Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC)

Community College of Allegheny County

Health Resources: Lifestyle

A healthy lifestyle helps in succeeding at school. Use the following information as a guide to healthy living. If you need more information please contact the Director of Supportive Services or your personal doctor.


Backpack Safety  

Backpacks are a practical and popular way for students to carry books and supplies. Good ones are designed to distribute the weight of the load among some of the body’s strongest muscles.

The American Physical Therapy Association, however, warns that they can cause harm when overloaded or used improperly. Studies show that injuries occur when students use faulty postures such as arching the back, bending forward, twisting or leaning when trying to manage a heavily loaded backpack. These faulty postures can interfere with the proper functioning of the spinal disks that provide shock absorption.

Overloaded backpacks also place an extra burden on muscles and soft tissues, causing fatigue and strain that increases the risk of neck, shoulder and back injuries.

Student with Backpack

Some General Guidelines from the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons

When choosing your backpack look for the following:

  • Wide padded shoulder straps. Narrow straps can dig into your shoulders which can cause pain and restrict circulation.

  • Two shoulder straps. Backpacks with one shoulder strap that runs across the body cannot distribute weight evenly.

  • Padded back. A padded back protects against sharp edges on objects inside the pack and increases comfort.

  • Waist strap. A waist strap can distribute the weight of a heavy load more evenly.

  • Lightweight backpack. The backpack itself should not add much weight to the load.

  • Rolling backpack. This type of backpack may be a good choice for students who must carry a heavy load. Remember though that the rolling backpack must be carried up stairs.

Hints to Prevent Injury

  • Always use both shoulder straps. Slinging a backpack over one shoulder can strain muscles.

  • Tighten the straps so that the pack is close to the body. The straps should hold the pack 2 inches above the waist.

  • Organize the backpack to use all of its compartments. Pack heavier items closest to the center of the back.

  • Pack light. The backpack should never weigh more than 20% of your total body weight.

  • Bend using both knees, when you bend down. Do not bend over at the waist when wearing or lifting a heavy backpack.

  • Learn back strengthening exercises to build up the muscles used to carry a backpack.

One of the best ways to lighten your load is to obtain a locker so you do not need to carry all of your books needed for the day. Lockers are free and are available for the whole year. You can get one through the Student Life Office in the Cougar’s Den. Lockers located in the Physical Education Building can be obtained from Ken Hoeltje in his office, room 400, Physical Education Building.

Come to the Health Services Office, also in the Physical Education Building, for more information on back care and strengthening.

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Taking Care of Your Back  

We have placed helpful information here regarding your back. Click on the link of your choice and you will open a PDF file with valuable information.

Backaches—Ways to treat and avoid back pain. 
Back to Basics—Getting to know your back.
Back in Condition—Exercises for back health.
Sitting BackBack fitness for people who sit.
Lift It Right—Simple techniques to protect your back.

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How to End It
Almost everyone experiences fatigue at one time or another. The most common causes are:

  • Lack of exercise

  • Poor sleep habits

  • Stress

  • Overwork

  • Depression

  • Worry

  • Boredom

  • Poor eating habits and crash diets

  • Drugs such as alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, tranquilizers and cold and allergy medications


How to Fight Fatigue

  • Get regular exercise, even if it's just a short walk.

  • Learn techniques to improve your sleep habits.

  • Eat a well-balanced diet and drink adequate amounts of water.

  • Get help for stress or depression.

  • Do something you enjoy every day.

Call the Doctor if:

  • you have unexplained muscle weakness.

  • you have sudden, unplanned weight loss.

  • you are too tired to do your daily activities.

  • you don't feel better after several weeks of home treatment.

    Source: Parlay International (v.2) 1930.0050,

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Fitness: Three Steps to Healthy Weight Loss 

Woman Exercising

As more and more fad diets and pills emerge claiming to result in instant weight loss, it becomes much more difficult to actually lose weight. This is because those diets and pills aren't actually what cause’s healthy and lasting weight-loss. The solutions might seem quick and easy, but in reality they are ineffective devices for companies to capitalize on the healthy-choice movement that is sweeping the nation. Instead, a combination of will-power with three simple steps makes for the best procedure to lose weight and keep it off.

Step 1 - Aerobic Exercise: Aerobic exercise is what is known in gyms everywhere as simply "cardio". This activity can be generalized as using much oxygen during long intervals of low-intensity activity. It sounds tough, but these exercises are really some of the most enjoyable. For example, long distance jogging and speed walking are examples of aerobic activity, as well as bicycling, singles tennis, using an elliptical machine and Aerobics classes. These exercises tone body muscle while burning excess fat, while also being great for respiration and heart function.

Step 2 - Anaerobic Exercise: As a contrast, anaerobic exercise is generally strength-training exercise that uses less oxygen during short intervals of high-intensity activity. These exercises include weight lifting, some yoga and Pilates. Resistance training, using bands or special machines like those incorporated into the Curves program (or CCAC's Red Room), is also a type of anaerobic activity. The activities build muscle tissue, without necessarily bulking.

Step 3 - Good Nutrition: The reason fad diets don't work is that most of them simply restrict certain foods without reason instead of enforcing portion watching. A "diet" isn't necessary so much as good nutrition. Instead of taking away carbs or fats from a diet completely, a new diet should be constructed based on the food pyramid and on recommended portion sizes for a serving of food. Information about starting such a plan can be found at, a web-site sponsored by the United States Department of Agriculture.

The secret behind the system's effectiveness is that these three steps are also the three steps to living a healthy life and are not just for those wanting to drop a few pounds. It might be a bit more difficult than popping a few weight-loss pills ot chugging a diet shake to lose weight. Perhaps the most difficult part of the process is establishing a proper mind set to make trying the system possible. One must first believe that he or she has the power to change their life-style, the power to improve their health and establish good habits. That more than any system is the way to weight loss.

Disclaimer: This section's purpose is to perpetuate ideas, not advise. Before taking any drastic steps with diet or exercise, consult your physician.

Reprinted from the Allegheny View with permission of Nina Schreiner

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Quit Smoking 

Are You Ready To Quit Smoking? How To Tell When It's Time to Stop
3 Steps To Quitting Smoking Get Ready, Get Set, Then Go ...

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