Category Archives: Health and Wellbeing

The power of tracking exercise is not what you might think

Blog 5 21Do you keep track of what you do for exercise? It turns out this is a much more powerful tool than we ever thought.   However, the power is NOT  in reaching your calorie or  steps goal each day.  The power is in how it changes your thoughts.

This study published in Heath Psychology in November 2017 found that people who thought they were not doing as much exercise as others their age died at a younger age than those who thought they did more. Not so surprising. We know exercise helps improve longevity.   But here is the interesting part, this occurred even when they were doing the same amount of exercise.  In other words, if you think you are not getting enough exercise, it changes your body and health in a way that lowers the benefits of exercise – even if you are getting enough to keep you healthy!

What?!  That is amazing!  The longevity risk was up to 71% greater for people who thought they were less active, but were actually doing the same amount as others.

When you look at research in other areas of perception about health, this is not really that surprising.  Research shows that the placebo effect is not all just in your head, it changes your body too.  It is so real, it is now called the “belief effect”.   A persons belief in a medical treatment accounts for up to 40% of the reason why they work.  When a person believes the activity they are doing for their job will improve their health, their health measures, like blood pressure, improve.   Just because of what they believed! This even worked when patients knew they were taking placebo!  This belief effect has also been shown to work for what we believe about the foods we eat.

What we believe powerfully changes our body.  So it is not really surprising that what we believe about getting enough exercise changes our body and health.  This is where tracking is so important.  The simple act of writing down what you did for exercise each day is powerful.  Your brain is reassured you are doing something. It signals your body that it is healthy.   They key to getting these benefits though is knowing that something is better than nothing when it comes to exercise.  If you do something and it leaves you feeling better then when you started – that is truly enough exercise!

So my friends, give yourself credit for what you ARE doing.  Find a way to keep track that works for you:

  • keep a simple list
  • use an app
  • write it on your calendar
  • put a coin or a marble in a clear jar each time you exercise

Whatever you do, keep it somewhere that will serve as a reminder you ARE doing enough exercise.  It will also serve as a  reminder when you start to stray from exercising.   Find what works best for you and then enjoy reveling in your accomplishments each day.

Something is way better than nothing, especially when you believe it is!

Keep moving. Be Well,

Janet

 

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by | May 21, 2018 · 7:31 pm

The easiest way to know how much water to drink

Blog TitleDrinking more water is part of the common advice for helping with weight loss.  How do you know how much water to drink every day?   Especially after weight loss surgery, when you need to pay attention to getting all the nutrients your body needs too.

Hydration is an important factor often overlooked with exercise tolerance, enjoyment and thus motivation.  Dehydration can cause muscle fatigue and cramps,lead to overheating, and contribute to joint pain.   Yet, there is very little scientific evidence about how much water our body really needs in a day. The rule of thumb to drink 8, 8oz glasses of water a day does not have any scientific backing.    How much water IS enough?

It is no surprise that your best guide is your body.  Just as we have discussed with knowing how much exercise is enough for you, “listening” to your body is your best guide.  The easiest way to know how much water to drink is to pay attention to  your urine.  If it is dark with a strong odor, your body needs more water. If it is a light color with only a slight odor, you are probably on track with getting enough water.  Everyone is different and our body changes day to day.  There is no absolute hard and fast rule when it comes to staying hydrated.  Once again, staying present to your body provides a wealth of useful information!

Check out this article for more tips and information about how our body needs water and different ways to get more water.

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 23, 2018 · 5:56 pm

Why it matters, part 2

 

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Last week we clarified the difference between exercise and physical activity and why it matters.   Another important reason why we need to be clear about the difference is because the two are mixed up often in the media.  Here is an example I came across on the internet:

Don’t overthink your exercise: just 2.5 hours per week of any kind could help you live longer

The article is a wonderful write up reviewing a one of largest global studies ever published on the heart health benefits of physical activity.  “The researchers found that 150 minutes spent exercising per week could cut a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease and death. And, most importantly, the Lancet paper demonstrated that all kinds of physical activity were equally good for the heart.”

The great news from this article is that this huge study showed that the “people who reported at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week were much healthier than their sedentary counterparts: They were less likely to have heart attacks, strokes and cardiovascular disease, and less likely to die from any cause. Getting only two and a half hours of weekly exercise was associated with a 28 percent reduction in premature death, and a 20 percent reduction in heart disease.”

Wow! That is awesome!  On one hand it is a message to relax a bit, don’t worry if you are not super fit, you are getting a nice protection just by making efforts to be sure you move in some way for 150 minutes a week.

On the other hand though, what about all we do to fit in exercise time?  If we can get that nice protection from vacuuming and yard work, why waste time lifting weights and walking?

Articles like these miss the chance to promote both exercise and physical activity.  We need to talk about two different goals here:

Reducing sedentary time by increasing physical activity in bouts during the day. This offers great health protection because begin still for more than 30 min at a time strains health, even if you are a regular exerciser!   Studies indicate that going to the gym in the morning does not protect from the risks of being sedentary the rest of the day.  Even regular exercisers get added health protection from avoiding prolonged stillness all day long .

Exercise as practice to make physical activities easier.  What exercise does for daily function is a bit more difficult to measure in studies like these.  It is individual, often only you see the difference.  When you can climb the stairs without stopping or get up off the floor without grunting or do housework for longer without resting, you know you are benefiting from exercise.  Remember, exercise is time set aside to practice making what you want and need to do everyday easier! In this way, exercise helps you be more physically active.

If you are not doing either right now, the great news is you can start right away by just moving every thirty minutes in some way.  Know that you are getting health protection from this simple act.  If you are doing one but not the other, what can you do today to give yourself the best of both physical activity and exercise?
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 10, 2017 · 4:19 pm

Whats the difference and why does it matter???

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We hear the words physical activity and exercise used interchangeably.  Yet, there is a distinct difference between the two that is a key to getting the benefits and staying motivated for doing both.

Physical activity. Any bodily movement produced by the contraction of skeletal muscle that increases energy expenditure above a basal level.   – Centers for Disease Control

Physical activity is an umbrella term for any movement; activities related to your job, housework, yard work, play, recreation, exercise, etc.  Any level and duration and type counts. As long as you are moving your body in some way it counts as physical activity.

Exercise. A subcategory of physical activity that is planned, structured, repetitive, and purposeful  in the sense that the improvement or maintenance of one or more components of physical fitness is the objective. – Centers for Disease Control

Exercise is when we do a physical activity in a structured way in order to improve stamina, strengthen or mobility (physical fitness).  Exercise is done with the focus on our body, not on another activity.  It is the same process for learning any other new skill, like a new language or a musical instrument. Your brain and body need to be working together with your full focus in order to improve that skill.

Physical activity is for the purpose of doing something else–  cleaning the house or doing your job.

Exercise is when our focus is on the physical activity itself in order to improve it in some way.

So exercise practice –  for the purpose of making physical activities you want and need to do every day easier, less tiring, less straining for your body.  Just like learning any other new skill, it is something you set aside time to practice.  Even a little bit of practice done consistently and with your full focus will make that skill easier.

The great news is, both regular physical activity and exercise improve health, burn calories, and boost longevity.  Both are powerful health habit.

  • Get physical activity every day in small bouts during the day. Every 30 minutes of inactivity get up and move in some way.
  • Spend 2.5 hours a week (30 minutes five days a week) dedicated just to exercise (practice) time.  Split that time between stamina building cardio and strength building strength training.  This will make the physical activities you want and need to do easier.

Create these two powerful health habits and enjoy the MANY benefits of both physical activity AND exercise.

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 2, 2017 · 2:08 pm

Lower the risks, raise the benefits!

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We hear stories of people getting injured or having a heart attack during exercise. You might have even experienced this yourself.    At the same time, we are flooded with all the reasons we “should” exercise.  How do we make sure we are getting the benefits and keeping the risks low.

The risk of having a heart attack or dying as a result of exercise is relatively low.  Only 4% to 17% of heart attacks in men are linked to physical exertion, with much lower rates observed for women.  The risk is greater for people who are unaccustomed to exercise and for those at the lower fitness levels.   Compare that to the fact that regular physical activity cuts the risk of getting heart disease by about 40%.  In fact, regular physical activity has been shown to reduce the risk of dying from any cause by 40%.

Does anything jump out at you with that last set of facts?  The risk goes up if your fitness level is low and you get protection as your fitness level goes up.  Regular physical activity offers amazing protection, and irregular physical activity increases risk.

One of the best ways to protect yourself is be consistent with some physical activity because it provides protection from doing nothing.   Notice also the statistics from the Exercise is Medicine Fact Sheet   are for physical activity – which is a broad term that includes regular movement, not necessarily a rigid exercise program.  Bottom line, move and move often and regularly!

The second big factor that has been shown to increase risk is the intensity.  Vigorous exercise tends to increase risk.  Doing a moderate intensity lowers the risk while keeping benefits.  But what does vigorous or moderate mean?  Often you will hear it described as an absolute level; vigorous is jogging 6mph and moderate is walking 3mph.  But in reality, it all depends on your fitness level!   For some 6mph jog will be moderate and for others a 3mph walk will be vigorous.

Exercise at the level that is a moderate to comfortable challenge for your breathing – above what you would feel when you are resting but not so uncomfortable that you can’t wait to stop.   Avoid vigorous intensity where your breathing is heavy or uncomfortable.

The risks also go up with a sudden burst of intense (vigorous) exercise followed by a sudden stop in activity.  When you do feel like your breathing is uncomfortable (like when climbing stairs or a hill), keep moving slowly until breathing level comes back down to moderate to light before stopping completely.

Finally, if you have concerns with your heart, diabetes or high blood pressure and are not exercising regularly, discuss your plans to start with your doctor. Your best bet is to start with a light intensity activity that you can do on a very regular basis.  As you improve your fitness level, your risks will reduce and the benefits go up.

If you have symptoms such as pain anywhere above your waist that comes on with exertion and goes away with rest, or have more shortness of breath with usual activities, tell your doctor.  If you have pain in joints with activity, adjust what you are doing so it does not cause pain.  (either by doing that activity for less time or lower intensity or do something different until your body is stronger).  Pushing through pain only requires your body to “speak” louder to get your attention to let you know something is not right.

The bottom line is listen to and be kind to your body!  When you move it regularly at the just right challenge level, you can relax about the risks and enjoy the benefits of exercise.

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 | September 20, 2017 · 6:48 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