Category Archives: Exercise and Movement Science

Does exercise really need to be painful to see results?

Despite our ingrained belief that exercise needs to be painful, sweaty and uncomfortable to get results, there is no evidence that pain is needed to improve fitness. Yet, the belief lives on through media images and tough exercise programs all based on the four word mantra “no pain no gain”. Interestingly, there is plenty of evidence from neuroscience that pain will most certainly keep you from staying motivated. Do we really need to be in pain, exhausted and sweaty to get results from exercise? Lets take a look.

What results do you want from exercise?

The first question to ask yourself is “what results do I want from exercise?”. If you want to be an athlete and gain a competitive edge, yes, you will need to endure some pain. If you just want “aesthetic fitness”; to look better in a bathing suit or body building stage, ye,s pain and fatigue are likely going to be side effects of your training routine. If you are exercising to feel better mentally and physically, be healthy and well, both now and in the future, pain will actually take you in the opposite direction, leading you away from the results you really want.

“No Pain No Gain” Is Not Meant for You

The saying “No Pain No Gain” was invented for athletes to remind them that if you want to gain a competitive edge, pain is going to be part of the process. It was NOT invented to mean that you have to be in pain to get gain. If you are not exercising to be an athlete, this saying is simply not meant for you.

But What About a Good Sore?

The term a ‘good sore’ was born out of the misuse of the saying “no pain no gain”. It comes from the belief that muscle soreness means you are burning more calories and fat, getting more muscle tone and making progress toward losing weight and getting ‘in shape’. Yet, there is not one published study that shows muscle soreness is necessary for improving strength, burning calories or fat, or improving muscle tone.

Not a single study!

The term ‘good sore’ is really an oxymoron. There is no good reason to be sore.

Isn’t Soreness Part of Getting Back in Shape?

I often hear from patients, “yes it’s painful but its because I am overweight and out of shape”. When we take a step back from that statement, and see that there is no benefit to pain, we realize that it is not your body that is the problem, it is the exercise you are doing to get back into shape. When you adapt exercise for your body, rather than thinking your body just has to get used to an exercise you think you need to do, the pain goes away, enjoyment goes up and so does consistency.

Science Says: No pain, More Gain

So the body scientists agree, there is no gain in pain. The brain scientists also agree that pain is a sure sign motivation will fade. Your brain is hardwired to avoid what makes you feel worse, and repeat what makes you feel better. When exercise is painful, your body is telling your brain this is something to avoid. No matter how much you tell yourself it’s a good sore, your brain is going to believe what your body is feeling and eventually your will make excuses why you cannot exercise.

When you know how to adapt exercise so it does not cause pain, and instead leaves you feeling better, you gain something much more valuable for results – the ease of staying motivated! Consistency is how we get results that last.

Bottom Line About Pain and Exercise

If the ‘No Pain No Gain” mantra rattles around in your head when you are exercising (or thinking of exercising), trade it for a way of thinking about exercise that is meant for you. There is no gain in pain. Pain is simply a sign something needs to change.

  1. Learn how to move the way your body is designed to move so exercises feels good
  2. Notice when your brain is telling your body what it should be able to do and instead let your body tell your brain what it can do now.
  3. Notice when exercise makes you feel better physically (less pain, more energy, less anxious, not sore, etc). That will help your brain want to choose to do it again.
  4. Use a slow gradual progression when increasing exercise. Your body can adapt to only 10% more each week. Slow and steady gets you results.

Whew! Isn’t it great to know you don’t have to endure pain to get results!

Keep Moving, Be Well

Janet

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by | October 6, 2020 · 8:51 pm

Is it your body or your mind holding you back?

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The header at the top of this page is a collection of pictures of people who are on a weight loss journey. They are all at various stages on that journey, most are not at their goal weight yet.  However, each of them are now doing things they could not do before losing weight.  It is quite inspiring to see these smiling faces enjoying life while on the journey. How did they overcome their body and get so fit?  It took changing their mind so their body didn’t get in the way.

 The brain is a reality simulator.  What you imagine can seem very real.  Just think of how you feel when waking up from a dream.  The feelings can stay with you for a while, even though it was all in your head.

When your body is carrying extra weight, it can hold you back from exercising and doing many other activities you once easily enjoyed.  It can seem like you cannot exericse and it would be better to wait until you lost some weight to get started.  What you are feeling in your body is very real.  Just like a dream however, what your brain believes about how much is enough exercise may not be the reality.  Your expectations could be based on your memories of what you used to be able to do and what you want to be able to do now.  They could also be based on recommended amounts, which are really general guidelines.    Just like your dream, your mind can hold beliefs about what your body should be able to do, even when your body is telling you that it cannot do it.

This can feel like your body is getting in the way, holding you back from exercising.  However it is really your ideas about what it means to exercise that is holding you back.  Your body does not know the recommendations.  It only knows what it can do now, in this moment.  Your body does not know how many calories you want it to burn, it only knows what it will burn based upon what will be keep you healthy and well.  Your body does not know the numbers displayed on the weight machine or the treadmill or your activity monitor.  It only knows if it can tolerate what you are asking it to do.

If it cannot tolerate it, your body will let you know through pain and fatigue. Pain and fatigue are a sign of too  much too soon. Contrary to popular beliefs, pain is not a sign of progress (nope, not even muscle soreness). If you body has what it needs to do what you are asking it to do, it will let you know instantly through more energy, greater freedom of movement, more focus and a better mood.  Basically, your body is smarter than your brain when it comes to exercise. Your body and brain work best when they work together, that means your brain observes your body rather than dictates what it should be able to do.

So the next time you start thinking your body is working against you, ask what it is trying to tell you.  The answers may not be clear right away, and usually it is not telling you to stop exercise completely.  It is usually telling you it needs less for a while until it has time to adapt. You will know you have found the just right level and type of exercise by how you feel during and after exercise.  Your body  will tell you if and when it is ready for more. Until then, keep the peace between your brain and your body, by trusting you body to tell your brain how much is enough exercise right now.

Keep Moving Be Well,

Janet

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by | September 18, 2019 · 6:44 pm

The weight loss you don’t want

Why exercise for diabetes_(9)

When you are trying to lose weight, every pound down on the scale is exciting.  It’s an affirmation that what you are doing is working.

Or is it?

If the goal is just to lose weight, regardless of your health or how your body feels or functions at the lower weight, then yes, it is working.

But if your reasons for losing weight are to feel and function better, be healthier, live longer and look better, research is affirming the scale is not the best tool.

Weight loss can be up to 30% muscle loss. This the weight loss you don’t want! It turns out, muscle is more about our health and longevity then we ever thought. Here is some of the recent research backed connections between muscle loss and health:

  • Joint Replacement:  Patients who had less muscle mass had more complications, slower wound healing, increased risk of infections and longer recuperation after  total knee replacement surgery.
  • Cancer: Patients who had lower levels of muscle mass had reduced ability tolerance of treatment. Patients with less muscle mass having surgery for colon cancer had a higher incidence of both blood transfusion and complications after surgery.
  • Gastric Sleeve:  Patients with lower muscle mass were at greater risk of a leak after having a sleeve procedure for weight loss.
  • Osteoporosis:  The loss of bone and muscle have a huge impact on how a person ages.  Researchers now know that there is a strong connection between loss of muscle and loss of bone.  Researchers are asking we think of muscle loss and bone loss one disease because they know that increasing muscle mass has a direct effect on improving bone mass.
  • Others:  Reduced muscle mass has been connected to increased risk of falling, bone fractures, reduced longevity, fatigue, arthritis, as well as emotional health including depression, anxiety, and social isolation.

The medical name for muscle loss is Sarcopenia and it is now considered a disease.  However, this is not the kind of disease a medication can fix.  Muscle, like the rest of your body is a use it to keep it commodity.  The way to keep it, or get it back if you lost it is through strength training exercise.

sarcopenia

How do you know if you are losing muscle?  Well, that is part of the problem.  Measuring muscle mass has not been quite as convenient as getting on the scale.  Fortunately, researchers have found there is an easier way to test muscle loss. Its called a hand grip test.  It is strongly connected with how much muscle mass you have.  No tool is perfect, but this is one of our best ways to know if you are holding on to your muscle mass as you age and as you lose weight.

Soon, we will be incorporating this test as part of our measurements before and after weight loss surgery to give you another number to see how you are doing.  Since the connection between muscle mass and health has the potential for being a reliable measurement of true progress with weight loss for health, these numbers are ones to pay attention to as you lose weight.

Keep Moving, Be Well

Janet

 

Sources:

  1. The impact of sarcopenic obesity on kneeand hip osteoarthritis: a scoping review Godziuket al. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders (2018)
  2. Preoperative grip strength measurement and duration of hospital stay in patients undergoing total hip and knee arthroplasty A. J. Shyam Kumar. European journal of orthopedic surgery, July 2013
  3. Is sarcopenia a better predictor of complications than body mass index? Sarcopenia and surgical outcomes in patients with rectal cancer Colorectal Disease  SB Jochum, 2019, 
  4. Preoperative Detection of Sarcopenic Obesity Helps to Predict the Occurrence of Gastric Leak After Sleeve Gastrectomy, Martin Gaillard, Obesity Surgery August 2018
  5. Osteoporosis and sarcopenia: two diseases or one?, Jean-Yves Reginster, Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, Jan. 2016
  6. Interaction of nutrition and and exercise on bone and muscle, Endocrinology 2019
  7. Sarcopenia FDA report, April 2017
  8. Sarcopenia is a disease –  why are we looking for a medication.? The Conversaion

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by | August 27, 2019 · 7:30 pm

Exercise and dementia

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Dementia is a medical condition that hits close to home for more and more people.  According to the World Health Organization, around 50 million people have dementia, and there are nearly 10 million new cases every year.  Chances are, it is affecting your life through those you know and care about.

In 1999 a group of scientists discovered that running caused new brain cells to form in mice (3).  Before this, it was believed we had a set number of brain cells at birth and it was not changeable.  This and other studies on exercise and the brain shifted our thinking about exercise beyond just the health of the body.    This started a cascade of studies that are providing more and more information about how exercise helps the brain in humans. The brain is now is know to respond to exercise much like a muscle -getting weaker with less exercise and stronger with regular exercise.

It has been shown through research that 35 percent of risk factors for developing dementia can be attributed to modifiable lifestyle choices, with exercise being a large portion of what we can control in our chances of getting dementia (4).

Although maintaining a healthy weight is part of that healthy lifestyle that helps prevent dementia, how you lose weight matters. In one study between three sets of people—individuals who lost weight through restrictive eating, people who lost weight through exercise, and a group that used a combination of the two—only the groups who had exercise as part of their weight loss regimen noted an improvement in brain function (2).

How exercise makes the difference in your brain is still not fully understood but it seems to improve brain function by:

  • Increasing the size of the hippocampus (the part of your brain responsible for memory and learning)
  • Increased BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), called fertilizer for the brain by John Ratey, MD because it is an important brain chemical in boosting memory and learning
  • Increased blood flow to the brain

However, one factor that cannot be ignored when we talk about these brain benefits of exercise; the role stress plays in helping or limiting these brain benefits. Prolonged and unpredictable stress can interfere with brain cell growth, whereas mild stress (what we might call a “good challenge”), improves brain cell growth (3).  We need to then carefully plan exercise so it is not stress producing, but rather to be a good challenge for the body and brain. 

That means that the type, level and frequency of your exercise plan needs to be something you look forward to, not something that is boring or that is overwhelming. The place you choose to exercise in needs to help you feel confident, not self-conscious  Exercise needs to fit into your life rather than make your life fit around your exercise plan.  Finding that sweet spot takes careful planning, mindful awareness, and a good understanding about how much is enough exercise to get what you want from it.    This balance is not only possible, it is essential if you are going to use exercise to help your brain function at its best for your whole life. 

Keep Moving, Be Well,

Janet

 
 

1. Exercise and hippocampal neurogenesis: a dogma re-examined and lessons learned.  Patrick Z. Liu, BA and Robin Nusslock.  2018

2. Why Exercise Is Good for Your Brain. Mylea Charvat, Ph.D. January 2019

3. Adult neurogenesis and physical activity. José R. Alonso. January 2018

4. .Dementia prevention, intervention, and care. Commission in Lancet. July 2017

 

 

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by | August 13, 2019 · 7:46 pm

Exercise, weight loss surgery and bone strength

Why exercise for diabetes_(7)

 

Losing weight after weight loss surgery is quite exciting.  To see the weight finally coming off, wear smaller clothing, and be able to move through life with more ease are some of the things that put a smile on the face of many patients here at the Weight Center.

Those markers of success do not however tell you what you are losing.  Over time what does show up is a loss of bone mass in people who have weight loss surgery.  We all know the loss of bone can lead to a fracture which really puts a damper on life.  Maintaining bone is not just about your body, its about your lifestyle and ability to enjoy life.

An encouraging study was just published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism that concludes “exercise should be incorporated into post-op care of bariatric patients…to mitigate the adverse effects of the surgery on bone mass”.

They came to this conclusion because the folks in the study who did exercise three times  for six months consisting of 30 – 60 minutes moderate intensity cardio (walking) and three sets of 8-12 repetitions of seven strength training exercises were able to maintain bone mass. The people in the ‘usual care’ group lost bone mass.

What the study does not tell us is if this is the amount of exercise you need to maintain bone mass after weight loss surgery.  Could you get away with less?  Maybe.  What we do know from many other studies is that walking or cardio is just not enough. Strength training is needed to maintain bone.  So if you have had, or plan on having weight loss surgery, plan on making strength training part of your post surgery routine.

One thing is for sure, exercise gives you something weight loss cannot – stronger bones and thus a better chance of staying active for a long time.

Keep Moving, Be Well,

Janet

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by | July 31, 2019 · 6:19 pm