How to listen to your body

bake bread.pngWhen the battery on your cell phone is low, you search for a charger so your phone does not lose power.  When your data is running low for the month, you probably take action to conserve data usage.  When your cell phone screen cracks, you might work around it for a while but eventually, if you want to get the most from your phone, you  replace it.

When your body is tired, sending pain signals, or not able to keep up with a certain exercise, what do you do?  Our culture promotes pushing through pain.  It encourages distracting from discomfort.  The media implies that doing less is whimping out or not worth it.    No pain, no gain, right?

Hummmm?? I’m wondering?  Do we treat our cell phones better than our body?   When the cell phone tells you it is tired, injured or can’t keep up  – you take notice and give it what it needs.  Of course!  Trying to make it work harder, when it clearly needs some attention would just be silly, right!?   Why then, do we think pushing our body through pain and fatigue will help it?

Yes, if you are training for competing, you need to push through discomfort to stay competitive.    However, if you push your cell phone to its limit, you will be replacing it sooner than expected.  There is a reason the average age for Olympic athletes is 24.   The body is not quite as easy to replace as a cell phone.  If you are exercising to live better for longer, listening to your body is a key to getting what you want from exercise.

Listening to your body means paying attention to it. It means knowing that those warning signals, like pain and fatigue, are signs something needs to change.  There really is no such thing as a “good sore” or “good pain” with exercise for health and well-being.  Listing to your body means knowing that pushing through is not going to make it better or give you better “results”.

There is a fine line here.  Challenging your body will help it get stronger and more efficient.  Pushing past challenging to uncomfortable is not a plan for lasting health, fitness and well-being.  Pushing to uncomfortable is for short-term results.

The key is, in order to challenge it in the most efficient way, with the least wear and tear, know that what your body is telling you each moment is the most accurate and up to date information available.

It makes sense. But why is this so hard to do?  Because it is goes against what our culture says about how to get the best “results” from exercise.  Because the media all too often mixes up exercise for competing and exercise for well-being.  The trick is knowing what results are you looking for?  Short term fixes or long-term benefits?  If you want lasting results, tune out any exercise programs that promise “quick and amazing results”.

When it comes to exercise, let’s be smarter than our smart phone!  Listen to your body and it will thank you with more lasting and reliable health and well-being.

Keep Moving, Be Well

Janet

 

3 Comments

by | August 13, 2018 · 7:31 pm

Does music motivate you to keep moving?

Copy of bake bread(9)Some people hear a beat and just can’t help but move.  Whether you  just tap your toes or start a full on dance party, music most likely motivates you to keep moving.

Researchers find that music activates our brain and causes both a physical and a mood-based response.  This explains why listening to music can boost exercise motivation.  It can actually make it easier to move and create a positive association with exercise.  Who couldn’t use more of that.

We are curious about what music is most likely to get your foot tapping?  The marketing department at UMass Medical Center is putting together a playlist of music to keep people motivated to move.   They decided to ask the experts… you!

What songs are on your playlist for exercise?  Share the name and artist of your favorite songs that keep you motivating.  You can do this by either posting a comment below or email me directly at Janet.huehls@umassmemorial.org.

We look forward to hearing your favorites.

Together let’s expand our playlist and keep moving!

Keep Moving, Be Well,

Janet

9 Comments

by | July 31, 2018 · 5:13 pm

Let’s simplify exercise for weight loss

Copy of bake bread(8)Calories in, calories out.  This little equation sounds like such a simple solution to weight loss.  However, this vast oversimplification has greatly complicated our relationship with all kinds of physical movement. In the end, this equation has lowered the ability of exercise to help with sustaining a healthy weight.

Why?  Because it leaves too many people feeling like they need to  push their body in order to burn more calories to make the scale move.   I often hear of people suffering through an exercise program in order to someday feel better.  This unnecessary suffering through exercise, only leads to lowered motivation.  The long-term problem is that it makes it much harder to pick yourself up to start exercising again once you get off track.   You can end up caught between dreading exercise yet knowing you need it to burn those calories.

Between a rock and a hard place is no easy place to live.

Since calorie burning is vastly unpredictable, person to person and day to day, one part of this simple equation is not reliable.  Even though this equation is not the solution to weight loss, it is continually promoted in the way the media talks about exercise.

The bottom line is, you want to lose weight because you care about yourself.  If you didn’t care, you would not be trying to lose weight.  When exercise is about tricking your body, pushing it to exhaustion or ignoring pain all to burn more calories, we can easily forget that this whole effort is about self care.

So, I invite you to wipe that whole calorie burning thing out of your mind.  Instead, design exercise to be a time in your day that you take care of your body.   Whether it is in several small bouts each day or one longer bout, do it with full focus on taking care of your body. Not to burn calories, or just “get it done”, but with the intention of taking care of your body.

Admittedly, this is a big challenge.  This mindset about exercise and calorie burning is pretty strong.  It will not be easy to let go of the idea you need exercise to burn as many calories as you can each day.

The reality is though, research shows over and over that self-criticism drains motivation and self-kindness leads to lasting motivation.  This mindset shift about exercise from a way to burn more calories and fix your body, to a way to take care of your body, makes motivation much easier and that simplifies this whole process!

The ability to simplify means to

eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak 

Hans Hoffmann

Keep Moving, Be Well,

Janet

1 Comment

by | July 25, 2018 · 4:39 pm

What is a good workout?

Copy of bake bread(7)“It was a good workout”.  That statement is often followed by a “but…”
I don’t have time for it anymore, I cannot afford the membership, I hurt my back, I was so sore I couldn’t move the next day, etc…

What you consider a “good” workout can actually be slowly draining your motivation and your ability to get what you want from exercise.   Lets take a look at some common qualities often used to describe a good workout:

  • Feeling a “good” sore:  What exactly is a “good” sore?   Science tells us muscle soreness is not a sign of any extra benefit from exercise.  It does not mean you  burned more calories, or melted away fat or built more strength or muscle mass.  It only means you did too much too soon.  It also means you will probably move less the next day.  So in reality there is no such thing as “good” soreness.  Just your body trying to tell you to increase more slowly.
  • Makes you sweat: Sure it feels like you are melting fat away, or ridding your body of “toxins” (whatever that is), but sweat simply means your body is cooling itself off.  That’s all.  Sweat does not mean exercise is any healthier, or better for your body in any way. Sure the scale will go down. That is because the scale measures everything.  Seeing lower numbers on the scale can be exciting, but don’t let that fool you into believing that sweaty workout gave you any more benefit than the not so sweaty workout.
  • Gets your heart rate up: The focus on getting your heart rate up during exercise does have science behind it. However, some key information has gotten lost in the heart rate hype created by fitness marketing.   Heart rate during exercise an indicator of what might be happening in the body,  not the ultimate goal of cardio exercise. Many things affect heart rate that have nothing to do with challenging your stamina.    If getting your heart rate up was the ultimate goal, drinking coffee would be a “good workout”.  Just because an exercise gets your heart rate up, it does not automatically mean you are getting your cardio.
  • It worked for…:  Our bodies are amazingly unique.  Our goals for exercise are too.  If an exercise program is marketing around its success with certain types of athletes, that is a red flag. It may be a perfectly good workout for that sport, but if you are not training for that athletic event it is not the right workout for you.

These and other common descriptions of a “good workout” miss the mark for the purpose of exercise.  For a truly good workout, start with what you want from exercise.  If your answer is weight loss, dig a bit deeper.  I may be going out on a limb, but I would bet you don’t want to get to your goal weight but not be able to do all the things you are looking forward to being easier.     Getting to a certain weight or size is not the ultimate goal, it is the method for getting what you ultimately want.   How do you want to feel and function as a result of losing weight?  More comfortable in your body, able to do more activities with ease and confidence?  The specific way you want to feel and function better is  your true goal.

Now, design exercise for that purpose.  Exercise in the way that leaves you feeling better now, not at some magical weight in the future.  Exercise in a way that will improve the specific types of movement you want to make easier for your body.  Walk continuously if you want to be able to walk more.  Strengthen the movements you want to improve such as learning how to squat in the way your body was designed so it does not hurt your knees or back to lift something up or get off the couch.     This is what exercise is about.  To help your body feel and function better in some way, now.  Not just when you lose weight.   There is no magic formula or suffering period required. No need to trick or force your body to do something because it is “supposed to be a good weight loss workout”.   A good workout works with the way your body is designed to function best each and every time.

Bottom line:  If an exercise leaves you feeling or function better right away, it is a sign of a truly good workout.

Keep Moving, Be Well

Janet

Please share these posts with anyone you know interested in losing weight with or without weight loss surgery.  Click here to learn more about the UMass Memorial Weight Center

These weekly blogs are general guidelines. These guidelines apply to patients who are cleared by a physician for the type of exercise described. Please contact your physician with any concerns or questions. Always report any symptoms associated with exercise, such as pain, irregular heartbeats, and dizziness or fainting, to your physician.

 

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by | July 18, 2018 · 7:07 pm

The power of your mind to change your body

Copy of bake bread(6)Carrying extra body weight can weigh you down physically, and mentally as well.  When you have been trying over and over to lose those extra pounds, your mind can get especially fatigued.

Neuroscientists are mounting the evidence that “the mind and body are not separate; our thoughts have remarkable control over our bodies; and our mindsets are capable of improving our brains’ performance”  This article outlines some of the powerful research on how our thoughts change our body.

Fatigue from weight loss becomes a viscous cycle then.   When your mind that is fatigued from years of trying to lose weight, it can make your body extra fatigued as well.

In many cases, thinking that we are limited is itself a limiting factor.

However, this research reminds us that the opposite is also true.  Changing your thinking, can give you a much needed energy boost.

Next time you are feeling “lazy”, procrastinating exercise, don’t move.  Yes, you read that right,  don’t move.

First, notice your thinking.  Is your brain full of all the things you cant do, all the things that are going to hurt, all the ways you are limited, all the reasons not to exercise?  Before you try to move,  shift your thinking to what is possible right now, to what feels OK in your body right now and to that will be good about moving. Fill your brain with encouragement and watch what happens in your body.

Bottom Line:  Start by changing your mind, and your body will quickly follow!

Keep Moving, Be Well,

Janet

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by | July 11, 2018 · 5:57 pm

Exercise tips for hot weather

Copy of bake bread(5)The good news is, you don’t have to worry about slipping on the ice!  The not so great news, it’s HOT!

Its been a while since we reviewed how to exercise when it is hot and humid.  This seems like a good week to do that! 🙂

Some people are effected by the heat more than others. Certain medications or medical issues can make it extra challenging to just get through the day, let alone exercise when it is hot outside.  So, you know what I am going to say…  “Listen to your body”.

It takes about 7-14 days for the body to adapt to the heat. Fortunately, here in New England our heat waves don’t last that long.  However, that means we need to be extra careful when the temps and humidity spike like this.

Always have an indoor plan!  Exercising in air conditioning or with a fan on you is a great alternative on hot days.  If you are active in the outdoors here are some tips for exercising in the hot weather:

  • Check the heat index: The heat index combines the temperature and humidity – both are a factor in heat stress on the body with exercise.
    • Less than 80 heat index – ok to exercise.  However, since every body is different, you may need a lower heat index for exercise to be comfortable, especially if you are new to exercise or your body weight is elevated.  Bottom line, listen to your body.
    • Greater than 90 heat index – exercise in air conditioning or during a cooler part of the day
  • Slow down – lower the exercise intensity on hotter, more humid days
  • Take breaks – every 10-15 minutes to allow the body to cool a bit and to hydrate
  • Exercise in cooler parts of the day – before 10am or after 4pm
  • Exercise in the shade
  • Dress smart – light color, loose-fitting clothing to allow skin to cool
    • DO NOT dress to sweat!  Sweating does not increase fat loss.  Yes you will lose weight on the scale but this weight is not fat, it is water your body needs.
    • Do not use the plastic suits that are advertising to promote weight loss. Again, it is water loss – NOT what you want to lose and increases risks.
  • Hydrate – before during and after activity with water
    • weigh yourself before and after exercise – if you lose more than 2% of your body weight you are considered dehydrated
    • rehydrate slowly and gradually
    • if you have had weight loss surgery,  drink small sips all day long including during exercise
    • if your urine is darker yellow and has a stronger odor, this is a sign you need to re-hydrate

Know the signs of heat illness:

  • Heat Cramps – Muscle cramps.  Discontinue exercise and rehydrate. Watch for signs of heat exhaustion.
  • Heat Exhaustion: (discontinue exercise an seek medical attention)
    • heavy sweating
    • exhaustion
    • fainting
    • vomiting
    • cold, pale, clammy skin
    • watch for signs of progressing to heat stroke
  • Heat Stroke: (discontinue exercise and seek medical attention immediately)
    • hot, dry red skin
    • rapid heart beat
    • confusion
    • loss of consciousness

Stay Cool, Keep Moving, Be Well,

Janet

Please share these posts with anyone you know interested in losing weight with or without weight loss surgery.  Click here to learn more about the UMass Memorial Weight Center

These weekly blogs are general guidelines. These guidelines apply to patients who are cleared by a physician for the type of exercise described. Please contact your physician with any concerns or questions. Always report any symptoms associated with exercise, such as pain, irregular heartbeats, and dizziness or fainting, to your physician.

 

 

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by | July 2, 2018 · 5:43 pm

The small effects of exercise with big benefits

Copy of bake bread(4)We tend to talk about how exercise helps parts of our body like our muscles and heart function better, or how many calories it will burn to help with weight loss. Exercise is about so much more than that though.   How often to you consider what exercise does for your cells?

Two blogs ago we discussed how strength training signals new bone cell growth.  At certain stages in life, more bone cells die off than they are made each day. Over time this leads to osteoporosis, fractures and a major change in lifestyle with aging.   Strength training however tells your body to make more bone cells!   You can almost imagine those muscles contracting tugging on bones saying “hey bone cells, time to up production! You are going to need more strength!”.

Well it looks like a similar thing happens in muscle cells – in a way that slow down the aging process.

“Whether muscle is healthy or not really determines whether the entire body is healthy or not,” says lead researcher Prof. Zhen Yan, of the University of Virginia School of Medicine in Charlottesville.

According to the new study, exercise improves muscle health by renewing its cellular powerhouse: the mitochondria. Mitochondria are crucial to the good functioning of our bodies, as well as to our overall health and longevity.

These tiny parts of the cell turn the food we eat into energy. Mitochondria transform proteins, fats, and sugars into the fuel that the body needs to live.

It is like exercise tells your muscle cells “OK folks, time to clean up this place!  Get all those old and damaged mitochondria out of here!”.   This makes each cell function better.  Check out this article for more information.

Ahh… if only your cells could talk!   You would hear a big, loud “THANK YOU!” each time you exercise!

Keep Moving, Be Well,

Janet

 

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by | June 25, 2018 · 9:31 pm