Tag Archives: Fitness

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

 

Leave a comment

by | May 21, 2018 · 7:31 pm

The Catch 22 of Exercise

information-boards-105139_1280

When it comes to the recommended amounts of exercise that we hear all the time, there is a huge Catch 22. Each time guidelines and recommendations are updated, there is more and more evidence about how much exercise can help us live healthier lives.  It should be very motivating.

For example, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) first put out guidelines  for physical activity recommendations in 2008.  A 2018 scientific report was just released to the public and it will be used for the updated guidelines coming out later this year.   The report highlights some updated findings about the benefits of exercise:

The Scientific Report demonstrates that, across the full age spectrum, regular physical activity provides a variety of benefits that help us feel better, sleep better, and perform daily tasks more easily. The report also demonstrates that some benefits happen immediately. A single bout of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity can improve that night’s sleep, reduce anxiety symptoms, improve cognition, reduce blood pressure, and improve insulin sensitivity on the day that it is performed. Most of these improvements become even larger with the regular performance of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity…  There is newly documented health benefits” as well

  • reduced risk of excessive weight gain in adults, children, and pregnant women
  • improved cognitive function
  • a reduced risk of dementia
  • reduced risk of cancer of the bladder, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, lung, and stomach
  • for adults who have a chronic disease or condition such as osteoarthritis, hypertension, or type 2 diabetes, a reduced risk of developing a new chronic condition and reduced risk of progression of the condition they already have, plus improvements in quality of life and physical function

We now have more reasons we should increase our physical activity and exercise regularly.  This is where we get into tricky territory, with that word “should”.   More should’s do not lead to more motivation. In fact, the opposite is true.  The bigger our “should” the lower our motivation.

choice-2692575_1280We as humans are motivated by having a sense of choice.  When we are told what to do, we tend to shut down.  Sure, we can tough it out for a while to “do the right thing” or because we “have to” or “make” ourselves do something we know is good for us.  The problem is all of this takes will-power.  As it turns out, will-power is a limited resource because it takes brain energy.  Eventually, we will need to use our will-power for another area of our life, without enough left over for exercise.   This is how “life gets in the way”  and our best plans to “be good” are out the window.

The things we want to do because they are important to us are instantly motivating.  Hobbies, spending time with family and friends, working for a cause you are passionate about, these are most likely instantly rewarding in some way.  Yes of course you want to lose weight and be healthy, but that is not instant enough.  Our brain likes instant positive “rewards” or benefits, a lot!   (which is why comfort foods are so attractive to our brain)

Life is dynamic.  We need will-power for those unexpected changes that are a normal part of life.  Everything from changes in weather to major life changes take will-power to push through.  We can’t rely on having the will-power to do what we should do for exercise in any sustainable way.

Those instant benefits mentioned above are a key. Pick the ONE instant benefit that you want the most each day.  Do you want to sleep better, feel better, elevate your mood or calm nerves?  Pick the ONE that is most energizing now and make THAT your reason to exercise each time. Design your exercise to get those results.  Let’s make exercise motivation easier.  Letting go of the should’s is one of the first steps to exercise motivation that lasts.

 

Leave a comment

by | April 17, 2018 · 7:47 pm

Read between the lines

pexels-photo-268460

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.

 

2 Comments

by | April 9, 2018 · 6:15 pm

What is yoga?

female-1300399_1280.png

Often, I am asked the question, “what is yoga?”

As a certified yoga teacher and exercise physiologist I love answering this question, because yoga is so much more than a form of exercise.    Yoga is one little word with so many approaches and interpretations.

The word yoga means “to unite”, to bring together all the parts of you – thoughts, emotions, body and heart to the present moment.   The purpose of the movements in yoga are to prepare your body for meditation, so your thoughts are less likely to be distracted in the past or future when meditating.    Five thousand years ago, it was understood that for our thoughts to calm we need to move first. 

Therefore, the movements in yoga are not about making your body look a certain way.  The power of the poses are in the mindset with which you do them.    Forcing your body into a position it is not ready to do and toughing it out, or criticizing yourself if you cannot do it well, is not yoga.  Moving your body into a position with the intention of listening to it, being kind to it,  by finding the level that is just challenging enough to hold your attention in the present moment is yoga.

Depending on how you do those movements, yoga can improve stamina, strength, balance, mobility – we can’t really put it in one category of fitness because it depends on how the movements are used.

But it is all yoga as long as you are moving in the present moment as an act of kindness to yourself.   It does not matter if this is done in a chair or on a yoga mat . It does not matter if you sweat.  It does not matter if you are very flexible.

“You can’t fail at yoga” is what I tell all my classes.   I find we need the reminder often because we tend to assess our ability to do an exercise based on our “performance”.  Because yoga is based on your mindset as you move, you cannot fail.  Yoga reminds us to shift our attention to how it feels on the inside, not how it looks on the outside.  Sometimes that shift happens easily, sometimes it takes a constant reminder to come back to the present moment and practice listening to your body.  This is why yoga is called a “practice”, not a “perfect”.

If you have ever felt like you “failed” at yoga, it was not yoga.  There are many yoga videos and classes that are designed to work with your body by using a chair or modifying poses to find what works best for your body right now.  Seek an instructor that teaches yoga by the true definition of the word.

Next blog we will answer “is yoga good for weight loss”?

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 | March 26, 2018 · 6:25 pm

Exercising with Asthma

pexels-photo-235837

When doing cardiovascular exercise, there is a line between the level that is a comfortable challenge for your breathing and the level that feels uncomfortable for your breathing.  When you have asthma, the difference between these two levels is a very thin line.  It often does not take much to cause breathing that is not only uncomfortable, but also scary.  The fear of an asthma episode with exercise can really drain motivation to do it at all.

This recent study found that people with elevated body weight and asthma had fewer episodes of asthma when exercise was part of weight loss when compared to a group losing weight without exercise.  They also had less depressive symptoms, improved sleep quality and improved sleep apnea too!

That sounds great in theory, but when it comes down to it, if you are concerned about your ability to breathe while exercising, this information still does not lead to motivation. The fact is we are motivated, or de-motivated, by what we experience, not what we think.   So exercising with asthma (or any breathing limitation) means you need to make sure your experience with exercise feels safe and comfortable for your breathing.

It is possible when you use your ability to self-monitor your exercise intensity.  Staying mindful while exercising means you can tune into the signals from your body as you start approaching that line, before moving into an uncomfortable challenge level.   The more in tune you are with those warning signals, the sooner you can slow down to bring it back to a comfortable breathing level.  Practicing the art of self-monitoring your breathing level while exercising means you are more likely to reduce your risks of an asthma episode with exercise.  That probably means you will have an easier time getting yourself motivated to do it regularly.

The bonus of regular exercise is your body adapts and with asthma the line between just enough and too much gets a little less fine.  You start building the ability to do more exercise before you reach the uncomfortable breathing level.  That can mean fewer episodes and freedom to do more activities at a comfortable breathing level.

If you have asthma, you know what triggers an asthma episode can change day to day and with different environments, so use this information in the way that is right for you.  But this skill is a key part of using regular cardiovascular exercise as part of the treatment for asthma and many other breathing limitations.

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 | March 19, 2018 · 5:51 pm

Tracking True Fitness

smart-watch-821559_1920(1)

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

1 Comment

by | March 12, 2018 · 6:09 pm

It’s that time again, part 2

nature-3185397_1280

Back in October, we had to make a choice.  What is this winter going to be about?  Will it be about hibernating or spring training?  Will we let all those great brain chemicals from being physically active on the nice long days just fade away, or will we keep moving even when it’s cold and dark outside?

How did your spring training plan go?

If that question was met with an “eye roll”, that’s OK.  This blog is not about checking in to see if you have been “good or bad” this winter. It’s all good, as long as you are learning!  Really!

In October 2018, I will be asking you the same question – What is your spring training plan?   When I do, you will want to be fueled with personalized information about what works and does not work for you to keep moving all winter long.

Take a moment to jot down your answers:

  • What did I learn over these past four months about staying physically active through the winter? 
  • What did I learn about what gets in the way of staying active in the winter? 
  • Based on this information, what will help me stay active next winter?

Place this information on the October page of your 2018 calendar.  Now, give yourself a pat on that back, knowing your spring training plan for next winter just got an upgrade!

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

 

Leave a comment

by | March 7, 2018 · 3:47 pm