Category Archives: Fitness Consumer

Myth #5: Core Strength

crunchIf I had a dime for every crunch I did in my lifetime ,  I would have that dream home in the Caribbean by now!  Doing abdominal exercises in various forms, such as crunches, oblique crunches, sit ups, reverse crunches,  V-sits, and planks are a staple in most routines.  When I was teaching aerobics years ago, if I skipped the abs portion, I would have been run out of the gym by 30 people in leg warmers and “big hair” (OK, it was the 80’s!).  However, this is often still the case (minus the “big hair”).  It is time for this fitness myth to catch up with the science.

The trunk  contains some pretty important parts of the body –  the organs, spinal cord, spine, heart, lungs.  The purpose of the core muscle group is to stabilize and protect this area of the body during movements of daily life.

core-musclesWhen we are “working” the core, we often mean we want to reduce the size of the trunk area – AKA spot reduce fat in the abdomen.  Spot reducing is a myth (period).  Yet,  take a look most popular core programs and you will see the myth of spot reducing  alive and  well! (even if it is just implied).   We need to be very savvy fitness consumers to recognize myth based marketing when we see it.  The reality is “working” the core does not really “slim” the core!

What does it mean to strengthen the core?  We can plank longer, do more crunches or sit ups, lift more weight with our core muscles?  While this would be a measure of core strength, the real question is, does it lead to better function of the core in daily life?  Does a strong core mean these muscles can do their job to hold the spine in alignment and reduce daily wear and tear, minimize the risk of back pain, enable us to do daily tasks with ease?

coreRemember the principle of specificity of exercise?  If we want the core muscles to do their job, we need to learn to consciously activate these muscles with our brain during motions of daily life. Exercises done lying down do not mimic daily life and relies on gravity instead of conscious control from the brain to activate the core muscles.

What we want is core control.  This means you can consciously activate your  core muscles to hold your spine in alignment when lifting a heavy object, reaching overhead, twisting to reach an object, etc.  Here is how:

  • First, learn what alignment is for you.  When the spine is out of alignment, the core muscles are not “lined up” to work their best and this increases wear and tear on the back.
  • Notice when you are pulled out of alignment and practice using the brain to activate core muscles for that movement.
  • During ALL strength training exercises, incorporate core bracing with proper alignment, without holding your breath.
  • Practice turning off these muscles when you don’t need them. (ie: during cardio exercise).   Often we are taught to “hold in the core muscle” when we really do not need them.  Relax those core muscles in between activities so they can recharged for when you do need them

Admittedly, this will require a mindset shift away from the hope of spot reducing the abdomen and the idea that traditional core exercises will improve function in daily life.  The payoff is real “results” from an exercise plan based on the reality of movement science rather than long-standing fitness myths.

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 | February 13, 2017 · 3:57 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.

 

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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.

 

 

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by | October 4, 2016 · 5:56 pm

Fitness: Part 2- Beware of Detours

detour

Protect yourself from getting off track from the true definition of fitness.  Stay aware of these “detours” that can waste time and can distract from the true goal of living better:

  • Most popular:  Fitness trends come and go. The tendency is to think if it is popular it must be good.   Just because everyone is doing it or talking about it being great, does not mean it is great for you.  Nor does it mean it is based on movement science. Even if they use the word “research” in the ad, it does not mean the research is well done or unbiased.
  • Most challenging:  We tend to think if there is a lot of sweating, muscle soreness and pain, it must be better for us than something more moderate.  The “no pain no gain” approach is for athletes who have to sacrifice comfort for winning.   For healthy fitness there is “no gain in pain”!   If you just want to be healthy and enjoy life more, a “comfortable challenge” is the goal.    Moderate intensity really does work for health, well-being and weight loss.   Extreme challenges in exercise get so much media coverage it can seem like discomfort is the goal.  Stay aware! If it is uncomfortable it is not sustainable.  Consistency is key for healthy fitness.
  • Most expensive:  Marketing professionals know – if something is more expensive, consumers believe it is better.  The truth is,  a bottle filled with water weighing 5lbs is the same 5lbs as the most expensive dumbbell.  Your muscles do not know the difference if you are lifting an expensive weight or a “free” weight. Walking and dancing are free, and great forms of exercise.

 

Take a look at your list from last week.   What do you want and need to be able to do to enjoy life more?  Keep focused on that list.  Be aware of the lure of the quick, expensive, and most popular fixes – and you will stay on the road to true health and fitness.

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 | July 25, 2016 · 7:20 pm

Fitness Part 1: A Helpful Definition

confusing

Figuring out which way to go with fitness can be quite confusing.  News about the latest research study is discussed in the media, then a conflicting study is reported the next day.   Many “fitness experts” giving their recommendation about what is the best way to get fit.

How do I know what is the best exercise? How do I know what is right for me?  Who do I listen to for reliable advice? 

This is a three part blog to help clear things up a bit.

Lets start with the definition of fitness:

Physical Fitness:

The ability to do activities of daily life with ease

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

Really!  That’s fitness!  Fitness is about living life easier.  Fitness means having the ability to do what you need to do and want to do.  It is not about how much weight you can lift or how many miles you can run or how many steps you have taken.  Those are different ways to measure fitness in general.  The true measure of fitness is very specific to how well you can do what you want and need to do in daily life.   Your choices in fitness are best when based on YOUR life and YOUR goals.

A basic exercise principle is “you get what you train for”.  So knowing what you want out of fitness is the place to start so you can decide what type of exercise is right for you.

It make sense then, that the first questions are:

  1. What do I need to be able to do?
  2. What do I want to be able to do?

Start by brainstorming answers to these two questions.

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 | July 19, 2016 · 4:33 pm

Why?

whyIf a friend told you he wanted to improve his health and well being so he joined a football team, what would you think?

Well, I guess there are parts of playing football that could help.  He might improve stamina, strength, reflexes and enjoy the mental and social benefits.

Yet, there are risks of playing football, too.  If your friend loves playing football it could be worth the risk.

If that friend said he didn’t like it, but it would be worth it to be healthier and to lose weight, you might question his logic.

I see many people doing sports training when trying to exercise for weight loss or improving health.   It might not be called sports training, but by definition, that is what it is.

Exercise science (physiology) = The study of what happens in the body when we move – both during one single bout and when we move regularly to improve fitness level.

Sport science = Uses the knowledge of exercise science to improve specific skills in order to improve the ability to do a certain sport.

Clinical exercise science = a branch of exercise science that studies how exercise training can help treat medical conditions, including  heart diseases, asthma, back pain, elevated body weight, diabetes, depression etc.

You might notice some subtle, but very important differences.

Exercise science is the general science for all types goals for physical activity.

Sports science is training to do better at an athletic (or even military) activity.  Whether it is a personal goal of finishing a marathon or winning a team competition, for success the training sacrifices long term benefits for short term gains.

Clinical exercise science is training for being healthier by improving treatment of a medical condition and living better in some way.  For these results though, the plan needs to be one you can continue.    It is focused on the short as well as the long term benefits.

Yet, the difference between clinical exercise science and sports science are often mixed up in the fitness industry.  When someone works on improving their time in a plank exercise – is the goal to plank longer or improve their function?  Same with squat competitions, boot camp style exercise classes, and quick fix programs.  Is the goal to live better long term, or for some short term improvement doing that activity?

Our culture tends to value athleticism, overcoming the odds, pushing past limits.  These qualities get lots of media attention.  The average person exercising five days a week and is now able to play with his kids does not get much press.

This leads to lower motivation with exercise. I believe it is a big reason we still have about 80% of the US population does not get the recommended amounts of exercise to improve health and fitness.  Yes 80%!

A simple yet powerful question can decrease your risk of injury and loss of motivation.

“Why?”

Why am I doing this exercise, fitness class, exercise program, sports, competition, etc?

If you keep asking why until you get to the deepest personal reason.  Here you will find keys to lasting motivation.

Next, check to see if what you are doing is the best way to your personal definition of success.

Finally, create your own risk/benefit ratio.

List the potential risks:

  •  risk of the activity itself.  The higher the intensity, duration, frequency the greater the risk – especially if your body has not had time to adapt to it.   Does the exercise need to be that intense to get the benefits YOU want?
  • your current physical ability compared to what is needed for the activity – exercise at a comfortable challenging level is enough.
  • old or current injuries and/or medical condition,muscle weaknesses, etc.  We are only as strong as our weakest area.  Modify the activity to reduces strain and work on strengthening these areas too.

List the potential benefits:

  • benefits of the activity shown by exercise science
  • how this activity will help you get what you really want from exercise (IE; to be able to climb stairs easier, play with your kids, go hiking or biking again)
  • how this activity might improve your quality of life

Weight loss is probably one of the major areas for this confusion.  Yes, to lose weight one risk benefit 2needs to exercise.  Yet over exercising to lose weight brings risks for injury, loss of motivation and then not exercising – and this is one of the biggest risks for weight regain.  So consistency is the most important factor for any exercise program for weight loss.

When choosing an exercise program,  remember to ask why.   You will be more likely to stay motivated and reach your true success when what you are doing is designed to get you to YOUR goals.

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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Filed under Barriers, Exercise and Movement Science, Fitness Consumer, Injury Prevention, Myths, Weight Loss