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Pediatric Psychologist

Given data suggesting that youth mental health continues to decline (such as the recently published results of the CDC’s biennial Youth Risk Behavior Survey), parents and community leaders are working to identify ways that can improve children’s and teens’ well-being. Hiking is one accessible activity that families in Central Pennsylvania can incorporate into their summer plans to promote mental and physical well-being. Hiking may benefit mental health by increasing kids’ physical activity and resilience, as well as exposing them to sunlight and green spaces.

Children and teens are recommended to engage in at least 60 minutes of physical activity most days of the week. Physical activity is important for a variety of reasons, such as strengthening bones and muscles, regulating blood sugar levels, and maintaining heart and lung health. Exercise is also important for brain health. It has been shown to lower the risk of depression for young people, as well as reduce stress, boost self-esteem and concentration, and improve sleep. Hiking is an example of an aerobic exercise that can help kids (and adults) meet their movement needs.

Resilience is the ability to overcome and adapt to significant hardship. Setting and accomplishing goals, mastering skills, and finding purpose are all important components of resilience-building. They are important components of hiking, too! Being out on the trail requires physical and mental endurance, problem-solving skills, and the ability to adapt to changing conditions. Hiking can also foster awe and appreciation for the natural world, leading to increased feelings of gratitude and a sense of purpose. In addition, learning new skills and overcoming challenges can boost self-esteem and confidence.

Hiking allows youth to get outside and explore their natural surroundings. Exposure to natural sunlight regulates children’s body clocks (also called their circadian rhythm). This helps to make them feel alert and awake during the day and sleepy at night, leading to improved sleep and mental well-being. Getting so-called “green time” out in nature has also been associated with reduced anger and stress, as well as increased attention, mindfulness, and happiness.

Getting started with hiking has never been easier. Centred Outdoors offers a variety of guided hikes suitable for all skill levels at beautiful locations throughout our region. These hikes are a great way to meet your neighbors and get comfortable with shorter hikes in a group setting.

Connecting with others through group hiking opportunities – like those offered through Centred Outdoors – has added mental health benefits. High levels of loneliness have been linked to a number of poor physical and mental health outcomes, including high blood pressure, heart disease, depression, and substance use problems. In contrast, meaningful socialization and the development of a social support network are related to reduced stress and depression, as well as increased resilience.

Physical therapy

Staying hydrated is crucial as the temperature rises, and dehydration can lead to various negative health effects, including fatigue, dizziness, headaches, dry mouth, muscle cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. Here are some tips on how to stay hydrated throughout the day:

  1. Drink plenty of water: Aim for at least eight 8-ounce glasses daily, and drink more if you're sweating heavily.
  2. Eat hydrating foods: Fruits and vegetables with high water content, such as watermelon, cucumber, and tomatoes, can help keep you hydrated.
  3. Avoid sugary and caffeinated drinks: Stick to water and other hydrating fluids, such as coconut water or herbal tea.
  4. Carry a water bottle: Make it easy to stay hydrated by carrying it wherever you go.
  5. Set reminders: If you have trouble remembering to drink water, set reminders on your phone or computer to drink water regularly throughout the day.
  6. Stay cool: When it's hot outside, try to stay in cool, shaded areas as much as possible.
  7. Monitor your urine: Check the color of your urine to see if you're hydrated. If it's light yellow or clear, you're probably well-hydrated. If it's dark yellow or amber-colored, you may be dehydrated and should drink more water.

Following these tips can help prevent dehydration and keep your body functioning at its best. Remember to drink plenty of water, eat hydrating foods, avoid sugary and caffeinated drinks, carry a water bottle, set reminders, stay cool, and monitor your urine to stay hydrated and healthy as the temperature rises.

Physical therapy

Gardening can be a great way to stay active, enjoy the outdoors, and cultivate a beautiful space. However, gardening can also be physically demanding and pose certain challenges for people of all ages. Whether you are young and just starting out with gardening or are older and looking to maintain your ability to garden, there are steps you can take to gear up for gardening and make the most of this rewarding activity.

Here are some tips to help you gear up for gardening at any age:

  1. Start with a warm-up: Just like any other physical activity, it is important to warm up before gardening. Take a few minutes to stretch your muscles, particularly your arms, legs, and back. This can help prevent injury and make gardening more comfortable.
  2. Wear appropriate clothing: Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing that allows you to move freely. Additionally, consider wearing a hat and sunscreen to protect yourself from the sun.
  3. Use proper tools: Choosing the right tools can make a big difference in how comfortable and effective your gardening experience is. Look for tools with padded handles that are easy to grip and consider using tools with longer handles to help you avoid bending over too much.
  4. Use good posture: Proper posture is key to preventing back pain and other injuries while gardening. Keep your back straight and avoid bending over for extended periods of time. Consider using a garden stool or knee pads if you need to work on the ground.
  5. Take breaks: Gardening can be tiring, so it is important to take breaks as needed. Take a few minutes to rest, stretch, or enjoy your labor's fruits.
  6. Stay hydrated: Ensure you drink plenty of water while gardening to avoid dehydration. Keep a water bottle nearby and take sips regularly.
  7. Consider raised beds: Raised beds can be an excellent option for older adults or those with limited mobility. They allow you to garden at waist height, reducing the need to bend over or kneel on the ground.
  8. Get help if needed: If you have physical limitations or health conditions that make gardening challenging, consider asking for help. This could be from a friend, family member, or even a professional caregiver or landscaper.
  9. Modify your approach: Your gardening needs and abilities may change as you age. Consider modifying your approach to gardening, such as switching to lighter-weight tools or focusing on low-maintenance plants.
  10. Stay active: Finally, remember that gardening is just one way to stay active and healthy. Make sure to incorporate other forms of physical activity into your routine, such as walking or swimming, to maintain your overall health and fitness.

By taking these steps, you can gear up for gardening at any age and enjoy the many benefits of this rewarding activity. From improving your physical health to cultivating a beautiful outdoor space, gardening can be a fantastic way to stay active and engaged.


Dr. Thal recently published an article in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine on the efficacy of medications for reducing fractures in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis.

This National Osteoporosis Awareness Month, I want to bring awareness to the importance of screening, especially for women.

Osteoporosis is a disease that results in fragile bones which are at high-risk for breaking. Although not frequently discussed, this condition affects nearly 10 million Americans. Additionally, 44 million adults in this country are stricken with osteopenia, a milder condition characterized by weakening bones. Both conditions become more prevalent as we age.

Despite how common osteoporosis is, only 20% of adults have been screened for osteoporosis.

While osteoporosis impacts both genders, women, particularly those who have gone through menopause, have more risk than men. One in two women will break a bone from osteoporosis at some point in their lifetime, which is higher than a woman's risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer, having a heart attack, or experiencing a stroke, combined.

Fractures can occur due to injuries like falls; however, they can also happen with mild trauma, such as bumping into a sofa or end table. In addition to causing discomfort, some fractures require surgical repair and subsequent rehabilitation.

Unfortunately, we cannot feel our bones becoming weaker. For this reason, it is common for patients to learn they have osteoporosis after they sustain their first fracture. We should not wait for a serious fracture to learn we have osteoporosis, especially when good screening tests are available.

Mount Nittany Health recommends that all women over age 65 receive a bone density screening test known as a DEXA scan to get ahead of osteoporosis. A DEXA scan is a series of x-rays that measures the density of bones at vulnerable sites in the body, including the hips and the spine. Older men and women who have sustained a fracture or have other risk factors for osteoporosis should get screened with DEXA scans.

Long-term, the best way to care for your bones is to have adequate calcium and vitamin D intake each day and engage in regular weight-bearing physical activity. Examples of weight-bearing activities include walking or jogging, dancing, or lifting weights.

For patients diagnosed with osteoporosis, there are many medication options for treatment. Mount Nittany Health works with each patient individually to find the best fit for them. Our goal with medications is to reduce the risk of sustaining fractures and give you resilience in later life.

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Thal, call 814-355-7322 or log on to mymountnittanyhealth.com.


According to the Center for Disease Control, stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in women. In the United States, one in five women between the ages of 55 and 75 will have a stroke.

Since four out of five strokes are considered preventable, it’s essential to know the signs of a stroke and the unique risk factors women face. It is important to be aware of these risk factors and take action to reduce or eliminate them, thereby reducing the risk of stroke.

The National Stroke Association indicates that for women, stroke is responsible for twice as many deaths as breast cancer as age increases. Since women generally live longer than men, they are more likely to experience a stroke over their lifetimes.

A stroke happens when blood flow to the brain is stopped or slowed by a blockage or a burst blood vessel. Brain cells need oxygen and nutrition to do their jobs. Since blood carries oxygen and nutrition to the brain, any depleted blood flow begins to starve those cells of oxygen and nutrition. The involved brain cells will begin to die. In some types of stroke, this process can be limited and, in some cases, even reversed.

For this reason, people who develop stroke symptoms should call 911 immediately. Some treatments for a stroke work only if they are given within the first three hours after the symptoms develop.

What puts women at risk for stroke? Some risk factors affect both men and women. Some factors are unique to women alone, putting them at higher risk than men.

  • High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is one of the main risk factors for having a stroke. Chronic blood pressure greater than 130/80 requires evaluation for treatment.
  • High blood pressure during pregnancy.
  • Certain types of birth control, especially when combined with tobacco use.
  • According to the National Institute for Mental Health and the American Heart Association, depression significantly increases the risk of stroke. Depression is a disease that affects women at a higher rate than men.
  • Other risk factors for stroke include obesity, high cholesterol, diabetes, atrial fibrillation (an abnormal heart rhythm), and a family history of stroke.

Prevention of stroke is best achieved by keeping medical conditions under control and making healthy lifestyle changes. Try to eat healthily and get regular physical activity. Talk to your doctor about your risk factors and set up screening for your blood pressure, cholesterol, and fasting blood sugar.

Please be aware of the signs and symptoms of acute stroke. If you suspect that someone is having a stroke, call 911 Immediately.

Mount Nittany Health has a Stroke Program dedicated to stroke prevention and risk reduction. This program received the Stroke Gold Plus Award and the Stroke Elite Award from the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association.

Mount Nittany Health also sponsors a monthly Stroke Support Group in partnership with Encompass Health. This no-cost program includes information on stroke prevention and dietary health, recognizing a stroke, and survivor testimonials. The Stroke Support Group meets at the Mount Nittany Medical Center Auditorium on the fourth Tuesday of each month, from 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm. Support groups like this allow survivors and those who care for them to learn from each other through shared experiences. It also creates a strong support network for caregivers who experience their unique hurdles.


Ladies, it's time to prioritize your health. May 8th-14th is Women's Health Week, and at Mount Nittany Health, we want to encourage you to take control of your health and wellbeing.

There are many things you can do to improve your health, including:

  • Take a yoga class
  • Schedule your annual check-up
  • Make healthier food choices

It's also important to take time for yourself, to destress and practice self-care. Maybe it's a quiet walk in the woods or taking a few minutes to meditate. Small steps can make you feel your best physically and mentally.

So, this Women's Health Week, make a commitment to yourself to take care of your mind, body, and spirit. Mount Nittany Health is here to support you every step of the way. Mount Nittany Health offers primary care at nine convenient locations which makes it easier than ever to take care of your health. Call 814.231.7000 to take control of your health today.


Stroke is the third leading cause of death and the leading cause of disability in the United States. Every year, more than 795,000 Americans have a stroke, and more than 140,000 strokes are fatal.

A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted. When this happens, brain cells begin to die within minutes. The severity of a stroke depends on the extent of the damage to the brain.

Some risk factors for stroke include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.

The good news is that you can do things to lower your stroke risk. These include:

  • Controlling your blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Quitting smoking
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Exercising regularly
  • Reducing your alcohol intake
  • Getting regular check-ups from your doctor

Stroke is serious, but preventable. Know your risk factors and take steps to reduce them. To learn more about stroke and the Mount Nittany Medical Center stroke program, visit mountnittany.org/stroke.


To our team, you're more than just a number. We see you. And we're committed to you. Our experienced providers are here and ready to get you the care you need.