Tag Archives: health

As the cost of medication is goes up, the cost of exercise stays the same.

The prices of the 20 most commonly prescribed brand-name drugs for seniors have risen nearly 10 times more than the annual rate of inflation over the past five years  CNN Report March 2018

Blog images(2)The rising cost of medications is in the news a lot isn’t it.  There are many ‘angles’ to these news stories,  but the one you care most about is how it is effecting your wallet  As you watch the cost of your medications rise, what can you do?  You need them, but they can be so costly.  This puts many people between a rock and a very hard place these days.

As you may have heard, the 2018 government guidelines for physical activity were released last week.  While that might not have been big news for you, it could be when you put a dollar sign next to those recommendations.

The amount of exercise recommended has not changed – 30 minutes five days a week (or the equivalent in terms of totaling 150 minutes a week) of moderate intensity exercise.   In terms of your time investment, it comes to less than 2% of your total time per week.

To put that into a dollar return for your 2% time investment, a 2016 study estimated a cost savings of $2,500 in medical expenses per person per year for people who do this amount of exercise.    You could think of exercise as a ‘tax rebate’ you receive a little bit every day.

Even better though, that ‘rebate’ is not only in the form of dollars, but an even more valuable resource – your enjoyment of life.  Designing your  150 minutes of exercise a week in the right way means you have a bit more energy for the people and things you love.  It means less days of missing out on life because you are not feeling well. It means you have an easier time enjoying life because of a better mood. (I could go on…)

These are the things you cannot put a dollar amount on – they are priceless!

Keep moving, Be Well,




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by | November 19, 2018 · 10:08 pm

How much is enough exercise for a healthy weight?

Blog imagesIn my 20’s I was living down south and worked at a busy ‘southern-style cooking’ restaurant right off the interstate. Customers were tired travelers, who wanted food fast so they could get back on the road. The kitchen was so full of chaos and ‘choice words’ that I would dread an order change because it meant getting my ‘head bit off’ by the cooks.  At the end of the night managers had a list of criticisms, and never gave a pat on the back for a job well done.  I would collapse when I got home, physically and mentally drained from the constant state of working hard and it never being ‘enough’.

Ever feel like that with exercise?  Like you always should be doing more?   It’s easy to get caught in the thinking that if you could step it up a bit you could get to the next level, burn more calories, or “fix” other parts of your body.  It can make the mere thought of exercise mentally and physically exhausting.

While working on a goal is motivating, the need to continuously come up with new more challenging goals to keep you motivated relies way too much on willpower, and not enough on the natural intrinsic motivation that made you want to lose weight in the first place.

After hearing story after story of patients, “stepping up” their exercise efforts only to get injured or lose motivation, I urge you to take time to find your level of ‘enough’.   It could save you a lot of time down the road!  Unless you are in athletic training of some kind, there is a level of ‘enough to achieve a healthy weight in a way that lasts.   Studies show that most of the the health benefits of exercise are enjoyed, regardless of weight.   Finding ‘your level of enough’ with exercise means you are taking charge of your health,  and that is one of the most compelling reasons most people give for losing weight.

Here are the estimated levels of exercise needed to get the health benefits from exercise. (I emphasize estimated because this is ‘in the lab’ and in real life I often see improvements with lower levels of exercise as long as they are done consistently):

  • Strength training for your whole body, twice a week, 8-12 repetitions, one set that brings your muscles to a comfortable challenging level that does not cause muscle soreness the next day.
  • Cardiovascular exercise three days a week for thirty minutes of continuous movement at a level that causes a moderate to comfortable challenge for your breathing.
  • Movement breaks for every hour of stillness done in a way that give you a mental and a physical break from the sedentary activity; ie: taking a brief walk, stretching, doing balance or agility exercises.
  • Stretching daily as movement breaks and after physical activities to help maintain or improve mobility, reduce inflammation.  This includes moving joints through their range of motion or holding stretch positions in a way that does not cause pain or discomfort.

This amount of exercise takes less than 2% of your total time. The key is doing quality exercise, the kind that is based on the science of how your body is designed to move,  so you don’t keep feeling like you need to increase the quantity of your exercise.

You might choose to do more, but know that you don’t have to do more to be healthy at any weight.

Keep Moving, Be Well,


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by | November 5, 2018 · 5:07 pm

It’s that time again! Spring Training!

Copy of bake bread(20)Congratulations to the Boston Red Sox and to all the fans out there!  Quite exciting.

Well, the Red Sox get four months until Spring Training starts.  But what about you?  When will your Spring Training begin?

If you have been following this blog for a year or more you know what I will suggest.  Start your Spring Training this weekend!  Why?  Because when the days start getting shorter, its natural for your daily physical activity level to drop as well.  The loss of strength and stamina that naturally happens when we are less active is quite invisible. It is often only seen on that first nice spring day when you want to go and do all those great outdoor activities, but your body has other ideas!

You know that the way to avoid that humbling spring awakening is to keep moving through the winter.  When you live anywhere with weather like we have in New England, calling your winter plan “Spring Training” can be just what you need to embrace winter as the time you get ready for spring.

So, lets take that energy from the Red Sox win and turn it into a plan for staying energized to keep moving all winter long.  Write down your winter plan based on what you have learned from past winters about what does not work and what works to keep you moving.

In spring we can celebrate by enjoying the long days outdoors again.

Keep Moving, Be Well,


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by | October 29, 2018 · 8:18 pm

How to keep exercising through the summer

Blog Title(1)Ahh Summer! The air is just lighter as we all take a collective sigh of relief that winter is over. We can relax for a while and enjoy being outside, recreating, vacationing.

As we do each year here on the Keep Moving Weekly blog,  lets pause and check in on how our exercise needs to adjust to this change in season.   Why?  Because….

Consistency is the holy grail of exercise. 

~ Michelle Segar, PhD

It is the consistency that makes it exercise. Exercise is defined assomething practiced in order to develop or improve a specific capability or skill”  If you practiced something sporadically, would you expect to keep that skill?    It is not how our body works.  Our body gets used to what we give it, in both directions. 

I find summer can be tricky when it comes to consistency with exercise.   We have this greater sense of optimism.  Life will be easier when the weather is better.  Well, parts of it yes.  But there is no denying  some changes in summer that make getting enough exercise a challenge.   Schedule changes, vacations, entertaining, travel and that “its summer!” mindset.  These are all wonderful parts of this time of year, to be enjoyed to the fullest.  We might justify taking time off from exercise because we are more active in the summer. However, we know that physical activity is not exercise.    We want to get to the fall feeling great because we have maintained our fitness level.  The good news it, it does not take as much time to maintain your fitness level.  It just takes some extra planning and attention during those lazy, hazy (sometimes crazy) days of summer.

  • Cardiovascular exercise:  do some form of cardio at least every three days.  If possible, exercise at your usual intensity, even if you can only fit in 10-15 minute sessions to maintain your stamina level.
  • Strength training:   one day a week will maintain your strength, twice a week will continue to improve strength.
  • Stretching:  frequency is important when it comes to stretching. However, Stretching is “portable” enough to do anywhere.  Stretching makes great movement breaks to  avoid the stiffness that comes from being still for a while (like on long car rides).

When the weather changes, its time to put some extra attention on how our exercise changes too.  Keep exercising through the summer by prioritizing consistency.  The payoff is enjoying the benefits of exercise year-round!

Keep moving, be well,


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by | May 29, 2018 · 6:06 pm

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,



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by | May 21, 2018 · 7:31 pm

The Catch 22 of Exercise


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.


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by | April 17, 2018 · 7:47 pm

Read between the lines


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,


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.



by | April 9, 2018 · 6:15 pm