Tag Archives: Fitness

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

Myth #9: “It will be easier when…”

crocus-292306__480If you ever doubt humans are optimistic, talk to a New Englander in spring!   As the snow melts, so does the weight of winter on our motivation to move.  We feel the hope of longer days and walking outside without fear of slipping on ice.  Its wonderful!!!

Now, I don’t want to be a buzz kill.  I believe in optimism and do not want to squash any of it . However, I know from experience, a bit of realism this time of year can help us stay optimistic all year long.

OK… Brace your self – here comes the reality… Winter will return.  Breathe…. it will be OK!  Lets use this optimistic energy to ready ourselves now for next winter.  As they say “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!”

Chose your favorite way to take notes and  jot down your thoughts:

  • How does my body feels right now at the end of winter? 
  • How do I want it to feel?
  • What was my best experience with exercising during the winter months?
  • What did I learn from that experience I can use now?
  • What are the challenges to exercising in the winter?
  • What do I want to try next winter based upon what I know about my successes and challenges? 

Take your plan and put it where you will see it in October of this year.  Now you can rest easy knowing winter may be a bit easier with a plan in place.

Keep in mind, this optimism also shows up when we are setting out on a weight loss bicycle-788733__480plan.  The idea that “when I lose weight things will be easier”, can cause us to put off dealing with the true challenges to exercising regularly.  Take an honest look here as well.  What challenges will not go away not matter how much you weight?  What can you do to build your confidence in handling them now rather than hoping they will take care of themselves when you are at your goal weight.

Ok, enough realism! Lets get back to that Spring optimism!

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 4, 2017 · 4:08 pm

Myth #8: The Fitness “Expert”

Fitness expert

When you seek a professional to give you advice or provide a service, whether it is for electrical wiring in your home or getting a haircut, what do you look for? Of course you look to a source you can trust – a professional with the required certification, training, and experience.  It is important to know that the field of fitness has no requirements for professionals. Anyone can call themselves a fitness expert. Our source for advice about how to move and be well is sadly under-regulated and as a result, full of myths and mindsets that are not science-based. This means that right now, you, as a fitness consumer, need to stay educated or your exercise advice may lead you in the opposite direction of the motivation and fitness you are seeking.

Next time you listen to advice about exercise on TV or the internet, notice why they call themselves an “expert.”  Are they highlighting that they  a) have a personal success story,  b) were successful as an athlete, or c) trained someone famous? These are all red flags! Even if they are certified, know that there are no requirements for certification programs and no one is ensuring that person’s certification is up to date. Our professional organizations for degrees and certified exercise professionals are working on this, but it is a very slow process!

Currently, there are two sites that provide helpful information about fitness professionals for consumers. Use these sites to find a qualified professional who holds a certification that is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). This means the certification exam has met set standards for the exercise professional’s role as defined by the U.S. Department of Labor.

The United States Registry of Exercise Professionals maintains a list of professionals with any accredited certification. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) is the “gold standard” for certifying exercise professionals. The ACSM continuously clarifies the various levels of training for exercise professionals,  defining their role and scope of practice clearly. This makes it easier to find a professional who has the right level of training for you, whether you are without health concerns and looking for a qualified personal trainer or have a health concern and need a clinical exercise professional to safely guide you with exercise. Check the ACSM ProFinder to find professionals with this level of certification and training in your area.

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The myth here is that just because someone looks fit they know about how to help you get fit too.   Most important is to trust your instincts.   If the advice you are receiving is not leading to feeling better right away, keep searching for the right professional for you.  Remember, you don’t need to suffer now to feel good later. If exercise is causing increased pain, speak up.  If the professional you are working with tells you the pain is necessary to lose weight,  walk away from it and find a new approach.   My hope is that some day, this will be easier for you as a consumer. Until then, let’s not let the confusion get in the way of exercising consistently and enjoying movement.

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 | March 28, 2017 · 4:10 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.

 

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by | February 13, 2017 · 3:57 pm

Myth #4: Fitness Challenges

 

Squat challenge

Dream Arms Challenge

14 Day Toned Arms Challenge

30 day Butt and Gut Challenge

Fun Fitness Challenge

Burpies Challenge

These are just a few that came up in an internet search for “fitness challenges”.  There are several myths wrapped up in one here:

  1. I need rigid structure to be motivated 
  2. I will have “dream arms” (or other body part) from doing more of the “right” exercises
  3. Someone else knows what is best for my body
  4. I just need a jump-start and THEN I will be motivated

Lets take these one at a time:

  1. I need the structure of a program to stay motivated:  Research indicates true lasting motivation comes from the inside.  When we rely on external sources, such as a program, a trainer, and exercise partner,  a challenge, it does not last.   Internal motivation is when we connect what we are doing with why we are doing it.  Exercising not to lose weight but because of what you want from weight loss – to be able to play with kids, feel more comfortable and confident in your body, to travel and enjoy social activities, etc.  Structure, boundaries and habits are only motivating when they are keeping you on the road to your own personal definition of success.
  2. I need an exercise to work this part of my body.  Spot reducing is a myth.  Exercising to “work” a certain part of the body is exercise based on this myth that is widely promoted in the media.   This is a big red flag for most fitness challenges – the promise of slimming or sculpting a certain area of the body.  Lets face it, dream arms, or any other body part is based mainly on the photo-shopped images we see in the media.    Every image we see is touched up to perfection.  Very few people actually look like that, and if they do it is a combination of great genetics and a lot, (a lot) of time and effort.  Most of all, any changes are temporary, disappearing once the program is done.
  3. What is the right program for me? The fact is that what your body tells you when you are exercising is your best guide.  The right exercise for you is the one that provides a comfortable challenge for the body systems (ie: cardiovascular system, the muscle-skeletal system, the nervous system)  and leaves you feeling better, mentally and physically, than before exercise.  If your goal is to lose weight in order to feel better, and exercise leaves you too sore the next day to enjoy life, you just missed another day to feel good.
  4. When I see “results” I will be motivated to keep going.  What are the results we are looking for?  Weight Loss?  Sculpted arms? Lost inches?  As we discussed in number 1, these are external goals and they don’t last.  Instead ask yourself why do you want to lose weight, have sculpted arms, or less inches?  So you can feel confident, have energy, feel good about your self?   Those are your internal results.  Now, exercise so you feel more confident, have more energy, feel good about yourself today and every day.  That is what provides the true motivation to keep going.

If you are looking for lasting motivation, skip the fitness challenges and go for the real challenge in fitness for well-being.. Learning to trust your body.  Practicing being kind to yourself.  Then you will be much more likely to want to take the best possible care of you every day.  You will discover how to move so you feel better today and every day going forward!

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 7, 2017 · 7:30 pm

Myth # 2: Scientific Discoveries

running“Scientists have discovered the best exercise to help people get healthy and lose weight”. As you can imagine, this article caught my eye this morning.  The myth that research can “discover the best” of anything, much less exercise,  keeps these headlines alive in the media.  Subliminally we can be bombarded with broad sweeping statements and recommendations about exercise for weight loss and health.  The simple act of skimming the news or social media can leave us more confused than motivated.

Because you are a savvy fitness consumer however, I know you read between the headlines.  This study is actually very interesting, but far from a discovery of the best exercise to lose weight and get healthy!

The study was published in the Journal Physiological Reports in December 2016. The actual title was:   The impact of exercise intensity on whole body and adipose tissue metabolism during energy restriction in sedentary overweight men and postmenopausal women.  Not quite as catchy, huh?!

Here is the info:

  •  The study involved 38 men and women, average age of 52 years old.  It is nice that it was not on college students and it was a mix of men and women.  Keep in mind, 38 people in one three-week study do not discover anything.  The data simply adds to our understanding.
  • Two groups, one exercised at 50% and one at 70% measured maximal exercise capacity.  Both groups exercised on a treadmill five times a week for three weeks, for the amount of time it took them to burn 400 calories at that exercise level (burning a total of 2000 extra calories a week).  Both groups reduced their calorie intake by 5000 calories a week.
  • Each group lost about the same amount of weight (no statistical difference).
  • The study actually looked at what happened in the fat cells of these participants. Both groups improved insulin sensitivity, lipid profiles, and markers of inflammation.

The take away here is that you have options.  You can do a high intensity shorter duration session or a lower intensity longer duration.  Both will add to weight loss and improve cell function.  (Despite the “fat burning” programs on most machines, lower duration is not better for weight /fat loss. This too is a myth.) They study did not mention the difference between the time the two groups had to exercise to burn those 400 calories.  My estimate it would be about 10-15 minutes extra.  Other studies have found that calorie burning can be broken up through the day, and actually may add to more health benefits.  So you might walk moderately for 30 minutes in the morning and then do another 15 min walk at lunchtime. The great news is that exercise does not need to be hard to get the benefits!!!  Something IS better than nothing!

This study just looked at cardiovascular exercise.  Remember, it is important to strive for a balance of time spent between strength training and cardiovascular exercise.  Each provide different benefits and cannot be combined very well.  If you are missing strength training in your exercise minutes, you are missing out.

Keep reading between the headlines and learning about what works best for you.  Although scientists did NOT discover the BEST exercise for weight loss and health, we do have more evidence to keep moving!

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 | January 18, 2017 · 4:05 pm