A reminder about holiday stress

This time of year, your ‘things to do’ list can ramp up.  Even if it is not a busy time for you, it can be a stressful time in another way- the blues.

If you are feeling stressed for any reason this season, I want to remind you of something.

Mindful Movement is the antidote to stress. 

Most stress is caused by our thoughts going from the past or to the future.  Very few stressors are actually happening right in the present moment. Most of the time stress is caused by thinking of something you need to do in the future, worry about something that might happen in the future, or stewing over something that happened in the past.  

Mindfulness brings your attention back to the present moment. This reminds you where you have control, right here right now.  It allows  you to remember to be kind to yourself right now, to be open to remembering your strengths and finding creative solutions to present moment problems. 

But that is only takes care of half of the stress response.  You know that feeling of stress, right?  It is slightly different for everyone, but we all feel it in our body in some way or another.  That is because stress is preparing your body for movement.  Your heart pounding, stomach tightening, jaw clenching, blood pressure climbing, blood sugar rising, all are signs your body is getting ready to move to handle the stressor. 

Since very few stressors require physical action, that stress puts a drain on your energy.  When you are stressed, movement is the antidote.  But not just any movement.  Being busy getting things done is stressful movement, only adding to the stress response.  When stressed, you need mindful movement.  It does not take long and it is nothing fancy.  Mindful movement is just putting your attention on your body and moving in some way that you are taking care of your body.  A big stretch, a short walk outside, a dance to your favorite song, move in any way that gets your attention back to the present helps get the stress out of your body. 

What better time of year to give it a try if you have not already.  There is plenty of stress to go around.  Let that feeling of stress in your body be a reminder to move mindfully.  Let me know what happens when you do! 

Keep Moving (mindfully), Be Well,

Janet


2 Comments

by | December 10, 2018 · 8:34 pm

Exercise quality is more important than quantity

The whole calorie balance concept has made us lose our way when it comes to ‘getting enough exercise’.  Exercising to get rid of those calories you ate can be really draining.  But the biggest sacrifice we have made is in the quality of exercise we do in order to burn more calories. 

When exercise is just about burning calories, we tend to multitask to just ‘get it done’.   You miss out on the mindfulness and stress reduction benefits that exercise has to offer.   One of the best parts of exercise is that is it a time away from the stressors of life.  Watching the news or working while exercising lowers the quality of exercise. 

When distracting during exercise to just get it done, you also miss out on the neuromuscular training.  Neuro = nerves, muscular = muscles.  Your nervous system, from your brain right down to the nerves that connect to your muscles, tell your muscles what to do.  They are what make your muscles stronger.  If your brain is distracted, you have lowered the quality of exercise because your nervous system is less ‘available’ to tell muscles the right way to move. Your body is more likely to move in straining rather than strengthening ways. 

Lastly, to burn more calories we are often told we need to push our body harder.  More is not better however.  Discomfort with exercise teaches your brain to avoid exercise whenever possible and choose something more ‘comforting’ instead. Yep! that ice cream looks much more appealing to your brain than the gym when exercise is uncomfortable.  There is no gain in pain.  Really!

Keep moving (with high quality) and be well,

Janet




Leave a comment

by | December 3, 2018 · 7:16 pm

Ten reasons to avoid weight loss competitions

  1. Competition distracts from your true goal:  Weight loss is not a goal.  Weight loss is a method for getting what you want.  When you focus on getting to a number on the scale, you forget the real reason you want to lose weight is not the number, its ultimately to feel and function better.
  2. Temporary by design:  Competition training is designed to be temporary.  Like building a sandcastle, you are spending your time on something designed to last. 
  3.  The let down.  The ‘high’ of competing pales in comparison to the thought of doing this for the rest of your life.  Once the excitement of the competition is over, you are more likely to lose motivation because long term changes are just not as ‘exciting’.
  4. It takes too much brain energy:   Competition teaches you to use willpower as a source of motivation.  Willpower takes a lot of brain energy, which means exercise is likely the first thing to go when life get stressful and pulls from your brain energy.
  5. It’s a false start, not a jump start:  The idea that losing weight will ‘jump start’ your weight loss so you will be more motivated from ‘seeing results’ is a false start to weight loss.   Your motivation will not be strong enough to last a rebound in your weight when the competition ends. 
  6. It’s a distraction:  Competition keeps your focus more on the competition than your own body.  Listening to your body is the only way to know if what you are doing is sustainable.
  7. Raising injury risk:  Competitions make you exercise to extremes for quicker ‘results’, increasing the likelihood of injury.
  8. Lowers the chance of a habit:  The need to push yourself beyond limits to ‘win’ means exercise does not feel enjoyable.  You might be willing to put up with soreness and fatigue to win.  However, once the competition is over, your brain has already associated exercise with pain and fatigue, lowering your chances of making it a habit.
  9. Temporary motivators:  Prizes and incentives are external motivators, known to be temporary.  Once the potential prize is not there to push you to exercise, you need to find ways to get yourself motivated.  Better to practice self-motivation from the very start, since it’s the way to make motivation and weight loss last.
  10. Weight loss is not a competition.  Being healthy is not a sport, its an act of self-care.   It requires a whole different mindset.

Skip the lure of weight loss competitions and put your energy into learning more sustainable ways to stay motivated.  

Keep Moving, Be Well,

Janet

Leave a comment

by | November 27, 2018 · 6:12 pm

As the cost of medication is goes up, the cost of exercise stays the same.

The prices of the 20 most commonly prescribed brand-name drugs for seniors have risen nearly 10 times more than the annual rate of inflation over the past five years  CNN Report March 2018

Blog images(2)The rising cost of medications is in the news a lot isn’t it.  There are many ‘angles’ to these news stories,  but the one you care most about is how it is effecting your wallet  As you watch the cost of your medications rise, what can you do?  You need them, but they can be so costly.  This puts many people between a rock and a very hard place these days.

As you may have heard, the 2018 government guidelines for physical activity were released last week.  While that might not have been big news for you, it could be when you put a dollar sign next to those recommendations.

The amount of exercise recommended has not changed – 30 minutes five days a week (or the equivalent in terms of totaling 150 minutes a week) of moderate intensity exercise.   In terms of your time investment, it comes to less than 2% of your total time per week.

To put that into a dollar return for your 2% time investment, a 2016 study estimated a cost savings of $2,500 in medical expenses per person per year for people who do this amount of exercise.    You could think of exercise as a ‘tax rebate’ you receive a little bit every day.

Even better though, that ‘rebate’ is not only in the form of dollars, but an even more valuable resource – your enjoyment of life.  Designing your  150 minutes of exercise a week in the right way means you have a bit more energy for the people and things you love.  It means less days of missing out on life because you are not feeling well. It means you have an easier time enjoying life because of a better mood. (I could go on…)

These are the things you cannot put a dollar amount on – they are priceless!

Keep moving, Be Well,

Janet

 

 

Leave a comment

by | November 19, 2018 · 10:08 pm

When your body is limited, start with your mind

Blog images(1).pngCarrying 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.   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 also give you an energy boost.

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

When your body is limiting you, start with your mind.

Start by noticing your thinking. (without judgement, just notice) 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, what feels OK in your body right now and all the reasons you want to move. Fill your brain with encouragement and watch what happens in your body.

Then, and only then choose to move in ways that help your body feel better and more energized.  This will take some time and practice, but it is pretty clear, you can change your brain and your body with this mindset about your body.

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

Keep Moving, Be Well,

Janet

 

Leave a comment

by | November 12, 2018 · 3:32 pm

How much is enough exercise for a healthy weight?

Blog imagesIn my 20’s I was living down south and worked at a busy ‘southern-style cooking’ restaurant right off the interstate. Customers were tired travelers, who wanted food fast so they could get back on the road. The kitchen was so full of chaos and ‘choice words’ that I would dread an order change because it meant getting my ‘head bit off’ by the cooks.  At the end of the night managers had a list of criticisms, and never gave a pat on the back for a job well done.  I would collapse when I got home, physically and mentally drained from the constant state of working hard and it never being ‘enough’.

Ever feel like that with exercise?  Like you always should be doing more?   It’s easy to get caught in the thinking that if you could step it up a bit you could get to the next level, burn more calories, or “fix” other parts of your body.  It can make the mere thought of exercise mentally and physically exhausting.

While working on a goal is motivating, the need to continuously come up with new more challenging goals to keep you motivated relies way too much on willpower, and not enough on the natural intrinsic motivation that made you want to lose weight in the first place.

After hearing story after story of patients, “stepping up” their exercise efforts only to get injured or lose motivation, I urge you to take time to find your level of ‘enough’.   It could save you a lot of time down the road!  Unless you are in athletic training of some kind, there is a level of ‘enough to achieve a healthy weight in a way that lasts.   Studies show that most of the the health benefits of exercise are enjoyed, regardless of weight.   Finding ‘your level of enough’ with exercise means you are taking charge of your health,  and that is one of the most compelling reasons most people give for losing weight.

Here are the estimated levels of exercise needed to get the health benefits from exercise. (I emphasize estimated because this is ‘in the lab’ and in real life I often see improvements with lower levels of exercise as long as they are done consistently):

  • Strength training for your whole body, twice a week, 8-12 repetitions, one set that brings your muscles to a comfortable challenging level that does not cause muscle soreness the next day.
  • Cardiovascular exercise three days a week for thirty minutes of continuous movement at a level that causes a moderate to comfortable challenge for your breathing.
  • Movement breaks for every hour of stillness done in a way that give you a mental and a physical break from the sedentary activity; ie: taking a brief walk, stretching, doing balance or agility exercises.
  • Stretching daily as movement breaks and after physical activities to help maintain or improve mobility, reduce inflammation.  This includes moving joints through their range of motion or holding stretch positions in a way that does not cause pain or discomfort.

This amount of exercise takes less than 2% of your total time. The key is doing quality exercise, the kind that is based on the science of how your body is designed to move,  so you don’t keep feeling like you need to increase the quantity of your exercise.

You might choose to do more, but know that you don’t have to do more to be healthy at any weight.

Keep Moving, Be Well,

Janet

Leave a comment

by | November 5, 2018 · 5:07 pm

It’s that time again! Spring Training!

Copy of bake bread(20)Congratulations to the Boston Red Sox and to all the fans out there!  Quite exciting.

Well, the Red Sox get four months until Spring Training starts.  But what about you?  When will your Spring Training begin?

If you have been following this blog for a year or more you know what I will suggest.  Start your Spring Training this weekend!  Why?  Because when the days start getting shorter, its natural for your daily physical activity level to drop as well.  The loss of strength and stamina that naturally happens when we are less active is quite invisible. It is often only seen on that first nice spring day when you want to go and do all those great outdoor activities, but your body has other ideas!

You know that the way to avoid that humbling spring awakening is to keep moving through the winter.  When you live anywhere with weather like we have in New England, calling your winter plan “Spring Training” can be just what you need to embrace winter as the time you get ready for spring.

So, lets take that energy from the Red Sox win and turn it into a plan for staying energized to keep moving all winter long.  Write down your winter plan based on what you have learned from past winters about what does not work and what works to keep you moving.

In spring we can celebrate by enjoying the long days outdoors again.

Keep Moving, Be Well,

Janet

Leave a comment

by | October 29, 2018 · 8:18 pm