Author Archives: keepitmovingweekly2

The power of tracking exercise is not what you might think

Blog 5 21Do you keep track of what you do for exercise? It turns out this is a much more powerful tool than we ever thought.   However, the power is NOT  in reaching your calorie or  steps goal each day.  The power is in how it changes your thoughts.

This study published in Heath Psychology in November 2017 found that people who thought they were not doing as much exercise as others their age died at a younger age than those who thought they did more. Not so surprising. We know exercise helps improve longevity.   But here is the interesting part, this occurred even when they were doing the same amount of exercise.  In other words, if you think you are not getting enough exercise, it changes your body and health in a way that lowers the benefits of exercise – even if you are getting enough to keep you healthy!

What?!  That is amazing!  The longevity risk was up to 71% greater for people who thought they were less active, but were actually doing the same amount as others.

When you look at research in other areas of perception about health, this is not really that surprising.  Research shows that the placebo effect is not all just in your head, it changes your body too.  It is so real, it is now called the “belief effect”.   A persons belief in a medical treatment accounts for up to 40% of the reason why they work.  When a person believes the activity they are doing for their job will improve their health, their health measures, like blood pressure, improve.   Just because of what they believed! This even worked when patients knew they were taking placebo!  This belief effect has also been shown to work for what we believe about the foods we eat.

What we believe powerfully changes our body.  So it is not really surprising that what we believe about getting enough exercise changes our body and health.  This is where tracking is so important.  The simple act of writing down what you did for exercise each day is powerful.  Your brain is reassured you are doing something. It signals your body that it is healthy.   They key to getting these benefits though is knowing that something is better than nothing when it comes to exercise.  If you do something and it leaves you feeling better then when you started – that is truly enough exercise!

So my friends, give yourself credit for what you ARE doing.  Find a way to keep track that works for you:

  • keep a simple list
  • use an app
  • write it on your calendar
  • put a coin or a marble in a clear jar each time you exercise

Whatever you do, keep it somewhere that will serve as a reminder you ARE doing enough exercise.  It will also serve as a  reminder when you start to stray from exercising.   Find what works best for you and then enjoy reveling in your accomplishments each day.

Something is way better than nothing, especially when you believe it is!

Keep moving. Be Well,



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by | May 21, 2018 · 7:31 pm

When you think you can’t exercise

Copy of bake bread(1)Do you ever come to the conclusion you cannot exercise?  Maybe its lack of time or energy, or too much pain or discomfort.    The vast majority of the time, the problem is not your body or your lifestyle.  The barrier to exercise is often how you are defining exercise.

If your definition is based on athletic performance, you are training to compete.  That definition includes feeling uncomfortable, pain even, with exercise, because you always need to keep that competitive edge. This definition can bring you to the conclusion you cant exercise because your body cant keep up with the training or it just does not fit in your schedule right now. Exercising for competing is not meant to be done for a lifetime.

If you are using the medias definition of exercise for weight loss, you could be stuck in “never enough” land.  This is where you need to keep doing more and more because this definition of exercise is for burning calories.  There is never a level of enough exercise. There are always more calories to be burned.  More is better is not a definition that is sustainable.

When exercise is defined by moving to feel better and functioning better in daily life, sustainability is built right into the definition.  It is based on the fact that your body gets used to what you give it.  Your body and your schedule will change, day to day, season to season, year to year. That is a given. Change is just part of life.  If you want to feel and function better your whole life, exercise needs to be flexible because it needs to be done consistently.    Adjusting what you are doing for exercise for these inevitable changes, means less times you conclude you “can’t exercise”.  The more often you can exercise, in some way, the more often you get to feel and function better.

Life is dynamic. Your body is in constant change.  When your definition of exercise  is one that gives you the freedom to adapt to these changes, you have found a definition that is sustainable for life.    If you think you can’t exercise, it might be time to re-think your definition of exercise.

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by | May 14, 2018 · 7:49 pm

What is the most effective exercise?

Copy of bake breadThere are so many choices of what to do for exercise. Who has the time to sort through them all?  Wouldn’t it be great to  know  what is the most effective exercise for the results you want?

Despite all the ways to exercise, one thing does not change.   Your body is a use it to keep it system.  What you do regularly, your body adapts to.  This of course works for both ways; it gets stronger when you are physically active and gets weaker when you are not.   No matter what results you want, what is most effective for getting there is what you can do consistently.

Start by asking yourself What do I want most from exercise?  Stamina? Strength? Mobility? Energy? Confidence? Calm? Focus?

(Important:  Notice that weight loss is not one of those choices. Why?  Ask yourself, would I want to lose weight and not be healthy, energetic, functional, or comfortable in my body?  The fact is, you could lose weight and not get what you really want from it.   Weight loss is not the goal, it is a method for getting what you want.     Ask yourself what do I  want from weight loss? Get to the bottom line of why you want to lose weight)

Consistency is the holy grail of exercise

Michelle Segar, PhD

Now you are ready to ask: What could I do consistently that would give me more _______(insert what you want from exercise)?   Could you walk 10 minutes each morning for a little energy boost?  Could you stretch mid-day to feel more comfortable in your body?  Could you fit in some strength training for 10 minutes every other day so you can feel stronger?

Keep in mind,  what you are able to do will change day to day, season to season, year to year.  What will not change is the fact that your body adapts to what you do consistently.   So, abort the search for the “best” kind of exercise. Instead, get clear about what you want and what you can do regularly.  That will lead you to the most effective exercise for the results you want.


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by | May 7, 2018 · 6:39 pm

Toning and spot reducing. Both are a myth.

Toning is spot reducing. Both are a myth..pngWe are constantly flooded with information about exercises that “work” to tone certain areas of the body.   We are told how we can “get” a body that looks a certain way.   It can provide motivation to exercise, (for a while anyway) believing you can change the look of your body.  But, what does it mean to tone?

Spot reducing is the idea that you can exercise a certain part of your body and burn more fat in that area.  Most people I talk to know this is a myth. But what many do not realize is that “toning” or “working” certain areas is just another name for spot reducing.  It is doing an exercise to change the look of a certain part of your body.

The problem is, this is just not how our body works:

  • Fat:   Exercising a muscle does not make it burn the fat in that area. The muscle gets its fuel from what is stored in the muscle and the blood supplied to it.  It does not use the fat around the muscle to fuel it during the exercise.
  • Muscles:  Whether the shape or “definition”  of a muscle shows on the outside depends on many factors including the genetic make up of your muscles (this is the main one!), the intensity and consistency of your strength training,  and the amount of body fat you have in that area.  The fact is, we just don’t have that much control over how much muscle definition we see.  Yes, you can work a muscle hard to strengthen it, but it does not mean you will see more definition.
  • Skin: There is some evidence that strength training can help tighten the skin. While this is limited, it is the only evidence we have that you have any control over your skin.  So do strength training for your skin if that motivates you, but don’t expect huge changes.

Then, what does happens when you “work” an area of the body?

You miss out on the chance to teach your muscles to work as a team.   “Toning” or “sculpting”  and bodybuilding style strength training  mainly trains muscles individually, separating areas of the body. (ie:  triceps exercises, thigh exercises, core exercises)  In life, muscles work together.

For example, the core muscles stabilize and allow the hips and shoulders to be stronger for lifting and carrying and reaching.  They do not work alone in daily life.     Doing core work to “tone” your middle means these muscle miss out on doing their job of stabilizing while you move your arms and legs.

You are also likely to miss out on your motivation.  Since “toning” is a marketing term, backed by many Photoshoped images, doing those exercises isn’t likely to give you the “results” you want.  This is a sure-fire way to lower your motivation to exercise over time.

If you try to tone while doing cardio, you could be missing out on the stamina building benefits. You could also be putting more strain on your joints.  Using weights during walking or aerobics strains the shoulders and does not “tone” the arms.  Choose the type of cardio you do that feels best for your body, not because it will “work” certain areas.

Lets stop chasing the “toning” dream and missing out on the benefits that add so much to life.   Do strength training to improve your function and keep your muscles, bones and motivation strong as you lose weight.   Exercise in the way that lets your body know it is not “a problem to be fixed”, but a miracle to be celebrated!

Keep Moving, Be Well



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by | May 1, 2018 · 5:43 pm

The easiest way to know how much water to drink

Blog TitleDrinking more water is part of the common advice for helping with weight loss.  How do you know how much water to drink every day?   Especially after weight loss surgery, when you need to pay attention to getting all the nutrients your body needs too.

Hydration is an important factor often overlooked with exercise tolerance, enjoyment and thus motivation.  Dehydration can cause muscle fatigue and cramps,lead to overheating, and contribute to joint pain.   Yet, there is very little scientific evidence about how much water our body really needs in a day. The rule of thumb to drink 8, 8oz glasses of water a day does not have any scientific backing.    How much water IS enough?

It is no surprise that your best guide is your body.  Just as we have discussed with knowing how much exercise is enough for you, “listening” to your body is your best guide.  The easiest way to know how much water to drink is to pay attention to  your urine.  If it is dark with a strong odor, your body needs more water. If it is a light color with only a slight odor, you are probably on track with getting enough water.  Everyone is different and our body changes day to day.  There is no absolute hard and fast rule when it comes to staying hydrated.  Once again, staying present to your body provides a wealth of useful information!

Check out this article for more tips and information about how our body needs water and different ways to get more water.

Keep Moving, Be Well,


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 | April 23, 2018 · 5:56 pm

The Catch 22 of Exercise


When it comes to the recommended amounts of exercise that we hear all the time, there is a huge Catch 22. Each time guidelines and recommendations are updated, there is more and more evidence about how much exercise can help us live healthier lives.  It should be very motivating.

For example, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) first put out guidelines  for physical activity recommendations in 2008.  A 2018 scientific report was just released to the public and it will be used for the updated guidelines coming out later this year.   The report highlights some updated findings about the benefits of exercise:

The Scientific Report demonstrates that, across the full age spectrum, regular physical activity provides a variety of benefits that help us feel better, sleep better, and perform daily tasks more easily. The report also demonstrates that some benefits happen immediately. A single bout of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity can improve that night’s sleep, reduce anxiety symptoms, improve cognition, reduce blood pressure, and improve insulin sensitivity on the day that it is performed. Most of these improvements become even larger with the regular performance of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity…  There is newly documented health benefits” as well

  • reduced risk of excessive weight gain in adults, children, and pregnant women
  • improved cognitive function
  • a reduced risk of dementia
  • reduced risk of cancer of the bladder, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, lung, and stomach
  • for adults who have a chronic disease or condition such as osteoarthritis, hypertension, or type 2 diabetes, a reduced risk of developing a new chronic condition and reduced risk of progression of the condition they already have, plus improvements in quality of life and physical function

We now have more reasons we should increase our physical activity and exercise regularly.  This is where we get into tricky territory, with that word “should”.   More should’s do not lead to more motivation. In fact, the opposite is true.  The bigger our “should” the lower our motivation.

choice-2692575_1280We as humans are motivated by having a sense of choice.  When we are told what to do, we tend to shut down.  Sure, we can tough it out for a while to “do the right thing” or because we “have to” or “make” ourselves do something we know is good for us.  The problem is all of this takes will-power.  As it turns out, will-power is a limited resource because it takes brain energy.  Eventually, we will need to use our will-power for another area of our life, without enough left over for exercise.   This is how “life gets in the way”  and our best plans to “be good” are out the window.

The things we want to do because they are important to us are instantly motivating.  Hobbies, spending time with family and friends, working for a cause you are passionate about, these are most likely instantly rewarding in some way.  Yes of course you want to lose weight and be healthy, but that is not instant enough.  Our brain likes instant positive “rewards” or benefits, a lot!   (which is why comfort foods are so attractive to our brain)

Life is dynamic.  We need will-power for those unexpected changes that are a normal part of life.  Everything from changes in weather to major life changes take will-power to push through.  We can’t rely on having the will-power to do what we should do for exercise in any sustainable way.

Those instant benefits mentioned above are a key. Pick the ONE instant benefit that you want the most each day.  Do you want to sleep better, feel better, elevate your mood or calm nerves?  Pick the ONE that is most energizing now and make THAT your reason to exercise each time. Design your exercise to get those results.  Let’s make exercise motivation easier.  Letting go of the should’s is one of the first steps to exercise motivation that lasts.


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by | April 17, 2018 · 7:47 pm

Read between the lines


With so much information about exercise available everywhere, it is challenging to know what is the right advice for you.   I want you to be a savvy fitness consumer.  This means having skills for knowing what is myth based and what is science based.

It also means knowing what is the right advice for what YOU want from fitness.  If you were planning to take a trip to a big tourist destination, you would pick and choose attractions that were most important to you.  Some attractions would not be of interest to you, so you would not waste your time and money on them.  It is the same with fitness.  Knowing what you want is key for using your exercise time and resources well.  Sounds simple right?  But check out this headline that I cam across as an example of why we need to carefully read between the lines:

Healthy Outlook: Coping with aches and pains of muscle gains

Given the category “healthy outlook”, one might assume this is about fitness for health and well being.  However,  the title contradicts that assumption.  Aches and pains are a sure sign this is meant for people training for competing, not for health.    We know there is a big difference.  Be on the lookout for who the article is directed toward. The writer may not be clear about the type of fitness they are writing about.

And then there is the mention of science-based information to catch your eye:

We’ll take a quick field trip back to our anatomy, physiology and biology classes…

Keep in mind, sports training is a branch of exercise science too.  It is a very different field of study from exercise science for health.   This is definitely where being a savvy fitness consumer pays off.  Since you know there are different kinds of exercise science, you can decipher if the science based information is right for you.

If you click on the website of the expert interviewed, “strength and conditioning for athletes.” you would have another indicator this is not right for you. Here is your last two red flags, in the conclusion sentence…

“The road to getting ripped is long and winding. Here’s to manageable soreness, raising the bar and learning to love that fleeting agony.”

You may have heard the slogan many times… “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat” (and if you are in a certain age group you have that image of a skier tumbling down a mountain in the Olympics).  Again, the reference to agony being a normal part of exercise is a great subtle clue.    If your goal is to “get ripped” then  you need to train like a body builder, which is an athletic event.

If your goal is to improve health, sustain weight loss, and feel better to enjoy more of life, stay aware.  Read (and listen) between the lines of everything about exercise and fitness, they are mixed up often in the media.   Look for the signs that you are being told what to do to be a successful athlete.  To keep moving and motivated, seek advice specific to your reasons – to be healthy and well.

Keep Moving, Be Well,


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.



by | April 9, 2018 · 6:15 pm