Summer Program Teaches Science Writing to High School and Undergrad Students

The Stanford Lifestyle Medicine Summer Research Program was in full swing this summer, training a select group of high school and undergraduate students to become adept scientific writers and reporters. 

Dr. Oppezzo created this summer program to inspire young scientists to delve into lifestyle medicine and cultivate the skills to effectively communicate research findings to a broader audience through critical thinking, peer-and-expert interviews, and writing. The curriculum she created combines her background in education and research and her belief that true health and quality of life span across many domains. 

Over the course of ten sessions, students learned to discover the story behind the headlines and the boundaries behind their assumptions. Starting with a belief and interest, students dug deep to ask questions beyond a headline claim, such as asking: “Who is this information for? Under what conditions? How much? What do you mean by well-being?” Students also learned to think critically about scientific articles, considering whether or not the source was from a reputable academic outlet or a participant in the study. Students then practiced telling the story to their peers, generating critical questions, and interviewing experts in the area.  

“During the last couple of weeks of the program, we focused on creative communication,” says Dr. Oppezzo. “Rather than write just about the facts, I had the students ask themselves, ‘How can we best communicate the story of the research? How can we communicate our interest in the topic along with an expert’s critical assessment in ways that are digestible, actionable, and entertaining for a target audience?'”

The final project for the course was to interview an expert and create a scientific blog or multimedia product on a lifestyle medicine topic. Throughout the course, students continuously workshopped their story-telling skills with their peers to ensure they addressed their readers’ interests, comprehension, and questions. A few examples of the topics the students chose include resistance training for well-being, the immune-enhancing effects of being in nature, and the cognitive benefits of houseplants. All of the final projects will be showcased in a dedicated section of the Stanford Lifestyle Medicine website, specially curated for the “Gen-Z” audience and aptly named “Genzevity.”

The program was taught by Marily Oppezzo, PhD, the Head of Nutrition and Behavior Change for Stanford Lifestyle Medicine. Dr. Oppezzo completed her doctorate in Educational Psychology and loves teaching and mentoring. She received the Department of Medicine Teaching Award in 2018 and has mentored several undergraduate and graduate students interested in pursuing their passions in medical school, nutrition research, or community-based-participatory research. 

“The goal of this summer was storytelling,” says Dr. Oppezzo. “The students learned how to ‘get inside the shoes’ of the participants and think about what it was like to be in that study. This is a great way to ‘pop the hood’ on scientific research and understand what they found. That’s how they learn how to apply it to real life.”


By Maya Shetty, BS 

5 Tips for a Successful Pickleball Experience

In the summer of 2023, pickleball was a popular sport for people of all ages. Pickleball is a paddle sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong. Personally, I am a big pickleball enthusiast because it offers a perfect blend of competitiveness, social interaction, and physical activity. If you’re new to pickleball and want to join in the fun, here are a few valuable lessons that I wish I had known before first stepping onto the court:

Warm-Up: As a former collegiate athlete, you’d think I knew better, but I made the mistake of skipping the warm-up before my first pickleball session, and the consequences were immediate. Just an hour into the game, I pulled my quad and had to sit out the rest of the game. Warming up prepares your body for the physical demands of pickleball and significantly reduces the risk of injuries. Given that pickleball requires flexibility and a wide range of motion for success, a proper warm-up can give you that competitive edge you need on the court. Don’t repeat my mistake – prioritize warming up before your next pickleball game!

Hydration: Staying properly hydrated before playing pickleball is crucial. I’ve experienced firsthand how one hour on the pickleball court can quickly turn into four. So make sure to bring plenty of water and take water breaks between each match.

Footwork Matters: I initially underestimated the importance of footwork in pickleball. However, I soon discovered that the same quick positioning and agile footwork I honed on the tennis court were equally crucial in pickleball. Remember to wear shoes with good traction, support, and fit so you can move quickly without turning an ankle.

Communication is Key: Pickleball is often played in doubles, which requires excellent communication with your partner. If you have played pickleball, you know the irritation when the ball is hit right down the center and no one goes for it. Coordinate your moves, call out shots, and support each other on the court. Good teamwork can give you a significant advantage over your opponents.

Stay Patient: In the thrilling game of pickleball, it’s all too easy to get swept up in the excitement and rush your shots. But, I’ve learned that patience is a virtue during those long and intense rallies because (add the reason why). With experience, I’ve come to realize  that I can outplay most opponents through patience and consistency rather than power.


By Maya Shetty, BS

Is Running Bad for Your Knees? Research Says, “No”

Many people believe running is bad for your knees, but this commonly-held belief is not backed by solid evidence. Let’s take a closer look at the research and unravel the truth behind this myth.

A recent study explored the public’s perception of running and knee joint health–the findings were surprising. Around 29 percent of the general public believed that frequent running is harmful to the knees, and a significant 54 percent thought the same about running long distances. 

Interestingly, a different picture emerged when comparing these perceptions with those of healthcare providers. A greater proportion of healthcare providers actually viewed regular running as beneficial for knee health. 


“Despite the prevailing beliefs, current evidence finds that recreational running is not a risk factor for knee osteoarthritis. In fact, it has been found to be quite the opposite–running can be good for your knees.”  – Corey Rovzar, PhD, DPT, and postdoctoral fellow at the Stanford Prevention Research Center.


Studies have shown that recreational runners have a knee and hip osteoarthritis (OA) prevalence that is three times lower than that of sedentary non-runners. Competitive runners showed an even more impressive four-fold reduction in knee and hip OA prevalence. These results are due to the fact that regular running strengthens the muscles around the knee joint and supports overall joint health. Running also plays a vital role in maintaining healthy cartilage and bone density, which are crucial for knee function.

Considerations for Individuals With Pre-Existing Knee Conditions

If you have a pre-existing knee condition, such as knee OA, running may exacerbate symptoms because the cartilage in the knee has broken down, leaving less cushioning around the joint. Cartilage does not have the ability to regenerate and while running can maintain cartilage health, it can not bring it back once it’s gone. If you struggle with knee OA, opting for lower-impact exercises, such as walking, cycling, or swimming, is advisable. Consulting with a healthcare provider or a physical therapist can help you develop a safe and effective exercise routine that works specifically for you. 

Guidance For Inexperienced Individuals

Michael Fredericson, MD, the Director of the Lifestyle Medicine Program and PM&R Sports Medicine at Stanford, cautions against taking up running after the age of fifty without prior experience. According to Dr. Fredericson, “You need to get fit to run, rather than run to get fit, and this becomes even more important after the age of 50. If you’re just starting out, begin with general conditioning that targets hip and core muscles and slowly build up your running.”

It’s time to put this myth to rest. Running is not bad for your knees; in fact, it can be healthy for them! If you do not suffer from a pre-existing knee condition and are generally fit, let’s embrace the evidence and remember that running, when done responsibly, can contribute to healthier and happier knees. So, lace up those running shoes and hit the pavement with confidence, knowing that you’re taking strides toward a stronger and more resilient you!


By: Corey Rovzar, PhD, DPT, Maya Shetty, BS, & Michael Fredericson, MD


  1. Esculier J-F, Besomi M, Silva D de O, et al. Do the General Public and Health Care Professionals Think That Running Is Bad for the Knees? A Cross-sectional International Multilanguage Online Survey. Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine. 2022.
  2. Alentorn-Geli E, Samuelsson K, Musahl V, Green CL, Bhandari M, Karlsson J. The Association of Recreational and Competitive Running With Hip and Knee Osteoarthritis: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2017 Jun

More Sunlight Exposure May Improve Sleep

What is our circadian rhythm?

Our circadian rhythm is our internal clock, keeping us on track for many of our day-to-day activities. When we go to sleep and when we wake up the following morning are the most common activities that people associate with our circadian rhythm, though there are many more things that it influences (metabolism, mental and physical performance, immunity, etc.). This sleep-wake cycle can be influenced by various stimuli throughout the day, but it is most heavily influenced by changes in light exposure. Light is considered the major “zeitgeber” or stimulus that helps our body to understand when to do certain activities like sleeping and waking. This means when we are exposed to light, especially bright light like sunlight, has a big effect on our sleep-wake pattern. 

Sunlight’s effect on circadian rhythm

“Many people today are working remotely or are in offices with little natural light exposure. Many of these same people may tend to struggle with sleeping at night and are unaware of how a few changes to their lifestyle may help them begin to improve their sleep. Finding lifestyle habits to prioritize early morning and daytime sun exposure can help to improve sleep later that night,” says Jamie Zeitzer, PhD, Stanford University Professor and member of the Stanford Lifestyle Medicine sleep team. 

Even going outside for 30 minutes can help. In the morning, sunlight helps to tell your circadian clock what time it is. In the afternoon, sunlight helps to make the clock stronger. At any time of day, getting sunlight means that the artificial light to which you are exposed at night will have less of an impact. Whether it is taking the dog out for a morning walk or finding time to bask in the sun over lunch, spending a little more time outdoors during the day can help regulate our internal clock and is the first step in a healthier relationship with sleep. It’s a win-win!

By: Carly Smith, BS, MPH(c)


  1. Hoffmann et al. Aerobic Physical Activity to Improve Memory and Executive Function in Sedentary Adults without Cognitive Impairment: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis“. Journal of Preventative Medicine Reports. Sep. 2021.

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Enhancing Memory Through the Power of Aerobic Exercise

It is generally understood that exercise is good for our physical bodies, but did you know that exercise can also improve cognitive performance? One such benefit of aerobic exercise specifically is its ability to enhance our memory. There have been a multitude of studies designed to investigate the nuances of this exact phenomenon, including a recent systematic review and meta-analysis.

Aerobic Exercise Improved Performance on Memory Tests

The analysis reviewed nine different studies with patients aged 50 years old and older. Six of the studies used exercise regimens that follow the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services recommendations for aerobic physical activity. These guidelines suggest that all adults should engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise (like brisk walking or cycling) or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise (like jogging or dancing) on a weekly basis. In the studies, the type of exercises varied from brisk walking to swimming, but all that met the U.S. guidelines reported “significant and large” effects. It is important to note that the duration of the studies ranged from three months to one year, each with its own unique breakdown of how to meet these total weekly minutes. 

In order to study the link between exercise and memory, there are several  memory tests that scientists can use to test the different aspects of our memory. While most of the included studies chose to observe changes in working and logical memory (important for reasoning and decision-making), some used tests to observe the changes in spatial and episodic memory (remembering information like names, places, and colors). The results of the overall meta-analysis concluded that there was a strong relationship between undergoing aerobic exercise and improvements in memory. 

What is BDNF?

Dr. Doug Noordsy, Head of Cognitive Enhancement at Stanford Lifestyle Medicine, hypothesizes that aerobic exercise improves memory by releasing Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), which was discussed in the analysis. BDNF is a protein that is released due to the widening of the blood vessels (systemic vasodilation) that occurs during physical activity. Once this protein reaches our brain through the bloodstream, it aids the longevity and growth of healthy neurons, which are vital for learning and memory processes. Also, exercise turns on specific genes that activate neurotrophic factors like BDNF, allowing us to create additional BDNF as we exercise throughout life. 

So, next time you catch yourself recalling an old story or trying to match a name to a face, remember to move your body and get your heart rate up!


By: Carly Smith, BS, MPH(c)


  1. Hoffmann et al. Aerobic Physical Activity to Improve Memory and Executive Function in Sedentary Adults without Cognitive Impairment: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis“. Journal of Preventative Medicine Reports. Sep. 2021.