Get up, stand up for correct posture

They’re some of the most common sights across campus come fall: fellow students slouched down in their lecture hall chairs or doing their best Hunchback of Notre Dame impressions as they trod around burdened by their backpacks.

When the hectic school year routine sets in, proper posture can fall by the wayside. Lugging around that extra book is likely a priority over adjusting your backpack straps correctly. But with just a few tweaks, you’ll experience improved energy and less fatigue, as well as avoid future health problems.

To the core

So what does “good posture” look like? As it turns out, there’s no easy answer – it depends on the task you’re doing. As a general rule of thumb, you should aim for neutral positioning that engages your core muscles. When you learn to engage your core muscles, you prevent the awkward, static sitting positioning that contributes to pain and discomfort in any kind of chair.

Michelle Discher, ergonomist at University Health Services, says growing evidence suggests that extended periods of sedentary behavior are associated with negative health outcomes like obesity and diabetes. So the answer is more motion, right? Not necessarily.

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are disorders, injuries or pain in your body’s joints, ligaments, muscles, and nerves that support different parts of your body. MSDs can result from a sudden exertion or from making repetitive motions. Carpal tunnel syndrome and tendinitis are two common MSDs.

Taking notes on good posture

A good chunk of your academic experience will occur in lecture halls both big and small. Whether you’re in Ag Hall or Henry Mall, we’ve got tips for the ideal way to sit:


  • We’re going back to the core. Engage your abs versus pulling on your back muscles and ligaments. Change positions as often as you can.
  • Know all the angles. The tendency is to lean forward and hunch our shoulders when sitting in lecture seats. Your hips should be at no greater than 90 degrees – parallel to the floor. Your feet and ankles should form another right angle and be flat on the floor as well.
  • Despite their name, laptops present a different set of problems. “Unfortunately, a laptop wasn’t designed with ergonomic factors in mind,” says Discher. She encourages an upright sitting position with your back supported, shoulders relaxed, and wrists in a neutral position.

Out and about

Chances are a backpack is your constant companion in college. As the year goes on, more and more materials can add unnecessary weight to your bag. Consider what is and isn’t essential to bring to each class. For example, maybe it’s possible to leave some books at home and pick them up between classes instead of loading up all your materials before you leave home in the morning.


“The common sense approach is to carry only what is a priority and consider the style of backpack you are using,” says Discher.

Your smartphone is likely another mainstay of your day-to-day life. Having the world’s information at your fingertips is enticing, but too much screen-gazing and typing can lead to injury. Discher says repetitive strain injuries like “Blackberry thumb” are largely avoidable by utilizing your phone’s voice-to-text capability.


The school year is a marathon, not a sprint. By keeping these tips in mind, you can cross the finish line next spring with another year under your belt and good posture intact.

Written by Ben Vincent, UHS Web & Publications Editor


SAFEwalk means you never have to walk alone

One of the best parts about the UW-Madison campus is that most things—from classes to restaurants to Camp Randall—are within walking distance. Whether you take the Lakeshore path to the Union or stroll down State Street, you can get just about anywhere on campus by foot. But there’s no need to walk alone. SAFEwalk, a free service available to all UW students, faculty, and campus guests, is available to escort you throughout campus if you don’t feel safe walking by yourself at night.

SAFEwalk operates in two-person student teams with four teams available on campus each night. To use SAFEwalk, call 608-262-5000 and provide your first name and your UW student ID number to a student dispatcher. If you are within the SAFEwalk boundaries, the dispatcher will send a team to your location. If you feel you are in a dangerous situation, you should dial 9-1-1 immediately.

Jeff Miller/University of Wisconsin-Madison

Jeff Miller/University of Wisconsin-Madison

Kate Moran, SAFEwalk Nighttime Services Coordinator, says that SAFEwalk works to reach new students, international students, and students who haven’t formed extended social networks yet.

“We serve the students who need someone right now or until they’ve made friends.”

Moran adds that because SAFEwalk is student-run, the walkers are committed to helping their fellow students and campus community members. “[They’re] very good with their peers and are committed to safe travel.”

In addition to walking students who have a class that ends late or who work odd hours, Moran stresses that students should feel comfortable calling SAFEwalk even if they’ve been drinking.

“If you or one of your friends has been drinking, call SAFEwalk,” says Moran. “It’s a good way to watch out for each other.”

Moran says that students who have used SAFEwalk once are more likely to use it again.

“No one should have to walk alone,” says Moran. “We’re all Badgers and we need to look out for each other.”

SAFEwalk escorts complete training with the UW-Madison Police Department and are able to assist in a variety of situations. Each team carries a two-way radio that can serve as mobile emergency phones between UWPD and SAFEwalk dispatchers. SAFEwalkers also promote campus safety by reporting lights that are burned out and watching for suspicious activity.

In addition to SAFEwalk, there are other nighttime safety provisions in place to help students. The UW Campus Lightway is a network of well-lighted sidewalks and pedestrian paths marked with reflective signs and more than 60 emergency telephones marked with blue lights are positioned throughout campus.


The UW-Madison Police Department offers these nighttime safety tips:

  • When you go out, consider going out as part of a group. People tend to intervene in situations when they have friends who will back them up.
  • Be mindful of how you feel before going out. Try to keep a clear mind before consuming alcohol and other drugs.
  • Use a safe means of getting home such as SAFEWalk, a trusted friend, or taxi, and encourage others to do the same.
  • If you’re a bystander and see someone behaving in a way that seems suspicious, step in and do something. If you don’t feel comfortable or safe confronting the person, call 911.
  • Direct, distract, delegate, delay: There are many ways to intervene if someone is behaving suspicious or predatory. You can be direct and say something to the person. Distract their attention away from the situation or delegate your friends to act as a group. A delayed intervention, like asking the person involved if they’re OK, is also a way to show your concern.
  • If you witness something that doesn’t feel right, you can help by getting involved. Check in and ask, “Hey, do you know this person?” or “Are you OK?”

SAFEwalk – 608-262-5000

SAFEwalk Hours – 7 p.m. – 1 a.m. October – March

8 p.m. – 1 a.m. April – September

Alcohol Summit connects campus, community partners to address UW drinking culture

The first-ever UW-Madison Alcohol Summit was held Monday, August 3 at Dejope Hall.

The event brought together a diverse group of campus and community members to collaborate on ways to address dangerous drinking behaviors on campus.

Lori Berquam, UW Vice Provost for Student Life and Dean of Students, spoke about the importance of working to curb high-risk drinking habits and the dangerous effects this behavior can have on a student’s well-being.


The first-ever UW-Madison Alcohol Summit convenes.

University Health Services Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse prevention coordinator Reonda Washington presented findings and data from the fall 2013 installment of the AlcoholEdu program. AlcoholEdu is an online alcohol prevention program that is mandatory for all first-year students at UW-Madison and is intended to give them the information and tools necessary to make healthy decisions around alcohol.

The program was first implemented in 2013. With each passing year, significant data trends can be noted and addressed. Respondents are categorized by their drinking habits and frequency, residence halls, and more. These results allow campus partners to target specific groups that are determined to be high-risk.


Reonda Washington presents data and findings on the 2013 edition of AlcoholEdu.

Will Chapman, Assistant Director of Student Conduct, provided data outcomes from the First 45 Days Initiative. A collaborative effort between the UW Police Department, UHS, University Housing, and the Division of Student Life, this initiative focused resources on behaviors related to alcohol use during the first 45 days of the academic year.

Finally, UWPD Officer Aaron Chapin led an interactive exercise that asked attendees to brainstorm ways to curb high-risk drinking behaviors. The activity encouraged collaboration from the wide range of groups and departments present at the summit.

Hot off the grill: BBQ safety in the summer sun

The smell of food on the grill is almost inescapable during the summer, especially in Madison. And while you may associate it with good friends and good times, a few simple steps can go a long way toward assuring you have a safe and healthy time.

The big chill: A safe grilling experience starts before you leave the grocery store. Keep raw meat and poultry separate from the rest of the groceries in your cart to avoid cross-contamination between raw meat or poultry juices.

Once you arrive at home, put meat and poultry in the refrigerator as soon as you can. Freeze any meat you won’t be cooking that day. If you have to thaw meat, use the refrigerator or submerge the meat in cold water in the sink; putting food on the counter to thaw at room temperature is an invitation for bacteria to join the party.

Hot ‘n’ cold: The golden rule of serving picnic food – keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. If you use a cooler to transport food, load the cooler with ice or frozen gel packs to maintain a temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower and keep it in the shade.

Jeff Miller/University of Wisconsin-Madison

Jeff Miller/University of Wisconsin-Madison

Likewise, partially precooking food beforehand can save you time, but be sure to transfer food immediately to a warm grill.

Happiness is a warm grill: Once you get the food over a flame, the priority is to cook food to a minimum internal temperature that is hot enough to destroy harmful bacteria. The external appearance of grilled foods can be misleading – meat and poultry typically brown very fast on the outside before cooking adequately on the inside.

It may be tempting to give your foods the eye test to determine if they’re fully cooked, but a food thermometer is the best bet to ensure a safe minimum internal temperature has been reached. These temps will vary by food:

Bon appétit: Once your food is ready to serve, remember not to let different types of meats comingle. Never reuse plates or utensils that previously held raw meat, poultry, or seafood without first washing with hot, soapy water.

Don’t neglect food even when it’s cooked. Set meat to the side of the grill rack, not directly over a flame where it could overcook. Just like with cold food, hot foods should not sit out for more than two hours. If it is left out longer, throw it out for good measure. Leftovers should be refrigerated quickly.

Keep these tips in mind the next time you head out to the park or your backyard. A little vigilance with food preparation and storage can help you experience a safe and healthy grilling experience.

Written by Ben Vincent, UHS Web and Publications Editor