A Season for Health at ECU

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Most years, holiday weather in eastern North Carolina allows for outside activities, and if not, indoor recreation is  available at facilities like ECU's Student Recreation Center. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)


Help for healthy holidays

Eat Smart Move More N.C. touts “maintain don’t gain” as its holiday slogan. Ways to do that are online at
The website My Fitness Pal ( has free smartphone apps to measure and track eating and exercise as well as other tools to help improve health and fitness.

ECU campus recreation and wellness ( offers several ways to stay active.

Get Going N.C. lists statewide opportunities for biking, hiking, climbing and paddling at

The Reindeer Dash for Cash fundraiser will raise funds for scholarships. Learn more at

The Bicycle Post hosts rides about 6 miles west of town near Short Bridge Road and Kings Crossroads Road. Visit for details.

Details on the National Audubon Society’s 113th Christmas Bird Count are available at

A walk with friends can help burn off calories from holiday meals. (Photo by Jay Clark)


Staying active helps prevent holiday pounds

Dec. 1, 2012

By Doug Boyd
ECU News Services

Many people accept they will gain weight over the holidays and pledge to work off the resulting pounds in the new year.  

But there’s no need to wait. The holidays offer many opportunities to spend time off from work and with family getting active, seeing the outdoors and burning calories along the way.

Eric Gardner, leadership and team training specialist with the ECU campus recreation and wellness program, said the holiday season is in many ways an ideal time to be active outdoors. The weather is cool but usually not cold, mosquitoes aren’t about and trails aren’t crowded.

“The days get a little shorter and it tends to get a little grayer,” Gardner said. “To me, that’s the time to stay active.”

And places such as the ECU North Recreation Complex and the Greenville Greenway offer ideal locales to unwind and recharge.

“You’re going to do your holiday shopping and then you can get away from those crowds and that stress,” Gardner said.

Researchers say staying active is an effective way to reduce holiday weight gain. A 2000 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that while people gain less weight than they thought during the holidays – about a pound – the weight tends to last a lifetime and contributes to obesity. Burning off the calories as they go on helps reduce that gain.

Jessica Van Meter, a visiting instructor in the ECU College of Health and Human Performance, recommends spending extra time walking at the mall or shopping center before or after shopping. It helps to be active with a friend or family member.

Keeping extra pounds off during the holidays might be a simple as a daily bicycle ride across campus after meals. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

As far as holiday eating, she recommends the following: Bring healthy snacks to work so that when a co-worker brings in a tray of holiday treats, have one or two then fill up with your own snacks. At parties, eat healthy options first and then a treat, eat only if hungry and drink plenty of water to help fill up.

One local organized activity during the holidays is the Dec. 2 Reindeer Dash for Cash. It is a fundraising event to benefit the Captain Christopher Cash Memorial Foundation of N.C., which provides scholarships for students at East Carolina University, Pitt Community College, N.C. Wesleyan College and the N.C. National Guard Association Educational Foundation.

The event is at the Greenville Town Common and includes 5K and 10-mile runs. More information is online at

The website Get Going N.C. ( lists hiking, biking, climbing and paddling trails across the state. Nearby ones include hiking and paddling at Goose Creek State Park near Bath, paddling on Contentnea Creek in Stantonsburg, and hiking at Croatan National Forest near Havelock and Pettigrew State Park near Creswell.

For mountain biking, Greenville’s own The Bicycle Post hosts rides about 6 miles west of town near Short Bridge Road and Kings Crossroads Road. This 10-mile trail has surprising elevation changes for the coastal plain. More information is available online at or by calling 252-756-3301.

And holiday turkeys aren’t the only birds to pay attention to. The National Audubon Society’s 113th Christmas Bird Count will be from Dec. 14 through Jan. 5. This year, for the first time, the Audubon Society is not charging a fee to participate. More information along with a list of local organizers is online at

The holidays also offer a few days off for many people – an ideal time to get out and about. ECU’s Gardner and a co-worker will be taking advantage of ECU closing for 10 days to go to Montana to ice climb and snowboard. He encourages others to do likewise.

“It’s cold and it’s winter,” he said. “Use it.”