarias decided to change her eating habits and walk with her family fives day a week to avoid using medication for her condition. She eliminated sodas from her diet and began drinking more water. She cleaned unhealthful foods out her pantry and began organizing her grocery shopping using a list.
“I was 220 pounds, never exercised, nor controlled my diet,” Zacarias told an EFNEP educator. “Because of the changes I made coming to EFNEP, using the Walk Indoors CD, I now weigh 166 pounds, and my liver is normal.”
Zacarias said she enjoyed every class and is telling everyone in her family, friends and neighbors about her story and the opportunity to participate in EFNEP.
Sourbeer is the supervisor of seven EFNEP educators in two urban counties – Alameda and Contra Costa.
“She is highly respected by her staff, academic advisor, UCCE colleagues and outside partners,” wrote her colleagues in nominating Sourbeer for the honor.
Sourbeer developed online systems to enable educators to capture outcome data and success stories. She is proactive in seeking out professional development opportunities for herself and staff to enhance evidence-based nutrition knowledge, teaching methodologies, and social determinants of health.
“Leah demonstrates exceptional programmatic skills,” her nomination said. “She often mentors other EFNEP supervisors and represents EFNEP staff on two university-wide committees.”
For 50 years, UC Cooperative Extension EFNEP educators have taught Californians in their communities, at community centers, schools, Head Start preschools, churches and, sometimes, in their own homes how to lead a healthy life.
The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) is an essential resource in the fight against poverty, malnutrition and obesity. It was implemented to teach healthy eating habits to the most vulnerable in the country: children, and their adult caregivers, such as single mothers and fathers, immigrants, unemployed, and elderly grandparents. EFNEP helps people who, in the ups and downs of life, face a time without enough money for food.
The EFNEP has many success stories to tell:
One day, just over two decades ago, Peru native Nelly Camacho, an EFNEP nutrition educator, met a young immigrant who was looking for a food bank.
In the City of Hayward in east Alameda County, the immigrant went to an EFNEP nutrition workshop where she was welcomed and invited to participate. Hesitating, she refused at first, claiming that she could not learn because she was illiterate.
"You do not have to know how to read and write, you can look and listen, and you'll learn to save money on food purchases," Camacho said. The immigrant not only learned about nutrition, but she also felt proud of herself. “It's the first time, in my whole life, that I have received a certificate,” she recalled the woman saying.
With the EFNEP workshops, families have learned to plan nutritious meals, increase physical activity, save money when buying food, practice safe handling of food, and prevent obesity with healthy lifestyles.
EFNEP now celebrates 50 years of service, and nutrition educators who teach classes to the community in schools, churches and community centers recollect stories that touch the heart. There are women, men and children who have learned to lead a healthy life because of EFNEP. Such as the case of a man in San Joaquin County who, on the verge of having heart surgery, found in healthy eating and exercise his best allies to elude the scalpel. And the child in a primary school in Contra Costa County, who after attending the nutrition workshop, remembered to put into practice what he learned. As soon as he ran into his nutrition instructor eating his vegetables, he said to himself: "Oh, I do not have any fruit or vegetables!" and ran to the salad bar.
The movement to teach healthy lifestyles is part of a major national effort whose seeds were planted in the late 1960s.
"The EFNEP program was piloted by the USDA in 1968, in response to increasing awareness of the link between poverty and malnutrition, and its deleterious impacts on the nation's children,” said Rose Hayden-Smith, UC Cooperative Extension advisor. “The EFNEP program sought – and still seeks – to influence in positive ways the nutrition and physical activity of low-income families, particularly those with young children. From the outset, EFNEP has used an innovative peer-education model that is embedded in communities.”
A professional historian, Hayden-Smith points out that EFNEP was conceived as part of President Lyndon Johnson's “Great Society” movement, an ambitious set of domestic programs which sought to eliminate poverty, increase racial equity, and improve the environment. Although the EFNEP program is directed by the USDA, it sought not only to reach rural families, but also families who lived in the nation's growing urban areas.
"Based on the success of the pilot programs, EFNEP was funded permanently in 1969, through Smith-Lever funds included in the nation's Farm Bill," Hayden-Smith said.
So, in the middle of the Apollo 11 era and when man first landed on the moon, EFNEP was born. It is delivered in the Golden State by UC Cooperative Extension.
Alameda was one of the first counties where the EFNEP program began, and for its implementation, it recruited nutrition educators, most of whom were homemakers who received training from the UCCE experts.
"They originally thought that advisors could do that program, and then they realized that they really needed community people, who know the community, who can relate to the people in the community and could speak their language and were aware of certain cultural sensitivities, and that is when they started actually hiring what they called in those days nutrition aides. They designated at that time that these educators should be from the community, familiar with the community and could relate to the community, and also be role models for other people in the community," said Mary Blackburn, a nutrition, family and consumer sciences advisor.
EFNEP is currently considered one of the most successful preventative health programs. Research indicates that for every dollar invested in the nutrition program, $8.34 is saved in health care costs.
"As an EFNEP educator, I worked with people who were in a drug rehabilitation program. One day between the fifth and sixth classes, a man approached me and said, 'You know I'm thrilled that you came to this class; I had heart problems, blocked arteries, and I had been told that I would need surgery, but the doctors said that if I continue with these changes I might not need the operation," said Anna Martin, a San Joaquin County nutrition, family and consumer sciences advisor who started as an EFNEP educator 30 years ago. "I do not know what happened to that man, but the important thing is that he learned that his health depended on the changes we talked about in class."
When EFNEP started there were no communication tools like those of today. There were no computers in homes, no cell phones in the pockets. Educators started knocking on doors in their neighborhoods, something they still do today.
"The first challenge was to get to know the community and build trust," Martin said. "Developing that trust means you need to go out and meet the directors of the programs. You need to work at health fairs. You need to get your face, your name and who you are out in the community. And then, when you give classes, you must make sure that you are always doing it consistently, giving the participants a certificate at the end and later checking to see how they are doing."
EFNEP continues to be relevant to the audiences it serves, and it continues to be a community program taught by educators who live in the communities where they work.
"I live near the areas where I taught,” said Adán Osoria, an EFNEP educator in Contra Costa County. “You can see me in stores, when I'm eating. They know that I am a real person in the community, and I have similar experiences with which they can relate,"
Osoria is bilingual, a recent college graduate and he is taking the nutrition message to elementary and high school students full of energy. It's not easy, but he manages.
"(The children) are enthusiastic about what they are learning, they talk with their parents about what they have learned and give out the brochures I give them. And in public places, they ask me, ‘Oh, are you the nutrition educator? My son always talks about this and what he likes,'” Osoria said.
EFNEP currently has 10 advisors, 8 supervisors, and 35 nutrition educators. The workshops are offered in 24 of California's 58 counties. It is a comprehensive program, and educators must learn several lessons that have catchy names: “Eating Smart, Being Active,” “Let's Eat Smart and Play Hard Together,” “My Amazing Body,” “Happy Healthy Me.”
"One of the biggest challenges I had when I started was to review all the curricula we had to offer. There are more than 20 lessons only for elementary school. So, at the beginning, I felt it was a lot, but the more I studied, the more I learned them and now I know them like the back of my hand," Osoria said.
In the promotion of healthy eating, battles have to be fought on different fronts, and for that, a team of UCCE experts is conducting surveys and evaluating the factors that prevent people from eating healthy.
"One of the challenges I face when I work with students is that I am essentially talking about healthy foods, but as soon as the bell rings and they leave school, the communities in which we teach are surrounded by fast food. Whether it's a liquor store or convenience store where the healthy foods we talk about in the nutrition workshops are not an option," said Eli Figueroa, a nutrition educator in Contra Costa County.