Category Archives: Exercise and Movement Science

Why it matters, part 2

 

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Last week we clarified the difference between exercise and physical activity and why it matters.   Another important reason why we need to be clear about the difference is because the two are mixed up often in the media.  Here is an example I came across on the internet:

Don’t overthink your exercise: just 2.5 hours per week of any kind could help you live longer

The article is a wonderful write up reviewing a one of largest global studies ever published on the heart health benefits of physical activity.  “The researchers found that 150 minutes spent exercising per week could cut a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease and death. And, most importantly, the Lancet paper demonstrated that all kinds of physical activity were equally good for the heart.”

The great news from this article is that this huge study showed that the “people who reported at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week were much healthier than their sedentary counterparts: They were less likely to have heart attacks, strokes and cardiovascular disease, and less likely to die from any cause. Getting only two and a half hours of weekly exercise was associated with a 28 percent reduction in premature death, and a 20 percent reduction in heart disease.”

Wow! That is awesome!  On one hand it is a message to relax a bit, don’t worry if you are not super fit, you are getting a nice protection just by making efforts to be sure you move in some way for 150 minutes a week.

On the other hand though, what about all we do to fit in exercise time?  If we can get that nice protection from vacuuming and yard work, why waste time lifting weights and walking?

Articles like these miss the chance to promote both exercise and physical activity.  We need to talk about two different goals here:

Reducing sedentary time by increasing physical activity in bouts during the day. This offers great health protection because begin still for more than 30 min at a time strains health, even if you are a regular exerciser!   Studies indicate that going to the gym in the morning does not protect from the risks of being sedentary the rest of the day.  Even regular exercisers get added health protection from avoiding prolonged stillness all day long .

Exercise as practice to make physical activities easier.  What exercise does for daily function is a bit more difficult to measure in studies like these.  It is individual, often only you see the difference.  When you can climb the stairs without stopping or get up off the floor without grunting or do housework for longer without resting, you know you are benefiting from exercise.  Remember, exercise is time set aside to practice making what you want and need to do everyday easier! In this way, exercise helps you be more physically active.

If you are not doing either right now, the great news is you can start right away by just moving every thirty minutes in some way.  Know that you are getting health protection from this simple act.  If you are doing one but not the other, what can you do today to give yourself the best of both physical activity and exercise?
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 | October 10, 2017 · 4:19 pm

Whats the difference and why does it matter???

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We hear the words physical activity and exercise used interchangeably.  Yet, there is a distinct difference between the two that is a key to getting the benefits and staying motivated for doing both.

Physical activity. Any bodily movement produced by the contraction of skeletal muscle that increases energy expenditure above a basal level.   – Centers for Disease Control

Physical activity is an umbrella term for any movement; activities related to your job, housework, yard work, play, recreation, exercise, etc.  Any level and duration and type counts. As long as you are moving your body in some way it counts as physical activity.

Exercise. A subcategory of physical activity that is planned, structured, repetitive, and purposeful  in the sense that the improvement or maintenance of one or more components of physical fitness is the objective. – Centers for Disease Control

Exercise is when we do a physical activity in a structured way in order to improve stamina, strengthen or mobility (physical fitness).  Exercise is done with the focus on our body, not on another activity.  It is the same process for learning any other new skill, like a new language or a musical instrument. Your brain and body need to be working together with your full focus in order to improve that skill.

Physical activity is for the purpose of doing something else–  cleaning the house or doing your job.

Exercise is when our focus is on the physical activity itself in order to improve it in some way.

So exercise practice –  for the purpose of making physical activities you want and need to do every day easier, less tiring, less straining for your body.  Just like learning any other new skill, it is something you set aside time to practice.  Even a little bit of practice done consistently and with your full focus will make that skill easier.

The great news is, both regular physical activity and exercise improve health, burn calories, and boost longevity.  Both are powerful health habit.

  • Get physical activity every day in small bouts during the day. Every 30 minutes of inactivity get up and move in some way.
  • Spend 2.5 hours a week (30 minutes five days a week) dedicated just to exercise (practice) time.  Split that time between stamina building cardio and strength building strength training.  This will make the physical activities you want and need to do easier.

Create these two powerful health habits and enjoy the MANY benefits of both physical activity AND exercise.

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 | October 2, 2017 · 2:08 pm

Lower the risks, raise the benefits!

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We hear stories of people getting injured or having a heart attack during exercise. You might have even experienced this yourself.    At the same time, we are flooded with all the reasons we “should” exercise.  How do we make sure we are getting the benefits and keeping the risks low.

The risk of having a heart attack or dying as a result of exercise is relatively low.  Only 4% to 17% of heart attacks in men are linked to physical exertion, with much lower rates observed for women.  The risk is greater for people who are unaccustomed to exercise and for those at the lower fitness levels.   Compare that to the fact that regular physical activity cuts the risk of getting heart disease by about 40%.  In fact, regular physical activity has been shown to reduce the risk of dying from any cause by 40%.

Does anything jump out at you with that last set of facts?  The risk goes up if your fitness level is low and you get protection as your fitness level goes up.  Regular physical activity offers amazing protection, and irregular physical activity increases risk.

One of the best ways to protect yourself is be consistent with some physical activity because it provides protection from doing nothing.   Notice also the statistics from the Exercise is Medicine Fact Sheet   are for physical activity – which is a broad term that includes regular movement, not necessarily a rigid exercise program.  Bottom line, move and move often and regularly!

The second big factor that has been shown to increase risk is the intensity.  Vigorous exercise tends to increase risk.  Doing a moderate intensity lowers the risk while keeping benefits.  But what does vigorous or moderate mean?  Often you will hear it described as an absolute level; vigorous is jogging 6mph and moderate is walking 3mph.  But in reality, it all depends on your fitness level!   For some 6mph jog will be moderate and for others a 3mph walk will be vigorous.

Exercise at the level that is a moderate to comfortable challenge for your breathing – above what you would feel when you are resting but not so uncomfortable that you can’t wait to stop.   Avoid vigorous intensity where your breathing is heavy or uncomfortable.

The risks also go up with a sudden burst of intense (vigorous) exercise followed by a sudden stop in activity.  When you do feel like your breathing is uncomfortable (like when climbing stairs or a hill), keep moving slowly until breathing level comes back down to moderate to light before stopping completely.

Finally, if you have concerns with your heart, diabetes or high blood pressure and are not exercising regularly, discuss your plans to start with your doctor. Your best bet is to start with a light intensity activity that you can do on a very regular basis.  As you improve your fitness level, your risks will reduce and the benefits go up.

If you have symptoms such as pain anywhere above your waist that comes on with exertion and goes away with rest, or have more shortness of breath with usual activities, tell your doctor.  If you have pain in joints with activity, adjust what you are doing so it does not cause pain.  (either by doing that activity for less time or lower intensity or do something different until your body is stronger).  Pushing through pain only requires your body to “speak” louder to get your attention to let you know something is not right.

The bottom line is listen to and be kind to your body!  When you move it regularly at the just right challenge level, you can relax about the risks and enjoy the benefits of exercise.

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 | September 20, 2017 · 6:48 pm

Save time: Cut the Core Classes

Core-Class-PicLast week while on vacation I was exercising at a gym, which I don’t do often.  It was a great chance to do some “field research”, providing many blog topics 🙂

The biggest tip I want to share is – please do not waste time going to a core exercise class.  I observed 20 people wasting a perfectly good half hour on the floor doing all kinds of exercises for their abdominal muscles.  Why wasting time? Two big reasons:

  1. It’s not how the core is designed to work:  One job of the core muscles is to stabilize and protect the spine when the body moves.  Another is to provide a strong foundation for all movement because when the trunk is aligned and stable, the upper and lower body can be stronger with less wear and tear.   Working on each of the abdominal muscles individually while laying down does not mean they will know how to do their job during activities of everyday life.   When we incorporate activating the core while using the arms and legs it learns to support, stabilize and protect in the way it was designed.
  2. Spot reducing is a myth:  All that time working on this “trouble spot” in the body will not burn more fat around the middle.  Its just not how the body works.  Why then, would it be worth using a significant amount of your exercise time “working” on your core? I cannot think of a reason.  Instead use that time to do quality strength training for your whole body while incorporating your core muscles into those movements.  The result will be a greater impact on your metabolism, core muscles that know how to do their job well, and time left over to do more of what you enjoy in life.

I do realize this is a big shift from what is highly popular in the media right now.  Notice this week how much fitness marketing and social media focus on ineffective core exercises with promises of spot reducing.  However, you as the savvy fitness consumer know better.  If you are a Weight Center patient and want instruction on how to incorporate your core into your strength training, let me know and we will set up an appointment.

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 25, 2017 · 1:52 pm

Breathing

Take a deep breath.  How does it feel?  Relaxing or tense? Try it again.  Take a deep breath and this time pause after the inhale.  Are your shoulders up? Is your chest lifted? Where do you feel your breath, in the upper, or lower part of your torso?

We are often told to take a deep breath to relax.  When we take a deep breath, for several reasons we tend to breathe “up”, creating more tension than relaxation.

Breathing is an automatic process. When we try to fool with it, we usually make it less efficient.  Watch a child sleeping and you see a natural breath. Their whole torso expands and relaxes as they breathe.  As we grow and become more aware of our body, and perhaps a bit (or a lot) more self conscious about our belly, we can subconsciously try to hide this area.  Taking a deep belly breath is uncomfortable because the last thing we want to do is make our belly bigger!  Instead we tend to breathe up, not deep into our belly, making a “deep breath” not a relaxing at all!

Place onbreathing-2029614__480e hand at the bottom of your rib cage. Place the other on your collar bones.  This is the length of your lungs. Now place your hands on the side of your rib cage and feel the width of your lungs.  If you can, place your hand in the front and back of the rib cage and feel the depth of your lungs.

Now try taking a breath in these three dimensions.  Let your rib cage and lungs expand  – side to side, front and back, filling from the bottom to the top. Imagine expanding in all directions.  (It may take a while to let go of old patterns of breathing.)   This is our natural way to breath and is worth practicing if you find you tend to breath upward rather than deep. This natural breath triggers a relaxation response in your nervous system.  Also, tension in your belly can cause tension in your back too. Learning to let go of tension in your belly is one part of minimizing back pain.

Now for the relaxing part.  Exhale slowly and completely.  Let your exhale be twice as long as your inhale.

Before moving on, pause and remember that your breath is an automatic process.  Your body knows when to inhale and when to exhale.  Notice this for a few breaths. Like you are watching the waves in the ocean.  You don’t have to make the waves happen, simply watch them.   Let the air move in all three directions on the inhale and then when your body is ready to exhale, slow it down and let it be complete before the next breath comes in.  It may help to adjust and stand or sit in alignment comfortably, because that position allows the lungs to expand in all directions.

Close your eyes and ride the full waves of your breath.  Notice what happens to any tension in your body.   If it starts to feel more tense rather than relaxing, go back to watching your breath.  This takes practice, so give it time.surf-1945572__480

What does this have to do with exercise?

  • Knowing how to use your breath to relax allows you to turn moments of waiting in line or at a stop light into opportunities to relax and recharge your energy
  • With the energy you save from your body not “overworking” in those moments, you might notice you have more energy to move in more moments of your day
  • Breath awareness helps guide you during exercise to find the just right level for your body.

Keep Moving, BREATHE Well,

Janet

PS:  For more information on how this works in your body, check out this Mechanics of Breathing Video  (6:53min in length) by movement scientist Katy Bowman.

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 | June 28, 2017 · 3:26 pm

Avoiding a Detour

I just finished the book Presence by Amy Cuddy. If you have not seen her TED talk, I highly recommend it.  Dr. Cuddy is a researcher who studies how our body language shapes our behavior. The  book is filled with amazing evidence from her research* and a whole slew of others, about how our body position changes how we think and behave.

detour-44160__480Sustainable weight loss is about keeping ourselves on course when detours pop up.    You come to the end of a VERY long day and you planned on walking, but it is cold and rainy and all you want to do is go home and veg out on the couch.  You are in the midst of a week of chaos in your life and you can’t even think of getting to the gym for  strength training. You get on the scale and feel completely defeated because, despite your best efforts, it is two pounds up!

What if we could get derailed less and back on track easier? What if it was something with research behind it that was simple, free, and completely accessible to you in any moment?  Would you try it?  Even if it seemed a bit strange and unlikely to make a difference?

It turns out that when our body is in a position with shoulders and back rounded we feel less confident.  We are less likely to make choices that are in line with what is most important to us.

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But, when we stand with shoulders and chest open, we are more confident, more likely to stick with what is most important to us.

high power pose

 

It is interesting that across many different cultures and situations, the most common expression of success is raising arms up in a “V”.   We now have some evidence this may work in reverse too!

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Give it a try!  Next time you step in the scale, put your hands on your hips and stand like your favorite superhero!  In the middle of a stressful day, stand or sit in alignment with your body strong.  When you are tempted to skip exercise, stand or sit with your arms up in a “victory” position for two minutes.

Post what happens in the comments section below!

Keep Moving, Be Well

Janet

*You may have heard some news flashes years ago debunking Dr. Cuddy’s research.  If you read her book, you will see that her study on power poses are just one in many showing there is something powerful in the way we hold our body.  Research is tricky business and one study does not prove anything.  Your best evidence is to try this for yourself and see how it works for you. 

 

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 | May 15, 2017 · 5:38 pm

Myth # 2: Scientific Discoveries

running“Scientists have discovered the best exercise to help people get healthy and lose weight”. As you can imagine, this article caught my eye this morning.  The myth that research can “discover the best” of anything, much less exercise,  keeps these headlines alive in the media.  Subliminally we can be bombarded with broad sweeping statements and recommendations about exercise for weight loss and health.  The simple act of skimming the news or social media can leave us more confused than motivated.

Because you are a savvy fitness consumer however, I know you read between the headlines.  This study is actually very interesting, but far from a discovery of the best exercise to lose weight and get healthy!

The study was published in the Journal Physiological Reports in December 2016. The actual title was:   The impact of exercise intensity on whole body and adipose tissue metabolism during energy restriction in sedentary overweight men and postmenopausal women.  Not quite as catchy, huh?!

Here is the info:

  •  The study involved 38 men and women, average age of 52 years old.  It is nice that it was not on college students and it was a mix of men and women.  Keep in mind, 38 people in one three-week study do not discover anything.  The data simply adds to our understanding.
  • Two groups, one exercised at 50% and one at 70% measured maximal exercise capacity.  Both groups exercised on a treadmill five times a week for three weeks, for the amount of time it took them to burn 400 calories at that exercise level (burning a total of 2000 extra calories a week).  Both groups reduced their calorie intake by 5000 calories a week.
  • Each group lost about the same amount of weight (no statistical difference).
  • The study actually looked at what happened in the fat cells of these participants. Both groups improved insulin sensitivity, lipid profiles, and markers of inflammation.

The take away here is that you have options.  You can do a high intensity shorter duration session or a lower intensity longer duration.  Both will add to weight loss and improve cell function.  (Despite the “fat burning” programs on most machines, lower duration is not better for weight /fat loss. This too is a myth.) They study did not mention the difference between the time the two groups had to exercise to burn those 400 calories.  My estimate it would be about 10-15 minutes extra.  Other studies have found that calorie burning can be broken up through the day, and actually may add to more health benefits.  So you might walk moderately for 30 minutes in the morning and then do another 15 min walk at lunchtime. The great news is that exercise does not need to be hard to get the benefits!!!  Something IS better than nothing!

This study just looked at cardiovascular exercise.  Remember, it is important to strive for a balance of time spent between strength training and cardiovascular exercise.  Each provide different benefits and cannot be combined very well.  If you are missing strength training in your exercise minutes, you are missing out.

Keep reading between the headlines and learning about what works best for you.  Although scientists did NOT discover the BEST exercise for weight loss and health, we do have more evidence to keep moving!

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 | January 18, 2017 · 4:05 pm