Category Archives: Fitness Consumer

Read between the lines

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With so much information about exercise available everywhere, it is challenging to know what is the right advice for you.   I want you to be a savvy fitness consumer.  This means having skills for knowing what is myth based and what is science based.

It also means knowing what is the right advice for what YOU want from fitness.  If you were planning to take a trip to a big tourist destination, you would pick and choose attractions that were most important to you.  Some attractions would not be of interest to you, so you would not waste your time and money on them.  It is the same with fitness.  Knowing what you want is key for using your exercise time and resources well.  Sounds simple right?  But check out this headline that I cam across as an example of why we need to carefully read between the lines:

Healthy Outlook: Coping with aches and pains of muscle gains

Given the category “healthy outlook”, one might assume this is about fitness for health and well being.  However,  the title contradicts that assumption.  Aches and pains are a sure sign this is meant for people training for competing, not for health.    We know there is a big difference.  Be on the lookout for who the article is directed toward. The writer may not be clear about the type of fitness they are writing about.

And then there is the mention of science-based information to catch your eye:

We’ll take a quick field trip back to our anatomy, physiology and biology classes…

Keep in mind, sports training is a branch of exercise science too.  It is a very different field of study from exercise science for health.   This is definitely where being a savvy fitness consumer pays off.  Since you know there are different kinds of exercise science, you can decipher if the science based information is right for you.

If you click on the website of the expert interviewed, “strength and conditioning for athletes.” you would have another indicator this is not right for you. Here is your last two red flags, in the conclusion sentence…

“The road to getting ripped is long and winding. Here’s to manageable soreness, raising the bar and learning to love that fleeting agony.”

You may have heard the slogan many times… “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat” (and if you are in a certain age group you have that image of a skier tumbling down a mountain in the Olympics).  Again, the reference to agony being a normal part of exercise is a great subtle clue.    If your goal is to “get ripped” then  you need to train like a body builder, which is an athletic event.

If your goal is to improve health, sustain weight loss, and feel better to enjoy more of life, stay aware.  Read (and listen) between the lines of everything about exercise and fitness, they are mixed up often in the media.   Look for the signs that you are being told what to do to be a successful athlete.  To keep moving and motivated, seek advice specific to your reasons – to be healthy and well.

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 | April 9, 2018 · 6:15 pm

Tracking True Fitness

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In a past blog, we looked at why fitness trackers do not really track fitness, based on the definition of fitness for health and well-being:

“The ability to carry out daily tasks with vigor and alertness, without undue fatigue, and with ample energy to enjoy leisure-time pursuits and respond to emergencies” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

In other words, fitness is measured by how well you can do what you need and want to in every day life.  Exercise is training for life!

One important part of fitness for daily life is your stamina – how easily can you do the activities in daily life that require you to move continuously for an extended period of time?   If you feel short of breath or tired after doing an activity like walking from your car to a store, or doing housecleaning, it’s a sign your  cardiovascular system is overworking for the task at hand.

Measuring your total steps or miles per day does not necessarily improve stamina.   For  building stamina we need continuous movement done regularly so your body can adapt, making it easier to move for longer period so of time. To build stamina, its best if the level of that activity is at a comfortable challenge for your breathing.  These regular longer bouts of movement at the just right level for your body provide the practice your cardiovascular system needs to improve stamina.

The Active 10 program by Public Health England is focused on helping people focus on building stamina in the same way fitness trackers help people remember to move more during the day.  Instead of total steps, the goal is to move continuously for three 10 minute bouts a day.

They recommend walking at a “brisk” pace, but remember, brisk is relative to your body’s ability. Brisk means moving so your breathing is at a moderate to comfortable challenge – NOT uncomfortable.  It does not really matter how fast you go or how many miles you cover.  The Active 10 App is a wonderful free tool for tracking your bouts of walking in this way.

You can track true fitness by making a simple list of all the things that currently make you short of breath or fatigued if you do them for too long.  Check in each month to see if these activities are getting easier.  This is a true measure of fitness –  that ability to do daily activities with more ease.

Let your fitness tracker reminder you to avoid prolonged stillness. This is an important health goal.    But also remember fitness is about building stamina and for that we need longer bouts of movement.  The bonus is, when you use your daily life as a measure of your fitness, your motivation to move is more likely to be stronger as well.

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

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by | March 12, 2018 · 6:09 pm

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 🙂

The biggest tip I want to share is – please 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

Confusion about Muscle Confusion

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Muscle confusion is a big selling point in the fitness industry these days.   It is built on the fact that as the body “gets used to” an exercise, or builds muscle memory, it burns less calories.  The belief is you need to mix up your exercise to keep your body burning calories.

First, lets take a step back.  Why do you want to lose weight?  To make everyday life and the fun things easier? To be more comfortable in your body? To reduce pain?  To feel better? To improve health?

And, I am guessing you want those great benefits to last, right?

If that sounds like what you want, muscle memory is your friend!

For the things you need to do in daily life to be easier, it takes practice.   If you are always practicing something different, your body does not build muscle memory as well.   In everyday life we need stregnth for movements like bending down and getting back up, stepping up, lifting overhead, pushing, pulling, lifting and carrying objects.  Doing these movements on a regular basis, at a level that comfortably challenges them over and above the level of daily life, will make them easier.   This is why muscle memory is your friend.  Instead of playing the calorie burning game, you get what you truly want from weight loss.

Second,  your body is still burning calories!  The total decrease in calories burned is small.  Instead of playing that numbers game, put your energy into reducing the calories you take in from eating for reasons other than hunger.  These calories can add up much more!

The muscle confusion approach is taking one piece of science and applying it in a way that is very profitable for the fitness industry.   Yet, it leaves people who want fitness for improves health and function missing out on building muscle memory, doing sustainable exercise programs and feeling better now and in the future.

The bottom line: Life can be complicated and confusing enough! Your exercise time does not need to be.  Your body does adapt and yes, because it is smart, it will burn a few less calories for an activity when it builds muscle memory.  The calorie difference is not worth what you are missing out on by focusing on muscle confusion.   Focus on muscle memory and enjoy a body that makes it easier to enjoy your life!

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 7, 2017 · 5:38 pm

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.

 

4 Comments

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.

 

Leave a comment

by | November 9, 2016 · 6:32 pm