Author Archives: keepitmovingweekly2

Now that the weather is better… Learn how to be an all-season exerciser

This is the most wonderful time of the year to be an exercise physiologist! Everyone I talk to is more motivated to exercise now that the weather is better!

In this lovely time of year, you have two choices with how you think about exercising that can make all the difference in your future springtime enjoyment:

  1. Enjoy spring and summer and don’t think about winter. Hopefully next winter will be better…
  2. Enjoy spring and learn from what you are noticing right now to help you become a self-motivated all season exerciser

Option number two may seem like more work, but when you think about, its much less work than option number one. The discomfort of being in a body that is not ready for the spring activities you want and need to do takes a lot of mental and physical work. The guilt of not exercising all winter when you know you should is a big energy drain too!

Let’s make option number two easier. Take a few minutes to go through these three steps. Writing them down increases your chances of success:

  1. Write down what you notice about what your body lost this winter, based on how you feel now. Do you wish you had more strength? Stamina? Mobility? If you feel great and ready for spring, write down what you did that helped you keep your strength stamina and mobility through the winter.
  2. Write down what you want to enjoy now that is challenging. If you are able to enjoy what you want, write down what worked to keep you ready for that activity all winter.
  3. Brainstorm all the things you are thinking you could have/should have done this winter for exercise. If you did exercise all winter, write down what kept you active.

Tuck this away in your September calendar. In the fall you will be so glad you have a personalized guide to get you started with a motivating plan for exercising through the winter. I will remind you to look at this list when the weather starts getting colder and the days get shorter again.

Now, let’s get out there and enjoy this beautiful weather!

Keep Moving be well, and enjoy spring!

Janet

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by | April 19, 2021 · 7:09 pm

Exercising with a hernia

A hernia is caused by a weakness in the muscle and connective tissue in part of the body. There are many types of hernia but they are most common in the abdominal area. Knowing how to move and exercise can help to reduce pain, and help you minimize the limitations and promote healing of a hernia.

This blog provides basic and general information about exercising with or to prevent a hernia. Consult your physician for information specific to your condition. If you are a UMass Memorial Weight Center patient, contact the center to know if you are eligible for a telehealth visit and we can discuss your exercise plan.

Exercising with or to prevent an abdominal hernia starts with understanding your abdomen structure and function. Your spine is set up to be very mobile to allow for freedom of movement. The abdominal muscles job is to support and protect your abdomen while you move freely.

When the joints of your spine are lined up in their strongest position, its called alignment. The job of the core muscles is to hold your spine in alignment as you move. When your spine is out of alignment, for example when you are ‘slouching’ or when you are standing with your chest out and shoulders back (i.e.: military posture), there is greater pressure from the inside out on your abdominal muscles. If there is any weakness in these muscles and connective tissue that holds them together, that pressure can make the weakness grow, and can make a hernia worse.

Knowing how to position your own body to be in alignment is the first and most important step in helping or preventing a hernia. The more moments of the day you spend in alignment, the more chance the wall has to heal rather than be strained. The first step to exercising with a hernia is not during typical exercise time but to pay attention to how your body is positioned in moments of your day that you are not moving.

The next step is knowing how to use your core to support your abdomen, so when you move you reduce the strain on the abdominal wall. The most effective equipment for strengthening your core is your brain. The ability to contract your core to support your body to stay in alignment as you move strengthens your built in brace that supports your abdominal wall you as you move. Your nervous system is what controls your muscles. When you strengthen your brains ability to turn those muscles on and off consciously, you will be helping them to support you even when you are not thinking about it consciously.

Exercises like planks, sit ups, crunches can all strain rather than strengthen the abdominal wall. Since they don’t teach the core to do its job, and wont make you lose belly fat, they work best when you don’t do them! Simply using your brain to turn on your core to support you as you move is the way to a stronger core.

Finally, choose types of exercise that keep you in this aligned position and able to use your core to support that position. Exercises where you are bent over mean gravity will be adding to that internal pressure on your abdominal wall. Choose exercises you can be upright as much as possible. Exercises like push ups and bent over rows would be an example of positions to avoid if you have a hernia. Do a chest press and row with exercise bands or pullies instead so you can be upright while strengthening these movements. During cardiovascular exercise, choose types that allow you to be in alignment such as a treadmill, and not bent over, like on a spin bike. Choose upright positions and use your core muscles for support during stretching too.

Understanding the structure of your body, how its set up to move with the least strain, and paying attention to body positions throughout your day as well as when exercising, can go a long way for staying strong and moving with more confidence when you have a hernia.

Keep moving, be Well

Janet

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by | April 6, 2021 · 9:37 pm

Ready for Spring 2021!

It’s hard to believe, but this weekend we “Spring Forward” on the clocks and we are heading back at longer, warmer days. Although it is not officially Spring, the anticipation of it is definitely in the air!

That means it time to check in on how your Spring Training went over the past few months. In October 2020, I invited you to write down your plan for how you were going to use exercise over the Winter to be ready for enjoying Springtime fun. Here are the questions I asked:

  1. What do I want to be able to do in the Spring of 2021? Choose a physical activity that you enjoy or is important to you. Maybe enjoying a hike with family members or doing the gardening with more ease.
  2. What do I need to be able to do those activities? Strength? Stamina? Mobility? This will help you decide what types of exercise are most important to you this winter. We generally need a mix of all three but which is your body needing most?
  3. What types of exercise can I do indoors to get more strength, stamina, and mobility? Fortunately there is a wide array of online exercise opportunities right now for cardio and for strength . If you are a UMass Memorial Weight Center patient, you have access to our very own online exercise courses for free.
  4. When will I do these types of exercises? Make a plan a and a plan b so you have a set schedule with some flexibility for the normal changes in life. Remember, small bouts work just as well as one longer bout. Be creative with how you fit exercise into your schedule
  5. How can I connect what I am doing for exercise with what I want to do in Spring? A picture of someone hiking or a plant to remind you of your garden? In those short dark cold days of winter, you are going to need a reminder that spring is coming and you will be ready!

This week it’s time to check in. How did it go? Write down what worked and what didn’t work. Put it in your calendar for October 2021 when we plan our Spring Training again. Whether you achieved your goals or not, this learning means that in the Fall you will be setting smarter goals and plans.

If you accomplished what you set out to when you made your plan in the Fall, congratulations!

If you did not, there is no time like the present to get started. Start small and progress gradually, giving your body time to adapt but you can still help your body have more stamina, strength and mobility for all those fun Springtime and Summertime activities!

Add your comments below about what you discovered this Winter about how to stay motivated so you are ready for Spring.

Keep Moving, Be Well!

Janet

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by | March 9, 2021 · 10:24 pm

Slow Aging with Muscle Power

When you think of getting older, what comes to mind? Getting weaker? Less able to do things on your own? Research consistently shows we can flip the script about what it means to ‘get older’. Although you cannot stop the years, being proactive about telling your muscles what you want them to be able to do can make a big difference. Specifically telling your body to keep your muscle power is one of the top ways to slow the aging process.

Muscle strength is the ability to move against gravity. Muscle power is the ability to use your strength quickly. Studies show muscle power declines earlier and more quickly with age compared to muscle strength. Your muscle power can predict how limited you will be as you grow older.

Power training has been shown to have a greater impact on bone strength and on functional activities like getting up from a chair and climbing stairs than traditional strength training. Considering weight loss can accelerate muscle and bone loss, this is especially important if you have lost weight. For anyone who has witnessed a loved one age, and struggle to get up from a chair or climb stairs, you can see how valuable it would be to keep your muscle power.

How do you build and keep your muscle power? If images of Olympic powerlifting come to mind, don’t worry, this is not what I am talking about. Power training is when you do strength training exercises with controlled speed when going against gravity and slow speed with gravity. For example, if you are doing a squat go slow on the way down and quick on the way up.. You can do this with any strength exercise such as on weight machines or with free weights. However, functional exercises that mimic movements of daily life work best, because they will have the best transfer to your ability to do things like get up from a chair or lift something overhead.

Use a light level of resistance to start because this takes more energy and focus. Once it is easier to do the movement with speed, progress to a moderate level of resistance. You don’t need as much resistance to build power as you do to build strength, so this is a great option if you do not have or don’t want to lift heavier weights. Add a power set only after you have built the muscle memory for doing an exercise with light weights and slow speed first. The power set takes more mental focus, so be sure to turn off any distractions, like the TV, so you get the most from what you are doing.

Building and keeping your muscle power adds a bit of certainty to an especially uncertain stage of life. Keep moving by telling your muscles you want them to stay strong and powerful for as long as possible and enjoy the confidence that comes from knowing you are slowing the aging process.

Keep Moving, Be Well

Janet

Sources:

Reid KF, Fielding RA. Skeletal muscle power: a critical determinant of physical functioning in older adults. Exerc Sport Sci Rev. 2012;40(1):4-12. doi:10.1097/JES.0b013e31823b5f13

Daly RM, Dalla Via J, Duckham RL, Fraser SF, Helge EW. Exercise for the prevention of osteoporosis in postmenopausal women: an evidence-based guide to the optimal prescription. Braz J Phys Ther. 2019;23(2):170-180. doi:10.1016/j.bjpt.2018.11.011

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by | March 2, 2021 · 4:58 pm

Your weight is up! Now What?

Weight gain that has nothing to do with  calories

You get on the scale and UUGGHH!, Up five pounds!!! What? How?

Your mind quickly goes back in time to scan for possible slip ups. Could it have been that cookie? Was it that day I only took 2000 steps? Ugh, I’m so stupid! Why did I do that?!

Then your brain jumps to the future and formulates a plan. I’m going to eat only vegetables and protein today and get on that exercise bike for an hour, twice today. Time to get back on track!

But wait! Before you race off to burn more calories than you take in, stop for a minute and consider what else the scale might be telling you.

Remember the scale measures everything. It will never give you an accurate measure of your success with what you want from weight loss. It is a general guide, best used for a big picture look at if your body weight is trending upward or downward.

The day to day fluctuation in weight are more likely showing your levels of inflammation; the level of fluid in your body. This is still valuable information, but only if you can calm your brain long enough to consider what has been going on recently that could be causing inflammation.

  1. Pain: Are your muscles sore? Have you had an injury lately? Pain is inflammation. Keep in mind, there is no such thing as a ‘good sore‘ from exercise. Soreness simply means you have made more work than your body can handle right now, and it is letting you know. There is no gain from pain caused by over-exercising. (except weight gain that is!).
  2. Sleep: Sleep is when your body heals and repairs and clears inflammation. If you are low on quality sleep your body is not getting enough time for this important task.
  3. Stress: Whether it is from external stressors, such as a family illness or busy time at work or internal stress like self-criticism and self-doubt, your body responds to real or potential threats by getting ready for a possible injury, and that raises inflammation
  4. Illness: You could be fighting off an illness or are you just recovering from one. Consider your energy level and other symptoms that may be telling you your immune system is working overtime.

Inflammation plays an essential role in healing and injury repair. It is there to keep your body safe and healthy. When it goes up, it is a sign your body needs more attention. Exercise is a great anti-inflammatory, in the right dose. Excessive exercise could actually make matters worse by giving your body more to recover from rather than helping it with healing and repair. Listen to your body to know how much is enough to reduce inflammation. Several short bouts of exercise at a light intensity spread out throughout your day, done in a way that lowers stress and helps you sleep can be a great tool for helping your body heal and repair.

When your weight is up, pause and consider all the possible reasons and then give your body what it needs to be healthy and well.

Keep Moving, Be Well

Janet

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by | February 16, 2021 · 6:50 pm