Category Archives: Exercise and Movement Science

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 ūüôā

The biggest tip I want to share is Рplease 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  Рside 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.

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.

 

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

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. ‚ÄúRetire‚ÄĚ from this plan too early, and that risk along with the rate of aging ramps up‚Ķfast!!!

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.

Leave a comment

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 ‚Äėnever enough‚Äô 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 ‚Äď ‚Äúdo activities of daily life with ease, having enough energy left over for recreation and to meet emergencies.‚ÄĚ

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 ‚Äúshould‚ÄĚ 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 ‚Äúpersonalized fitness program‚ÄĚ available. When we listen we might hear the body saying:

  • That pain you feel when you¬†exercise is a warning signal‚Ķ 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 ‚Äúyou get what you train for.‚ÄĚ 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‚Äôt take ‚Äúyou are confusing the body‚ÄĚ 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 ‚Äď 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 ¬†‚Äúall or nothing-ers‚ÄĚ 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