Attention All-or-Nothing Exercisers; this is your big chance!

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Is exercise is the first thing to go when life gets stressful?  Do you feel like 10 minutes of walking or one set of strength training does not count as a ‘workout’?  Do you think unless you can’t work up a sweat or don’t ‘feel it’ the next day, why bother? These are all signs of being an all-or-nothing exerciser.  The good news is, when you exercise, you give it your all.  The challenge is, those stressful times when you need exercise the most to keep your body and mind calm, you think you can’t exercise.

The COVID-19 pandemic has given us all many challenges.  For many regular and dedicated exercisers, the stress has shifted them into the ‘nothing’ state of being. This is an unprecedented time.  With so many parts of our lives changing at once, it defiantly has been a challenge for many to maintain an exercise routine.  This time has also presented us with many opportunities.  If your exercise routine was derailed by the change in your lifestyle, I invite you to use this as a chance to get off that roller coaster of exercise motivation once and for all.  Here are some facts that can help shift your mindset from all-or-nothing to the more sustainable and success-producing mindset of ‘something is better than nothing’.

It only takes…

  • ten minutes of exercise to churn up those great brain chemicals that make you feel better mentally when you exercise.
  • one set twice a week to of a good quality strength training program to improve strength and once a week maintains your hard earned strength
  • 15 minutes three days a week of cardiovascular exercise to maintain stamina

Clearly, something is way better than nothing!

There are three big myths that keep the all-or-nothing approach alive:

  • Myth: You need to work up a sweat:  sweat only means your body is cooling itself off. It does not mean you are burning more calories or fat.  Sweat is a byproduct of some types of exercise in some people, but if you don’t sweat it does NOT mean exercise is not worth your time.
  • Myth: No Pain, No Gain:  Pain is also a byproduct of working your body harder than it was ready to do. Being sore the next day does not mean you got a better workout, it means you did too much too soon. This saying was meant for athletes, to remind them that pain is part of the process. For you and me, who just want to be healthy from exercising regularly, pain is not required.
  • Myth: Go Big or Go Home:  This saying too is for athletes or others who are exercising for a competitive edge.  Those of us who want to be healthy, we can go ‘small’ and know it’s enough.  In fact, several studies show that a few smaller bouts of exercise spread out throughout the day can have a better result for benefits like blood sugar control and building bone strength.  Go small and go often could be our motto!

So,  for all you all-or-nothing exercisers out there, this pandemic creates a tremendous opportunity to leave that stressful roller coaster behind and strengthen your  ‘something is better than nothing’ mindset.  Rather than seeking bigger and better challenges to get you motivated to start again (and again and again), take on  the ULTIMATE challenge of exercising in this ever-changing thing we call life – being a CONSISTENT exerciser.

Keep Moving, Be Well,

Janet

PS:  If you have transformed yourself from an all-or-nothing exerciser to a something is better than nothing highly consistent exerciser, post how you did it in the comments section.

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by | August 4, 2020 · 9:55 pm

Strategies for staying healthy and well in the new normal

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Since March, most of the articles on Keep Moving Weekly have focused on strategies and resources for staying healthy and well in this new normal we have found ourselves in.   Let’s summarize what we have covered so far.

Lower stress and a strengthen your immune system

In this article we discussed how the stress we are under right now can lower your immune system.  Knowing you are doing all you can to keep your immune system strong is one strategy to lower stress right now.  We reviewed how exercise is the antidote to stress, as long as it is not stress producing.  This article provides strategies for using exercise to reduce stress.

Adapting exercise for the COVID-19 outbreak

In this article we reviewed how to adapt your mindset about exercise for the changes we all have had to make with the COVID-19 outbreak.

In this article we reviewed how to create a home exercise routine.

  • Click here to find tips for online cardiovascular exercise
  • Click here to find tips for online strength exercise

Healthy eating during the COVID-19 outbreak

In this article one of our dietitians shared a wealth of information about eating while in quarantine and with limited access to your usual foods.

In this article one of our medical providers gave many valuable tips for getting control of comfort eating in this time of greater stress.

Working well when working remotely

In this article we discussed how to set up your home workstation in a way that minimizes the strain and maximizes energy.

In this article you will find tips for using exercise to help your body recover from more hours in front of a screen.

Keeping healthy habits as life returns to a new normal

 If you found yourself with more time to develop healthy habits during the lock-down, you may be wondering if you can keep them when life ramps up again. This article provides strategies for keeping those exercise habits and this article provides science-based tips for staying motivated when life changes.

These Keep Moving Weekly articles will continue to share information relevant to our life now, as we continue to work and live in this new normal.  What questions do you have about exercise right now?  Post them in comments and I will put that topic on the list for articles in the future.

Keep Moving, Be Well,

Janet

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by | July 28, 2020 · 3:06 pm

How to use exercise to stress less and stay safe in the new normal

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Since every aspect of our lives has been effected by the COVID-19 outbreak, it is an especially stressful time.  When you are in a stressful state, healing and repair are down-regulated. The more moments of the day you are in a stressed, anxious, or depressed state, the less your body can keep you safe, from not only COVID-19 but all the other threats to your health and well-being.   

The good news about that fact is the flip side.  When you are calm, both mentally and physically, your body can get back into a healing, repairing and protecting state. The more tools you have to shift out of stressed state and into a relaxed calm state,  the more chance you have of staying safe and well.

Exercise is something we know is important, but it is now one of our most essential tools for navigating this new normal while staying safe and well.  Why?  Because when you are stressed, your body is preparing for movement.   That means remedies to reduce stress that include movement are the ‘super-food’ of stress reduction.  Movement, that is not stress producing, gives your body and brain exactly what it needs in order to shift back into that magical calm state when you can truly ‘stay safe’.

Not all movement is going to reduce stress.  You could be moving but still adding on to your stress levels.  You could be moving and enjoying the activity, helping your body burn off that stress so it can get back to the state of calm.  

In order to supercharge your stress reduction, movement needs to be done in a way that does not add to stress.  This sounds obvious but it is where we often fall short of getting what we need most from exercise.   We make it so darn stressful to get enough exercise!

If there was ever a time we needed to make exercise less stressful, it is now!  There are several ways we can reduce the stress of exercising so it can supercharge our ability to stay safe and well right now:

Knowing you are doing enough: A few blogs ago we reviewed how much is enough exercise.  That feeling like you should be doing more is like a big weight on your mental to do list, leading to more stress.  Knowing you are doing enough frees up some much needed space in your list of things you ‘should’ do in day.

Knowing there is no gain in pain.   The term “no pain no gain” is often taken to mean that pain is a sign you are making progress from exercise.  What it really means is that pain is a side effect of pushing your body to do more than it is ready to do.  The saying is meant for athletes and military professionals who need to push their body to excel over the competition, to remind them pain is just part of the process.  It is not meant for those of us who want health benefits from exercising.  There is not one ounce of science behind the strongly held, and stress producing believe that pain is a sign of progress.  There is however loads of evidence that your brain is hardwired to avoid pain. Pain with exercise means your motivation is less likely to last.  Lose this idea that pain is necessary for exercise to ‘count’ and you will lose much of the stress of exercising.

Knowing how to keep it flexible:   I have spoken with many people lately who were happily moving along in a great exercise routine and then suddenly, the gym closed, schools closed, and their whole plan went up in smoke.  As frustrating as that is, the fact is life is full of changes.  Since exercise works best when it is consistent, using this time as an opportunity to think outside the box and create a flexible mindset about exercising is the way to reduce the stress of getting enough exercise.  Many of you have shared with me discoveries about home based cardio and strength programs you never thought you would do.  Others are using mini-workouts as ways to reduce the stress that builds up during a typical work day.  Getting creative with the way you use exercise is your best ally right now.

Take a moment to consider if exercise is adding to or reducing your stress right now.  Whether the guilt of not exercising is weighing you down or trying to get enough is adding to your stress levels, this is a great time to change course.  Start with these three steps to using exercise to reduce rather than add to stress and you are on your way to a new normal with more confidence you can stay safe and well.

Keep moving and be well,

Janet

 

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by | July 21, 2020 · 7:41 pm

How to keep your new exercise habits in the new normal. Part 2, how to stay motivated

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The one thing every one of us has in common right now is that our lifestyle has changed.  For some, it is filled with more time demands and less time for self care. For others, the social distancing has been a great opportunity to do more self care, catch up on home projects and enjoy moving in the outdoors with family.   We will use this next blog series to take a look at what changes you want to keep and which ones you need to adjust to allow you to keep moving and be well for the duration of this outbreak, and beyond.  

Last week we looked at how much is enough exercise so you are more confident you can fit exercise into a busy lifestyle.This week lets look at how to keep your brain wanting to come back for more, even as we move into the new normal in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Your brain is hardwired to choose what makes you feel better now. That is why comfort food works, its an instant hit of feel good chemicals to your brain and your brain says “wow, that feels good, lets do that again!”

The trick to getting that kind of response from your brain when you exercise comes from three steps

  1. Exercise in the way that makes your body feel better. If you don’t know how and you are a UMass Weight Center Patient, book an exercise appointment and we will figure it out.   If you are not part of the Weight Center, find an exercise professional who has a degree and training in exercise for health (not athletic training).  Look for an exercise physiologist or a personal trainer certified by the ACSM.  Click here to find one.  They will know how to guide you to move right so it feels good each time.
  2. Pay attention when you are exercising.  What your body is telling you when you move is the most reliable information you have about how to exercise.  No one else knows how your body feels.  If you are distracting to get through the exercise session or have someone pushing you, it is more likely you will those signals from your body that it is not the right way to move for you right now.  Check out these posts about exercise and pain if you tend to push through pain.
  3. Notice that exercise made you feel better.  When exercise is a check on your to do list, you miss how great you feel when you are doing.  When you eat comfort food, that nice feeling is hard to ignore.  But with exercise, it is often missed.  Pausing and noticing how you feel after exercise is the way to help your brain remember “wow that feels good, lets do that again!”.

If you want to maintain your exercise habits as we return to the new normal, try these three science based strategies and sticking with it will be much easier.

Keep moving, be well,

Janet

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by | July 7, 2020 · 8:08 pm

How to keep your new exercise habits in the new normal. Part 1, how much is enough.

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Healthy in the new normal blog series: 

The one thing every one of us has in common right now is that our lifestyle has changed.  For some, it is filled with more time demands and less time for self care. For others, the social distancing has been a great opportunity to do more self care, catch up on home projects and enjoy moving in the outdoors with family.   We will use this next blog series to take a look at what changes you want to keep and which ones you need to adjust to allow you to keep moving and be well for the duration of this outbreak, and beyond.  


In the past two blogs in this series, we have discussed how to have a healthy at home workstation and how to use exercise to take a healthy break from screen-time.    If you have been able to exercise more because things have slowed down during the COVID-19 outbreak you may be wondering if you will be able to keep it up as things open up again.  Let’s take smart advice from motivation and exercise science to learn what you can do to ensure you keep moving in the new normal.

How much is enough exercise?

This is an important question. That feeling that you are not doing enough is exhausting and is what drains motivation to keep going.  The answer needs to go beyond weight loss because exercising to burn calories can feel like a never-ending chase. The answer is guided by exercise physiology (the science of how the body responds to exercise), as well as what is important to you about exercising.   

Instead of exercising to burn calories, consider that the purpose of exercise is to improve the function of your body at any weight, so you can do what you want and need to do with more ease.  This way, you will  get what you want in the end without wasting time.  Basically, to keep our body able to do the everyday activities and have energy and strength left over for fun activities, we need a combination of strength, stamina and mobility.

  • Strength: The ability to move (your body and objects) against gravity.  This has to do with the muscles but also your nervous systems ability to tell those muscles how to do movements like lifting from the ground, climbing, lifting over head, pushing and pulling.  Doing strength exercises that mimic these movements, 2-3 times a week with gradually increasing resistance so the movement is challenging between 8-12 repetitions, for 1-3 sets is enough to keep your strength.  Even doing one set of each exercise has been shown to work.  Knowing that one set can work means you can do a shorter strength session on two days a week and still maintain your muscle and bone strength as well as metabolism when life gets busy.
  • Stamina: The ability to move your body for extended periods of time without getting tired and needing to stop.  Stamina is build through cardio, moving continuously for more than 2 minutes at a time at a breathing level that feels sustainable (moderate to comfortable challenge).  You can improve or maintain stamina in three thirty minute bouts a week, or the equivalent, (10 minutes six days a week).  As long as the movement is continuous and keeps your breathing at that moderate to comfortable challenge level (not uncomfortable), you can keep your stamina at a level that allows you to move without getting tired easily.
  • Flexibility: The ability to move your body freely without resistance, stiffness or tightness.   This is best done in small bouts thorough the day. As we mentioned last week,  stretching is a perfect way to take a healthy  break from screen time or any sedentary activity.  On days you are active, stretching at the end of the day can help reduce stiffness the next day.  Stretching is most effective when it does not hurt.  Pain causes more stiffness and resistance. So gentle mindful stretching works best.  Daily stretching in small bouts can help you feel good and reduce tension held in your body from stress.

Put it all together an you have complete exercise plan in less than two percent of your total time each week.

  1. Three days a week for thirty minutes (or the equivalent in 5-15 minute bouts) of moving continuously at a breathing of moderate to comfortable challenge.
  2. Twice a week strength training that incorporates movements of daily life, at a challenging but not painful resistance 8-12 repetitions, 1-3 sets each.
  3. Daily stretch breaks when doing sedentary activities (IE: TV, computer, etc) every 30-60 minutes for a few minutes of total body stretching and for a few minutes after times you are physically active.

Doing this consistently is enough to build and maintain your strength, stamina and flexibility at any stage in your weight loss journey.

Because your body is a use it to keep it system, exercising regularly makes sense.  This level is certainly not very time consuming and a worthwhile investment when you know it keeps you healthy and functioning well.

But when life ramps ups, how will you stay motivated to take the time to do even this little bit of exercise?  This is where motivation science comes in.  In the next blog we will talk about research backed strategies you can use that are known to make exercise habits stick.

Keep Moving, Be Well

Janet

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by | June 30, 2020 · 5:08 pm