Category Archives: Alignment

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,


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


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

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,


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


*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

Reducing Weight Without Losing Weight – Part II

This is a comment a patient posted in the stretching blog last month.  I had to share her inspiring words:   I’m 8 months post gastric sleeve and have lost 172 lbs since July 2013! Been in PT since October 15, 2014 twice a week. I had to start in the pool i was so bad, but ive graduated to all office visits and I’m getting stronger by the day! I became disabled due to disk disease and got to the point we’re I sat in a recliner for 8 year because my pain became intolerable. I started PT so I could start to walk again and they found so many more problems, my knees are bent from sitting for so long so they need to be manipulated every visit, extremely painful. What I’m getting too is, stretching is crucial to my recovery program. All my muscles had become so bad from sitting that stretching them is an everyday thing for me. When my sciatic starts bothering me I have a stretch where I sit with my foot on the opposite knee stretching my lower back muscle and I’ll tell you it actually works. I have gained enough strength that I can now walk through Walmart when I was only able to use the cart for years!!! I can shower standing up, cook, clean, and none of it would have been possible without PT and the stretching and exercise I do there! I just wanted to share with you my experience and how important stretching is to my everyday recovery.

Thanks to those of you who send along some help with my car dilemma I appreciate your advice ūüôā

The big point in the last blog was that how we hold our body changes our body on a cellular level Рfor better or worse.  And the amount of time we spend in a position has a direct impact on how much it will improve or deteriorate how our body feels. 

How we sit and stand affects everything from our joints, muscles, digestion, breathing, focus, and probably a lot more.

What did you notice last week about how you sit and stand? 

Here are some very basic and simple points to pay attention to.  As always these are general suggestions and guidelines and I trust you to do what feels best for your body: 

  • Standing as best¬†you can, keep your feet¬†parallel to each other (notice if your default position is with toes pointing in or out)Picture-21
  • feet under hips (not wide apart and not too close)
  • weight in heels – this is a BIG one.¬† (the goal is the picture on the right in red. The picture on the left in blue shows the effect of weight in the toes)when your weight is more on the front of the feet – notice what happens to the hips.¬† They push forward.¬† This puts extra pressure on the front of the feet, the knees, the front of the belly and¬†the lower back. The shoulders and head tend to move out of alignment too.¬† Practice keeping your weight in your heels and hips when standing.¬†
  • lower back in neutral – not flat and not rounded.¬† There should ¬†be a comfortable curve in the lower back and the hips should be in neutral
  • ribs facing hips – this is another big one.¬† Place your hand on your breastbone (sternum) – it should be close to vertical to the ground.¬† When we “stand up straight” the ribs tend to flare forward.¬† This causes strain in the back and takes the shoulders out of healthy alignment.¬†¬†
  • roll the shoulders open – the inside of the elbow facing forward and shoulders and chest rolled open – Check the ribs again to be sure they did not flare forward again.¬†¬† Remember….ribs down, shoulders back
  • head balanced on shoulders – ears over shoulders

Do the same when sitting just keeping feet on floor under knees. Then balance your weight on your hips so the lower back is in neutral andthCAWVYXYC move up from there with the description above.  Sitting with the back curved, like when slouching or sitting back  on a couch creates more work for the lower back. 

This is a simply way we can improve health in moments during our day.  When muscles and joints are hurting they are just letting you know they are over worked. Much of the time this is from positioning during the day. 

Posture-Before-AfterWhen pain is reduced from proper alignment, motivation to move increases.¬† With the body aligned properly, risk of injury with exercise is less.¬† So… all of this alignment awareness can lead to more movement and help with weight loss.¬†

Think beyond the gym for health and well-being and healthy weight. 


Keep Moving, Be Well




by | March 18, 2015 · 4:27 pm

Reducing Weight without Losing Weight

thCABPF7GPI took a car for a test drive this week. My current car is a 2004 and I have the seat perfectly adjusted so I can sit in alignment. Sitting in this 2010 car my head was pushed forward by the head rest. No matter how I adjusted the seat I could not sit with my hips shoulders and ears in alignment. That darn head rest kept pushing my head forward.

So, I asked the car salesman.   He said that not too long ago the government changed the guidelines for manufacturing car seats. They wanted to make sure that the head is on the head rest….. so they moved the head rest forward…

Does anyone see a HUGE red flag here?

Were the older cars wrong? Or, could it be that our bodies have ‚Äúadapted‚ÄĚ to our new computer working, cell phone gazing, sitting shape? Please say it isn‚Äôt so! The government, in trying to keep us safe (which I greatly appreciate), adapted the guidelines to fit this new position of our body?thCA2EI8K7

What is the big deal you may ask.

Take an object about 10 lbs.and hold it in your hands. Notice the weight. Now extend your arms so you are holding it in front of you with your arms straight. The weight did not change but it feels heavier, right?

Now think of your head (weighs about 10 lbs.) held up by your neck. With the head jutted forward those poor neck muscles are working over time. And then the back muscles need to help out.

Exercise is important. But it is only about 3% of our day if we do 45 minutes of exercise a day. The other 97% of our day is hugely thCAJSWG40important. How we hold our body during most of the day can be a breeding ground for chronic pain and injury. It can also be the breeding ground for health and well-being. It is our choice.

This week: pay attention to your body position in daily activities like driving, eating, reading, watching TV, working on a computer, brushing your teeth, talking on the phone, looking at your smart phone.

  • Notice where your head is in relation to your body.
  • Notice where you feel your weight most when sitting ‚Äď on your tailbone and back, front of your hips or in the middle.
  • Notice the weight of your arms and legs.
  • Notice where your weight is on your feet when standing ‚Äď on the toes, heels or in-between.
  • Which side of the body do you use more?
  • Which side do you put more weight on when sitting, standing or carrying?

Feel free to add your comments about what you notice and we will continue the chat next week…

Keep Moving, Be Well




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by | March 12, 2015 · 6:16 pm