Category Archives: Barriers

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

Pain, exercise and mindfulness – Part 3

pexels-photo

In parts one and two we reviewed how pain can put us in a spiral of inactivity, gradually reducing strength and stamina which can limit function and lead to secondary pain from inactivity.  Exercise designed right can reduce pain by improving mobility and strength, yet too much exercise can increase pain.    Mindfulness has been shown to reduce pain.  When we combine exercise with a mindful mindset, we are more likely to make movement a tool for helping with pain.

When exercising to lose weight, we can get focused on burning more calories and getting enough steps each day.  This focus makes it tempting to ignore signals that the body cannot tolerate that amount or type of movement.  Add to that all too popular  “no pain no gain” approach and the use of competitions or challenges to boost motivation.  These are just a few of the ways popular approaches to fitness promote ignoring your body rather than listening to it.

Many people want to lose weight in order to reduce pain.  While weight loss may help to some degree in some cases, we need to look at what happens in the body with weight loss.  The fact is that weight loss without exercise promotes muscle loss. Muscle loss means less support on those painful joints that are trying to tell you they need more support.  This is one way weight loss alone could make the pain worse, not better.

Pain research is telling us that when we ignore pain, the body only speaks louder to get our attention, in the form of more pain.   If we practice ignoring pain while losing weight,  we are missing out on the benefits mindfulness offers to help us quiet the pain signals.    Mindfulness does not mean focusing on the pain, it is shifting mindset about the pain.  Three qualities of mindfulness are paying attention with:

  • Curiosity:  when we shift to curiosity, we move away from frustration about the pain and the temptation to either push past it or let it keep us from moving at all.  Instead we can try moving lightly at first and be curious about how to move in a way that could reduce the pain.  If you are an “all or nothing exerciser”, this can take some practice. However, the shift is key to getting out of this cycle of doing too much, ending up in pain and then moving less.
  • Openness:  This means being open to trying different approaches to and types of exercise. It means being open to learning about what your body needs right now,  letting go of comparing yourself to what you did in the past or what you think you should be able to do now.    Openness means focusing on what your body can do now as the way out of the exercise and pain cycle. For example, stretching may not burn a lot of calories, but it may be a way to start moving on a regular basis and build up your body’s movement tolerance so it is ready for more movement down the road.
  • Kindness:  Mentally beating yourself up while you exercise (or paying someone else to push you) can actually be keeping you in a pain cycle.  Think of how you would treat someone else you care about, a pet or a small child, who is in pain.  You would want to do what you can to help.  That is the attitude of kindness you can apply to yourself when you exercise.  The interesting thing about research on self-kindness is that is leads to more motivation, not less. Kindness does not mean letting yourself off the hook or being too easy on yourself. It just means you will work with your body rather than against. it.

The research is becoming more and more clear that movement and mindfulness both promote healing.  In order for these two resources to work together though, we need to shift how we approach exercise for weight loss away from pushing the body to burn calories and sculpt it into the shape we want to using exercise as a resource for taking care of this body we are trying to help through weight loss.  Just like anything else, it takes practice.  Practice exercising with a mindset that is curious, open and kind you will begin to find ways to use exercise t  help yourself feel better not worse.

Keep Moving, Be Well,

Janet

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.

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

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by | December 11, 2017 · 7:19 pm

Pain, exercise, and mindfulness – Part 2

Last week we looked at how pain can put us in a spiral of inactivity.  The decrease in movement can lead to more pain,  less movement, more pain… and so on and so on.  Exercising when you have pain is tricky.  There is a fine line between doing  enough to feel better and doing too much ending up in more pain.  Pain, in the end, lowers motivation, keeping the spiral stuck in the downward direction.

There is a key ingredient we can add when approaching exercise that can help us with this dilemma – mindfulness.  Research is showing mindfulness can be very effective in dealing with pain.    Mindfulness meditation has been shown in clinical trials to reduce chronic pain by 57 percent. Accomplished meditators can reduce pain by over 90 percent!  Mindfulness is not just a form of meditation.  When practiced regularly, it helps us to have a mindset that is open, curious and kind.  Mindfulness and pain research tells us that our thoughts about pain – its history, our fears, memories, beliefs, all affect the levels of pain we experience.  This three-part article explains the process in more detail.  It’s worth a read if you are dealing with pain issues right now.

meditation-1000061Exercising for weight loss can promote the opposite mindset. When we ignore our body’s symptoms in order to push the body to burn more calories, we are being anything but curious, open and kind.  The “no pain no gain“,  “if some is good more is better” and “just do it” mindsets promotes mindlessness.   These mindsets work for sports training but not for lasting success with weight loss and health.     There is no evidence that our muscles need to be sore in order to get stronger.  Studies show something really is much better than nothing when it comes to exercise.  And when we “just do it” we miss out on the helpful signals our body is sending us.

Next week we will blend our approach to exercise for weight loss with this skill of mindfulness to discover an approach to exercise that can reverse the spiral of inactivity and pain.  This week, check out the article on the connection between mindfulness and pain management so you are ready to apply it to approaches to exercise for true weight loss success.

Keep Moving, Be Well

Janet

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.

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

 

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by | December 5, 2017 · 2:39 pm

Pain, exercise, and mindfulness: Part 1

Pain is one of the biggest barriers to exercise.  Beyond the obvious limits it creates, pain leads to what we call a spiral of inactivity:

Cycle of inactivity

Pain makes us move less. Since our body is a “use it to keep it system”, when we use our body less, we lose strength, stamina and mobility, which means movement is more challenging, and so we move less.  Over time this inactivity causes stiffness, making movement less comfortable.  After a time of less activity we lose muscle mass which means less support for painful joints.  Both of these can lead to more pain, and the spiral continues.

The way out of this spiral is to move in order to regain strength, stamina, mobility, function and support around joints. However, what if you have pain when you move? Should you push through pain or listen to it?  It feels like a catch 22 and the spiral seems irreversible.

Add to that the all too common “no pain no gain” approach to exercise and the “suffer through in order to get to your goal” approach to weight loss.  These can often make pain worse, and leave us believing we need to work through the pain to get to our goal. This discomfort and the frustration it causes can create not only physical but  mental barriers to weight loss.  It may seem hopeless, but it is not.

The first step is awareness about how our approaches to exercise and to weight loss are making it more difficult to turn the spiral around.   Athletes need to push through pain to gain a competitive edge.  For health and well-being, pain is your body trying to tell you it cannot tolerate that level of movement right now.   Ignore it and it will only “speak” louder.   There is no gain in pain.

If you have tried the “get through the first few weeks of a diet until you see results” approach to weight loss, you know it is just not sustainable in the long run.  There is no badge of honor for those weeks of suffering through hunger, derivation, sore muscles and fatigue.  Not only does it leave us with less motivation to try again next time, it makes our brain look for comfort – and food is a quick and easy source of comfort.

If you goal is to lose weight to feel better, why suffer through exercise in order to feel better?   Why not take a direct line to feeling better even before the scale moves?  It is possible when you drop the “suffer through” approach and listen to your body with exercise.

This week simply notice your mindset when it comes to exercising for weight loss and the long term effects of it.  It helps to keep in mind, weight loss is not a goal.  Goals have an end.  Sustainable weight loss is a shift in what we do and how we think.  Mindfulness helps us make that shift. Next week we will take a closer look at the research on mindfulness and pain to uncover how it can help with exercising when you have pain.

Keep Moving, Be Well,

Janet

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.

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

 

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by | November 29, 2017 · 7:05 pm

10 ways to exercise in winter

  1. walk indoors at a mall, large store, hospital, university
  2. try exercise videos online (i.e: Leslie Sansone)
  3. embrace strength training as spring training
  4. try a winter activity such as snow shoeing or cross country skiing
  5. have a spontaneous dance party before dinner each night
  6. fire up the active video games (i.e: Wii)
  7. take a class like line dancing or ballroom dance
  8. invest in a piece of exercise equipment so you are ready for winters to come
  9. invite a friend to exercise with you instead of hibernating
  10. try something new like tai chi, yoga, kickboxing or MUVE

 

Keep moving, Be Well (stay warm!)

Janet

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.

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

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by | November 13, 2017 · 8:33 pm

Letting Go of the Should’s

positive-2470506_1920Have you ever been part of a group or organization where it drained your energy?!    Every task or meeting felt like a something you had to do or should do?  How likely were you to procrastinate doing those tasks?

Now think about something you are involved in that gives you lots of energy; something you are passionate about, something really important to you.  How likely are you to go above and beyond, making sure you fit in those tasks, even when you are busy?

When exercise feels like a  “should” we miss out on the kind of motivation that gives energy.  Eventually, we will start to make excuses and life will get in the way.

Take out a piece of paper and brainstorm all the should’s connected to losing weight and exercise (you may need a whole notebook!).  I should….. eat more veggies, get my heart rate up, push myself harder, stretch more, be able to walk without pain…..

It does not matter if they are helpful goals or not, just write down what feels like a should, that make you sigh or roll your eyes when you think about them.

Now brainstorm what comes to mind when you ask yourself “what do I really want more of?  Energy? Stamina? Strength? Confidence?  Comfort?  Why do I want more of that?  to be able to travel, play with my kids, socialize again….  the things that make you feel really excited about getting to your healthy weight.  The things at the heart of your reasons for wanting to lose weight and to exercise.

When motivation is low,

there is a disconnect between

what we are doing and

why we are doing it. 

Listen to your words, they are great clues.  If you hear yourself saying,  I should ____ or I have to  ______ or I need to make myself _____,  it is time to get to the heart of why you are doing it in the first place.

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.

Leave a comment

by | September 12, 2017 · 6:08 pm