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

How to shovel snow and does it count as exercise?

It’s snowing again! Two of the most common questions I get on days like this are “How do I shovel snow safely” and “Does it count as exercise?”. Before I went out to shovel, I thought I’d answer them directly in this video. Happy Shoveling!!!

Keep Moving, Be Well

Janet

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by | February 9, 2021 · 7:18 pm

Finding Your Why for Exercise

Why exercise? There are so many reasons:

  • Lose weight
  • Stronger bones
  • Look better
  • Prevent heart disease
  • Manage diabetes
  • Reduce cancer risk

The list could go on for a long, long time.

We all know why we should exercise. But do you know Your Why for Exercising?

Your Why is not the same all the whys we could list. It’s personal, only you can find it. When you do find it though, you know it, not just in your head, you know it in your heart.

Here is an example in a German Holiday advertisement. (Warning: have a tissue ready).

Now THAT is a Why.

So what is Your Why for exercise? It’s is not to lose weight. If that were the why you would not care what you could do or how you felt when that number on the scale magically flashed your ideal weight. Its a sweet moment but if you felt more tired, weak and mentally down, what would be the point?!

The header of this blog is a whole bunch of personal whys. The ability to ski with your kids, play on the floor with your grandchildren, perform in plays again, do all the excursions on a dream vacation, dance at your daughters wedding, have the energy to be a passionate teacher again… the list goes on.

When exercise is missing Your Why, its just a task that is most likely to get pushed down on the list when life gets busy.

When exercise is carefully planned for you to get to Your Why, each movement becomes a statement “I am not willing to live without this one thing in my life anymore!”

Your Why will change, so if you had a Why and it is no longer motivating your exercise routine, time to go back and rediscover your new Why or rethink what you are doing so you are confident it will get you to Your Why.

How do you find your Why for Exercising?

You ask yourself, what do I want from exercise that nothing else will give me?

Write down your answer.

Now, ask yourself:

Why is that important to me right now?

Write down your answer.

Keep asking “why is that important to me right now” 5-7 more times and write down whatever comes to you.

Now, look at your answers. What is the common theme that brings a tear to your eye and some excitement to your heart? What is the one thing in there that is so personally important to you, you are not wiling to live without. That is Your Why for Exercising!

The next step is as important as finding Your Why for Exercising. Plan what to do for exercise so you know it is going to prepare your body and mind to get Your Why. The most important part of this commercial is that this man did the exact movement for exercise that he wanted to do for His Why. If he didn’t, exercise would not have worked for him, and it would not have been motivating enough to get him out in the cold to do it every day!

Exercise works like that. The movements you do are the ones that will improve. Do you need to walk for that dream vacation? Then walk, even if it is just ten feet at a time to start. Do you need to be able to get up and down off the floor to play with your grandchildren, then learn the right way to squat and step up with one leg so your body is able to lift you to standing with confidence.

Do exercises that strengthen the movements that mimic what you want to do, not the ones that tone body parts. If your why has something to do with looking better, go back and ask why a few more times. While its great to look better, but that’s an external why. You need to find the internal, personal why below the surface of looking better to get that kind of motivation to exercise and guidance for what to do for exercise.

Choose a word or image that captures Your Why and keep that front and center so you see it when you are in that moment of choice about exercise. This will help ensure that what you are doing is strongly connected to Your Why for Exercising.

If you are a UMass Memorial Weight Center patient we can figure this out in a session together, so what you are doing for exercise to lose weight is motivating because you know it is the way to Your Why!

Keep Moving, Be Well,

Janet

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by | February 2, 2021 · 10:57 pm

How to stay motivated to exercise through a pandemic winter

In ‘normal’ years, winter is a challenging time to stay motivated to exercise. Add a pandemic to that and it’s no wonder many people are struggling to do what they know they should for their health.

The things you used to do for exercise may not be available. You may have a different lifestyle, and gained some weight, lost some strength, stamina and mobility, and you may have developed some extra aches and pains. So how does exercise fit into that whole convoluted mess?

The answers are only found in one place. Right now, inside you.

In normal times it was much easier to be motivated to exercise by outside factors. We had social events, people next to us at the gym, weigh in’s at medical visits, and other social pressures that made us exercise. These are called external motivators. Studies show that on their own, external motivators do not lead to the kind of lasting motivation to keep you exercising during a pandemic winter.

Motivation scientists know that what keeps people exercising through winter storms and changes in their lifestyle is not some magic pill or genetic code, it is internal motivation. They do it because it makes them feel better in their body now. Their brain has made the connection between exercise and their body feeling better now.

So if your motivation to exercise has taken a vacation and left you at waiting for things to get back to normal so it will come back again, this is a great time to build your internal motivation. There are a few key factors to consider when finding something that makes your body feel better now.

First, what your body tells your brain is much more powerful than what the logical side of your brain tells your survival brain. Even if you know you will feel better knowing you exercised, if your body does not feel better from what you did, you will not build internal motivation. The key to internal motivation is listening to and trusting your body.

Second, be open to new types of exercise. Go on a search for all the possibilities for exercise that might make your body feel better now. That can be a challenge because of limited equipment, time, space and a body that feels different than it did eight months ago. It means thinking outside your usual go to types of exercise and knowing that the things you never thought you would enjoy might actually be enjoyable.

One patient told me how surprised she was that the group exercise classes offered only through her company are actually really fun. She was never a group exercise person before, but for some reason it has the right mix of what her brain needs to feel better now.

Do a google search, ask friends what they are doing, look at the resources in these blogs on finding online cardio and strength programs online.

Start with short bouts. Only doing it for 5-10 minutes at a light intensity to start. Its much easier to get started and its enough to make you feel better physically and mentally. Listen to your body and make sure your body is feeling good from what you are doing.

In this new lifestyle you might find several shorter bouts a day work better for you. You might find you are a morning or noontime exerciser. You may discover you are a pretty good dancer or that you like strength training when you can do it at home.

Who knows what you will discover but the fact is, when you stay curious and open and listen to your body, you will find something that makes it feel better now. When you do, you have strengthened the kind of exercise motivation known to be much more likely to stick around, even through a pandemic winter.

Keep Moving, Be Well,

Janet

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by | January 26, 2021 · 10:53 pm