Tag Archives: exercise

Resolutions… Why Wait?

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Here is a link to a blog by an insightful career coach.  The blog is from last year and directed toward career goals, yet the message is timeless and crosses all areas of well-being – including weight loss goals.   She proposes three questions to ask yourself each January….instead of setting resolutions.  Why not set resolutions?  Because January is a great time for recovery from the holidays and reflection of the year past.  December is no time for reflection as the holidays fill our days with a longer to do list and more emotions to sort though.

Here are the questions revised for this year and for reaching your health and well-being goals.

  • What went well in 2017?  What were your accomplishments that you’re really excited about?
  • What did you learn in 2017 about what makes it easier for you to maintain a healthy weight?
  • What would you have done differently? This third question will begin to prepare you for  having some 2017 goals that are based on what you learned last year rather than just a reaction to the holiday stress.

So, enjoy a January free of pressures to set resolutions.  Take a walk to help your brain learn and be creative as you ponder these questions.  When you return, jot down the answers.  Let them “simmer” a bit until February 1st.

Wait to set resolutions and you will be ready to set goals for 2018 that are well thought out and and more lasting .

May you discover an overflow of health and happiness in 2018!

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.

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 | January 2, 2018 · 1:52 pm

Pain, exercise and mindfulness – Part 3

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In parts one and two we reviewed how pain can put us in a spiral of inactivity, gradually reducing strength and stamina which can limit function and lead to secondary pain from inactivity.  Exercise designed right can reduce pain by improving mobility and strength, yet too much exercise can increase pain.    Mindfulness has been shown to reduce pain.  When we combine exercise with a mindful mindset, we are more likely to make movement a tool for helping with pain.

When exercising to lose weight, we can get focused on burning more calories and getting enough steps each day.  This focus makes it tempting to ignore signals that the body cannot tolerate that amount or type of movement.  Add to that all too popular  “no pain no gain” approach and the use of competitions or challenges to boost motivation.  These are just a few of the ways popular approaches to fitness promote ignoring your body rather than listening to it.

Many people want to lose weight in order to reduce pain.  While weight loss may help to some degree in some cases, we need to look at what happens in the body with weight loss.  The fact is that weight loss without exercise promotes muscle loss. Muscle loss means less support on those painful joints that are trying to tell you they need more support.  This is one way weight loss alone could make the pain worse, not better.

Pain research is telling us that when we ignore pain, the body only speaks louder to get our attention, in the form of more pain.   If we practice ignoring pain while losing weight,  we are missing out on the benefits mindfulness offers to help us quiet the pain signals.    Mindfulness does not mean focusing on the pain, it is shifting mindset about the pain.  Three qualities of mindfulness are paying attention with:

  • Curiosity:  when we shift to curiosity, we move away from frustration about the pain and the temptation to either push past it or let it keep us from moving at all.  Instead we can try moving lightly at first and be curious about how to move in a way that could reduce the pain.  If you are an “all or nothing exerciser”, this can take some practice. However, the shift is key to getting out of this cycle of doing too much, ending up in pain and then moving less.
  • Openness:  This means being open to trying different approaches to and types of exercise. It means being open to learning about what your body needs right now,  letting go of comparing yourself to what you did in the past or what you think you should be able to do now.    Openness means focusing on what your body can do now as the way out of the exercise and pain cycle. For example, stretching may not burn a lot of calories, but it may be a way to start moving on a regular basis and build up your body’s movement tolerance so it is ready for more movement down the road.
  • Kindness:  Mentally beating yourself up while you exercise (or paying someone else to push you) can actually be keeping you in a pain cycle.  Think of how you would treat someone else you care about, a pet or a small child, who is in pain.  You would want to do what you can to help.  That is the attitude of kindness you can apply to yourself when you exercise.  The interesting thing about research on self-kindness is that is leads to more motivation, not less. Kindness does not mean letting yourself off the hook or being too easy on yourself. It just means you will work with your body rather than against. it.

The research is becoming more and more clear that movement and mindfulness both promote healing.  In order for these two resources to work together though, we need to shift how we approach exercise for weight loss away from pushing the body to burn calories and sculpt it into the shape we want to using exercise as a resource for taking care of this body we are trying to help through weight loss.  Just like anything else, it takes practice.  Practice exercising with a mindset that is curious, open and kind you will begin to find ways to use exercise t  help yourself feel better not worse.

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.

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

Leave a comment

by | December 11, 2017 · 7:19 pm

Pain, exercise, and mindfulness: Part 1

Pain is one of the biggest barriers to exercise.  Beyond the obvious limits it creates, pain leads to what we call a spiral of inactivity:

Cycle of inactivity

Pain makes us move less. Since our body is a “use it to keep it system”, when we use our body less, we lose strength, stamina and mobility, which means movement is more challenging, and so we move less.  Over time this inactivity causes stiffness, making movement less comfortable.  After a time of less activity we lose muscle mass which means less support for painful joints.  Both of these can lead to more pain, and the spiral continues.

The way out of this spiral is to move in order to regain strength, stamina, mobility, function and support around joints. However, what if you have pain when you move? Should you push through pain or listen to it?  It feels like a catch 22 and the spiral seems irreversible.

Add to that the all too common “no pain no gain” approach to exercise and the “suffer through in order to get to your goal” approach to weight loss.  These can often make pain worse, and leave us believing we need to work through the pain to get to our goal. This discomfort and the frustration it causes can create not only physical but  mental barriers to weight loss.  It may seem hopeless, but it is not.

The first step is awareness about how our approaches to exercise and to weight loss are making it more difficult to turn the spiral around.   Athletes need to push through pain to gain a competitive edge.  For health and well-being, pain is your body trying to tell you it cannot tolerate that level of movement right now.   Ignore it and it will only “speak” louder.   There is no gain in pain.

If you have tried the “get through the first few weeks of a diet until you see results” approach to weight loss, you know it is just not sustainable in the long run.  There is no badge of honor for those weeks of suffering through hunger, derivation, sore muscles and fatigue.  Not only does it leave us with less motivation to try again next time, it makes our brain look for comfort – and food is a quick and easy source of comfort.

If you goal is to lose weight to feel better, why suffer through exercise in order to feel better?   Why not take a direct line to feeling better even before the scale moves?  It is possible when you drop the “suffer through” approach and listen to your body with exercise.

This week simply notice your mindset when it comes to exercising for weight loss and the long term effects of it.  It helps to keep in mind, weight loss is not a goal.  Goals have an end.  Sustainable weight loss is a shift in what we do and how we think.  Mindfulness helps us make that shift. Next week we will take a closer look at the research on mindfulness and pain to uncover how it can help with exercising when you have pain.

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.

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 | November 29, 2017 · 7:05 pm

Is stacking wood exercise?

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“Wood warms you many times” my friend said when we first got our wood stove. So true!  We had a truckload of wood delivered yesterday and I was “warmed” for the first time by this wood while stacking it into piles in the wood shed.

Whether you are preparing your wood for winter, raking leaves, cleaning your home, or running around after your kids, you might wonder – does this count? It must! I am tired after. I worked up a sweat. My muscles are sore. Look how many steps I got!  This must count for exercise. Surely I don’t need to go to the gym on top of all of this, do I?

I had these questions in mind as I stacked wood yesterday.  I did my strength training in the morning.  Did I need to do that if I was stacking wood in the afternoon?

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While stacking wood I could keep some of my attention on my body, but not all.  I had to pay attention to the job I was doing.   Knowing the days are getting shorter, I felt the pressure together this job done, so was driven push through fatigue and discomfort in order to get it done. Fortunately, once it is done, I will not need to do it again until next year!

The word exercise means something performed or practiced in order to develop, improve, or display a specific capability or skill”.   Remember from a few blogs ago the qualities that make something an exercise:

  • structured
  • consistent
  • purposeful

My strength training was structured into my schedule,  every other day in the mornings.  It is done consistently year round, because I want the benefits all year long.   The exercises I do are purposeful with movements of daily life that I want to get and stay strong  – squatting, climbing, lifting overhead, pulling, pressing.  The sets, reps and weights are chosen for the purpose of strengthening my body and metabolism.

Compare this with stacking wood.  Structured only by the need for wood so I do it for about a week once a year.   (unless someone else decides to start doing it or I get rid of the wood stove).   It is only consistent for that one week of the year.  (thankfully!).  It is purposeful, but not for the purpose of strengthening my body even if that is a side effect for that one week. The purpose is to get the job done so that I can stay warm this winter.

pexels-photo-302810So, is stacking wood (or something like it) exercise?  Nope.  It is not consistent, purposeful or structured enough to keep my body strong all year long.  Is it still a great physical activity that will give me health benefits from moving more?  Yes!  Both add to health and well-being.  Both are important… but one does not replace the other.

Strength training consistently and purposefully made stacking wood easier.

The extra bonus is, exercise “warms” me up too!

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.

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

1 Comment

by | November 8, 2017 · 4:00 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.

 

2 Comments

by | October 2, 2017 · 2:08 pm

The connection between “Being Good” and “Being Bad”

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This was a segment on NPR yesterday about a study on why we might tend to “be bad” after “being good” .

When you are an experienced dieter, you know how to “be good”.  You know all the rules and tricks in order to take in less and burn more calories.  You could probably could write a book on it!

It is interesting to learn from research in the field of marketing.  It gives us great clues in to what drives us, what motivates our decisions .   This term used called “licensing” is a handy one. It describes that switch that seems to happen when we have been following the plan closely for a while and then suddenly, without warning, we switch and make a complete 180 degree turn to do the exact opposite of what we know we “should do.

When we are trying at achieve a goal like weight loss, we can get really focused on all the rules.  We follow what someone else tells us we need to do and try really hard to stick with it.   We can become like a child sitting at a fancy restaurant trying really hard to be polite, use good manners and sit still. Eventually, they will lose it (hopefully not in the restaurant!).  Its like trying to hold our breath – there is only so long we can try hard to ignore signals from our body to do what we want and need to do.

Stringent, intense, hard-core exercise programs put us in that position.  We are working so hard to measure up, to perform, to keep up, to ignore pain and fatigue signals from our body.  That it can only last so long.  Eventually we are going to head in the complete opposite direction.

Moderation is key.  It is not glamorous, flashy or newsworthy, but it works when it comes to exercise.  Studies indicate moderate intensity of cardiovascular exercise  is enough to improve stamina.  Moderate amounts of training, like one set three days a week, works to improve strength.

So moderate is enough and pushing hard makes us lose motivation…. hmmmm   maybe we can finally lose the idea that we need to try to be good and not be bad and simply enjoy moving again!

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 | July 11, 2017 · 7:00 pm