Category Archives: Exercise and Movement Science

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.

low power pose 2

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!

athlete win 2

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.

 

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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

Attitude for Sustainability

sustainalbeLet’s take a look at one more critical difference between training for athletics/military and training for well-being.

Athletes and military professionals need to train right at the edge of a very fine line between improving skills and risking injury. Athletes and their coaches find that line and push the body as close as possible to that line, in order to stay in the competition. Step over that line and injury risk is greater than the training benefit.

This type of training does not consider what the body will be able to do ten or twenty years from now. It is focused on the next level, improving by pushing that limit as much as possible. There is only so long the body can sustain that type of training. At some point, an athlete needs to retire from competition, or at least semi-retire and take a few steps back from that line if they want to keep moving.

In training for well-being, choosing the level to train at considers what is needed to be well right now, as well as for the rest of our lives. This type of training does not require pushing to that risk/benefit ratio line. To the contrary, part of training for well-being is listening to the body to know when we are stepping too close to that line because we know an injury keeps us on the sidelines of life rather than out enjoying life. Training to be well considers how we feel, now as well as decades from now, by preventing injury, illness, and disease as much as possible. “Retire” from this plan too early, and that risk along with the rate of aging ramps up…fast!!!

Training for well-being means we find the types of movement that give us energy rather than drain it. You might be one who needs more adventurous types of physical activity, such as skiing or rock climbing. Remembering it is more important to be well than excel at that activity keeps it energizing and the risk/benefit ratio in check.

Over the past few years, I’ve noticed the attitude of no, pain no gain, look better, be better, push harder, ignore the body, trick the body, is so enmeshed in the world of fitness we often don’t even see it! The confusion over these two very different ways of training the body has made exercise stressful (which is ironic because when we are stressed, the body preparing to move!). Even the word exercise overwhelms many people, which drains motivation in the long run, causing them to miss out on the great benefits of fitness for well-being.

Bottom Line:  It is not necessarily the activity, but the attitude that makes training for well-being so sustainable. The ultimate goal is feeling better on the inside (rather than getting better at some external goal). Let’s stay aware of activities that are more about proving ourselves instead of being ourselves, because when it is more about well-doing, it can take us away from well-being.

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 | November 14, 2016 · 4:18 pm

How Much is Enough?

enough-2Let’s continue to look at the difference between training for sports/military performance and training for well-being.

When it comes to fitness, how much is enough?   

  • How hard should I push my body?
  • How much weight should I lift? 
  • How many miles should I walk or run?
  • How many steps should I take? 

If what you are doing never quite seems enough, always feels like you should be doing more, you may have strayed from training for well-being.

In athletic training, there is always a next level to strive towards. That ‘never enough’ provides the motivation to push harder. For this type of training, then, we need to rely on external guides to inform about our progress. Numbers such as miles and minutes provide accurate feedback. Coaches help assess our performance, giving valuable information about how to keep pushing the limits to excel at the sport.

In training for health and well-being, enough is the level that allows you to achieve the definition of fitness for well being – “do activities of daily life with ease, having enough energy left over for recreation and to meet emergencies.”

For this type of training, you have a guide more accurate than the most advanced technology or experienced professional available. The best part is this guide is free and with you all the time! It’s your body! What your body tells you in the present moment is the most accurate and reliable information available for training for well-being.

What makes it not so reliable is when our mind starts dictating what the body “should” do.  I should not have pain with this exercise, it was fine yesterday. I should be able to lift that much weight, run faster, walk further. I should push my body harder to lose more weight. 

Our judgment about what the body is telling us right now squelches this most accurate guide. When we use the body as a guide, we realize we can have the ultimate “personalized fitness program” available. When we listen we might hear the body saying:

  • That pain you feel when you exercise is a warning signal… possible injury ahead!
  • Those tight muscles cannot tolerate what you are doing right now. The nervous  system has taken over and tightened the muscle to protect it.
  • That pain and stiffness you feel when I am still for a while means I need movement to help get rid of some of this inflammation.
  • When you feel exhausted after a busy, stressful, yet sedentary day, it is because I have been working hard all day, ready to move to respond to your stressor.  Please give me what I have been preparing for and move so I can really relax.  

It is really easy to get caught in the should’s when fitness marketing and the culture tend to mesh together sports training and well-being training. Using mindfulness is very helpful here for developing the skills for listening to our body without judgment, uncovering the most accurate and reliable guidance available when it comes to training for our own well-being.

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 | November 9, 2016 · 6:32 pm

You Get What You Train For

bullseye

Let’s take a closer look at training for well-being versus training for athletics.

There is a principle in exercise science of specificity that basically says “you get what you train for.” The body will adapt to what you give it. If you want to be able to run faster, then practice running faster. If you want to be able to get up off the floor more easily, then practice strengthening the movements you need for that skill. If you want to be able to sightsee with friends all day, then gradually practice walking longer distances.

In sports training, the focus is on the physical skills needed for the sport.  In well-being training, skills for being able to enjoy life are the focus.

In sports training, the goal is to excel in the time spent in competition, for several seconds to a few hours. Well-being training is for functioning the best you can 24/7.

It is pretty obvious that one would not do the training program for a body builder to excel in competitive dance. Why then, do we use these and other sports training programs as the basis for fitness programs to improve health and well-being??? 

You get what you train for.  What do you want to train for? Sports training is fine, of course, as long as you know the results of training are very specific and don’t cross over well.

Be savvy. Ask anyone giving you fitness advice: What is this program based on?  Why am I doing this exercise? What specifically am I training for?  (And please don’t take “you are confusing the body” for an answer, unless you want a confused body.)

If your goal is to be healthy and well for as many of your 24/7s as possible, then check out what you are doing during as much of the 24/7 as possible. You see, when training to live better, it all matters – sit, stand, work, play, exercise, rest.  The specificity of training does not apply only when exercising.  It is a principle. It applies all the time.

Sitting with rounded shoulders. Guess what? The body gets used to what you give it. Standing in alignment, the body adapts to that too. We are always training for something (mentally AND physically).

For the  “all or nothing-ers” out there, this does not mean you move perfectly all the time. Simply pay attention to your body, check in often.

Bottom line: Training for well-being is an all-day awareness of how to give this body (and mind) what it needs to be well.

The body gets used to what you give it. What do you want it to get used to?

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 | October 4, 2016 · 5:56 pm

What are you training for?

I am noticing a bit of confusion in fitness lately – confusion between sports and military training and exercise for health and well-being. I want you to be a savvy fitness consumer who gets what you want from your investment.  Let’s take a look at the difference between the two approaches and see what you think:

Training for wellbeing.pngIf you were an athlete or military professional at some point in your life, the switch may be challenging. Those approaches to exercise can be strongly ingrained in your approach to movement. If you have done a fitness program with a sports-minded approach in the past, or admire those who do, this approach can be so enmeshed in your thinking about exercise, they can seem to be one and the same. But clearly, they are not.

Here are questions to ask yourself to be sure you are training for health and well-being:

  • Am I pushing through pain and discomfort in my fitness class/program?
  • Who is my primary guide for what is right for my body – a “fitness expert” or how my body feels with a certain exercise?
  • How often do I ignore and “tough out” pain with exercise?
  • How often do I get injured when I am on a fitness program?
  • Am I consistent with exercise all year long?
  • Does my exercise program leave me too sore and exhausted to move more throughout my day?
  • Am I  feeling and living better as a result of my training?

Are your answers more in line with the training approach on the right or the left of the chart above?

If you are ignoring pain, listening to a trainer more than your body, feeling sore and exhausted more often than energized, inconsistent with exercise, have a love/hate relationship with exercise, and/or have sustained an injury as a result of your training – you may be using a sports approach to health and well-being training.

If you feel better mentally and physically, have less pain and injury, are listening to your body, are consistent all year long, have more energy and stamina and strength to enjoy life – congratulations! You have found a fitness program for well-being.

This is not to say  sports, athletic, or military training is wrong – it is simply a different goal than training for health and well-being.  Sure, there is some crossover between the two ways of training the body.

The big difference is that sports/military training has a higher risk of injury and is not designed for sustainability long term.  If you want your weight loss to be sustainable – you need a fitness plan that is sustainable as well.

Look back at the blog series on fitness I did a few weeks ago for more informative about fitness designed for health and well-being.

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 19, 2016 · 3:26 pm

The Magic Pill

Thank you, WBUR, for this new podcast series that started last week called “The Magic Pill.”  The positive news about movement as the most powerful medicine we have for health and well-being gets lost easily in the media. It is refreshing to see an encouraging approach getting some more air time!

Thirty years of prescribing this medicine has taught me one thing – the prescription is very individual. So take in the information and suggestions but above all trust your own knowledge about your body and what works best for it today. For example, they end the  first podcast with a cheerful “take the stairs” suggestion. Sounds easy enough, but for many, stair are a big challenge. So if stairs are not right for you at this time, try pacing while you wait for the elevator, or take an extra lap around the hallway before getting onto the elevator, or take a big morning style stretch as you wait. (You might just inspire the people waiting with you to do the same). You see … ALL movement is medicine – not just the ones that count on our Fit Bits!

The best medicine of all is enjoying movement.

Enjoy it and you will reap the benefits! Move in the ways that give your mind and body a lift. Because we are made to move, the body responds with a big “thank you” by boosting the immune system, giving amazing health benefits… instantly!

Check out the podcasts for The Magic Pill – they are brief (<10 minutes) yet full of inspirational science based information!

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 6, 2016 · 5:16 pm