Category Archives: Exercise and the Brain

Fitness part 4: The power of enjoying the scenery

enjoy exercie 2Enjoyment of exercise is often dismissed as a n0n-essential part of fitness. It can seem frivolous, even counterproductive.  If I am enjoying it, it must not be hard enough to be worth it. Yet, research shows this factor can make all the difference in gaining long term benefits.

Why is enjoyment an essential part of fitness for health and well-being?

  1. We are motivated by pleasure and reward.  This is just the way our brains are set up to help us survive and thrive.  When exercise is something to “get through” or “just do”, motivation is not as sustainable.  Working with our natural motivation toward things that are rewarding and pleasurable is much more effective than gritting our teeth just to get through a workout.
  2. Success breeds success:  Accomplishment counteracts laziness! Have you ever noticed that energizing feeling of finishing a project.  After exercise we often move on to the next thing without thinking, missing out on the chance to boost our motivation for next time we are stuck.    Or worse, we are left feeling like it just was not good enough, we should have done more.  Pause and savor how you feel after exercise, even if it is just that sense of accomplishment of doing something (always better than nothing).   Taking a moment to celebrate the small victories has big payoffs for sticking with your plan long term.
  3. The Belief Effect:  Research has shown that the placebo effect is so real it is now called “The Belief Effect” . What we believe about a medical treatment actually changes how the body responds to it.  Well now we have that evidence of the belief effect for exercise too.  Check out this study about how what we expect from exercise changes the benefits in the mind and the body.  What you are thinking when you are exercising can change what you get from it.  If you are exercising so you can gain the great benefits of fitness, it is worth taking the time to create a plan and a mindset for enjoyment!

 

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 | August 17, 2016 · 6:09 pm

Fitness Part 3: Choose a destination

many pathsWhen it comes to fitness, there are so many paths to take.  Not all lead to the same destination.  It depends on what you want from fitness. 

Remember the definition….

Physical Fitness= 

The ability to do activities of daily life with ease

and have energy left over for recreation and to meet emergencies.

Choose your destination:  Get clear about what you want from weight loss and exercise, then train for what you want.  If you goal is to do burpies better, then do burpies.  If not, skip the burpies!!!  If your goal is to have the stamina to travel and walk around amazing places with friends and family without fatigue – then walk often at the level your body can do now and gradually build up your tolerance of walking.  Even if you start with 15 seconds several times a day, you are training for YOUR goal.   These are the questions to ask yourself to know where you want to go:

  • What daily activities do I need to do?
  • What do I want to be able to do for fun?
  • What is important for me to be able to do to meet emergencies? (ie: get up off the floor if I fall, be able to climb the stairs)

You are here:  Where are you now?  Again, another important questions if you are going to get the destination you want.  What are you able to do? What gets in the way?  Awareness is key.  Taking a day or two to ponder these questions can make getting to your destination much easier.   Jot down some thoughts before moving forward with your exercise plan.

Stay on course:  How do you know if you are on course?  Expert advice is helpful.   However, what your body is telling you is  more reliable and accurate than any outside measure (like how much weight lifted, how many miles you moved, or the latest fitness trend).  Here are some ways to help you from getting caught in a detour:

  • Physical or mental fatigue:  Learn to tell the difference between feeling tired because you were physically active all day and feeling tired because you were more mentally active.  Mental and physical fatigue can feel the similar. When it is mental fatigue, give your body what it needs by moving in some way.  If you get energy from moment, it was definitely mental fatigue.
  • Tired or lazy?   A better term for lazy is just not motivated.  This is very different than being physically tired.  They can feel the same unless we really take a closer look.  If you are feeling lazy, check to see if your goal is too big and overwhelm is draining motivation. Lower the goal and see if that cures laziness.  Check to see if you have just lost sight of your destination,  the whole reason you want to get moving in the first place.  Remind yourself of your destination and see if that gives you some energy.
  • How do I feel after exercise? If you walk away from exercise feeling worse about yourself or physically exhausted, it was too much!  The right exercise for you right now is the one that makes you feel better physically and mentally. Choose what makes you feel better, and you found what is right for you.  Do that exercise as often as you want to feel better!

More next week….

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 | August 1, 2016 · 5:43 pm

One Thing I have Never Heard a Patient Say…

walking long road

After listening to patients experiences with weight loss over the years, I can say one thing I have never heard:  “I re-gained weight, but have not changed my exercise and physical activity level”.  Never, not one patient that I can recall has reported this scenario.

Why?

Because the two tend to go hand in hand.  Lower activity level, increase weight.  I am pretty sure you know this first hand.

Now, exercise is not the magic bullet for weight loss.  Food habits have to be a main focus for weight loss success.   However, physical activity and exercise add a huge boost that is hard to beat:

1)” Wiggle room” in your food intake for the occasional slips and celebrations.

2) Maintaining metabolism, which lowers as one loses weight without doing strength training.

Certainly, a consistent activity level is not a 100%  guarantee that  you will maintain weight loss – but it is a pretty good bet.

Life, however, is not consistent.  How do we keep life from getting in the way?

  • Keep your exercise program sustainable: The quick-fix exercise programs may have great results, but if you cannot sustain it, the results will quickly fade. When setting up an exercise program ask yourself, Is this sustainable?
  • Plan A, Plan B…:  Have at least one back up plan if your scheduled exercise time is interrupted.  Schedule Plan A into your calendar.  If there is a conflict – don’t delete – reschedule to Plan B.   For example, you plan on exercising in the morning for 30 minutes, but hit the snooze one too many times.  Reschedule it to two 15 minute  bouts, one at lunchtime and one in the evening.
  • Use lifestyle activity to fill in the gaps:  Lifestyle activity is simply the amount of movement you do during your daily life.   Its about taking advantage of those moments when you can take a quick walk, dance for one song, sneak in some exercises.  It has been shown to work well for weight loss.  Tracking with an activity monitor is helpful here when your regular activity level is lowered for some reason,  such as a longer work meeting or caring for an ill relative.  Armed with the information from your activity monitor,  you can ensure you are burning about the same amount of calories by keeping your step level the same as when you are regularly exercising.
  • Use movement to manage stress:  With plenty of life stressors to go around, if exercise is your go-to remedy, you will have many reasons to keep moving.  In your body, movement is the antidote for the response to stress – so this strategy is a way to naturally work with your body to lower stress level.
  • Connect with your “why”:  Why do you want to lose weight? Keep physical activity connected to your real, bottom line reason, instead of just exercising to make the numbers on the scale go down.  Your “why” is your natural motivation.  When physical activity is connected to your own personal “why”, your natural motivation will remain.

So, while it is great to challenge yourself with fitness goals – one of the best ways to boost your odds for lifelong weight loss success is consistency with exercise.  Hows that for a challenge?

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 | June 16, 2016 · 3:29 pm

Mindfulness and Fitness

mindful walkingThis is a link to a brief audio program from the creator of the Mindfulness Summit about the biggest obstacle to mindfulness. 

Over the past 30 years that I have been teaching about exercise and fitness, I have seen a growing trend.  This trend is, from what I can tell, one of the biggest barriers to exercise motivation.  It seems to be getting worse, not better.

The trend?  Never enough.  The push harder, be stronger, go faster, be better, do more approach to fitness keeps us in the never enough trap.  And in that state of mind with exercise (or anything), contentment, happiness and thus health and well-being are constantly out of our reach.

Research on the mind/body connection is now way too strong to ignore that fact and longer.  Being fit but chronically stressed counteract each other. Fitness cannot work its magic on health if one is in a constant stress response.   If the mind is never content, if negative stress is the state most of the time, health is effected.  So exercising to improve health needs to now consider the state of mind as well as the state of the body.

Combining mindfulness with exercise is an antidote for the “never enough” trend while boosting the health and well-being benefits.

Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to what is happening with an attitude of kindness, openness and curiosity, in the present moment.  Mindfulness means “to see clearly”.   It is not about being happy and content all the time, it is certainly not about stopping thoughts – it is about simply being in a mindset that allow us to recognize what is happening, so we can make an informed choice toward contentment.

In fitness and weight loss, we can get so focused on future results, on reaching the next level or taking off the next five pounds, that we miss what is happening right now.  And when we do, we miss contentment.

Many patients would say,  but I do not feel content at my current weight! As you will hear in this audio, the present is the only place to find contentment.  If we can’t practice it now, in the future there will be some other reason not to be content. The next goal, the next event, will keep contentment just out of reach.  Practice contentment now.  It is just a practice, and practice makes this skill stronger.

If you have not experienced mindfulness yet, it is difficult to understand with just words and descriptions.  Look into options in your area.  We are so fortunate to have our Center for Mindfulness right here in central Massachusetts.  They even offer online options for learning mindfulness.

The great news is that exercise, when designed to be, is a tool for mindfulness.   Mindfulness is paying attention with curiosity and kindness.  Movement is an opportunity to focus on the body, taking care of it, listening to it.  Movement is an antidote for the changes that stress cause in the body.  Stress prepares the body for movement. When we are in a stress response but not moving, those changes can cause damage.

Exercise and movement can be a pathway to contentment – right here, right now, when we practice mindfulness with movement.

Pause when taking a walk with a friend and notice what is good about that moment.  Pause after exercise and really savor the contentment you feel from movement.  Put on music and dance – and enjoy simply moving to music.  Move in a way that you enjoy, and really enjoy it, and you are more likely to find health and well-being in mind and body.

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 | June 6, 2016 · 4:06 pm

Mindset Matters

Pause for a moment.  Notice what you are thinking.  Notice the quality of your thoughts; positive or negative, fast or slow.

Can what is going on up there really change the body?

Lets experiment – imagine going to the refrigerator and taking out a bright yellow juicy lemon. Cutting it in slices and taking a big bite of the juicy pulp.  What is happening in your mouth right now?

Same if you think of a happy event, a smile comes to your face? Think of a nerve wracking event, butterfly’s in your stomach?

Our brain 1mind and body are connected by a two way street. What happens in one affects the other.

So can our thoughts actually change how our body responds to eating and exercising?

Research is pointing to a big “yes!”.  Check out this TED talk by Dr. Alia Crum.

Great news because it means we could very well have an added way to improve our health and well-being – by switching our thinking – in any moment.

Keep Moving, Be Well

Janet

Janet Huehls, MA, RCEP, CHWC

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 | February 24, 2016 · 8:16 pm

Mindful Eating Summit + Another reason to do strength training

Here is another great free online resource coming up.  The Mindful Eating Summit is a five-day, 20 speaker online event.  It looks like a great way to learn about how habits and emotions affect the way we eat and tools for eating healthy.

And here is a nice article about research on strength training and  brain health!  I have one caution – please do not do the exercise like they are showing in the picture – elbows above the shoulder increases the risk of shoulder injury. Only raise the elbows to just below shoulder height.  Otherwise enjoy the article.

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.

 

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by | October 22, 2015 · 8:13 pm

Enjoying Exercise and Better Food Choices

enjoy exercie 2As a part two from last weeks blog about enjoying exercise, here is an article on research finding the enjoyment of exercise can lead to less emotional eating.

This is just one of many articles that highlight the great side effects of exercise.  Enjoying exercise creates a surge in ‘feel good’ brain chemicals.  These are many of the same brain chemicals that surge when we eat foods high in simple carbohydrates and fats. With a healthy dose of these chemicals helping us feel good after exercise, we are not as likely to search for comfort foods.

We can get so focused on the amount of calories we burn during a workout, forgetting the huge value of enjoyment for gaining this lasting effect.  Doing a high calorie burning workout that you don’t enjoy may not have as many benefits in the end for weight loss as doing a more enjoyable, yet lower calorie burning session.

The goal is to burn only as many calories as you can ENJOY burning!

As highlighted in the last blog, the reasons we don’t enjoy exercise are often created by a wide variety of challenges.   We might think these factors don’t matter, or that there is no good solution.  Since they keep us from enjoying exercise, this article reminds us that finding solutions and enjoy moving again is a key to success.

So, on this beautiful week of end of summer weather, choose an activity you enjoy or find a way to make what you can do more enjoyable.

It sounds like a win-win.  We get to enjoy some time moving AND enjoy feelinenjoy exerciseg good about our food choices too.

Keep Moving, Be Well,

Janet

These weekly emails 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 17, 2015 · 5:28 pm