Tag Archives: Clinical Exercise Physiologist

Myth #8: The Fitness “Expert”

Fitness expert

When you seek a professional to give you advice or provide a service, whether it is for electrical wiring in your home or getting a haircut, what do you look for? Of course you look to a source you can trust – a professional with the required certification, training, and experience.  It is important to know that the field of fitness has no requirements for professionals. Anyone can call themselves a fitness expert. Our source for advice about how to move and be well is sadly under-regulated and as a result, full of myths and mindsets that are not science-based. This means that right now, you, as a fitness consumer, need to stay educated or your exercise advice may lead you in the opposite direction of the motivation and fitness you are seeking.

Next time you listen to advice about exercise on TV or the internet, notice why they call themselves an “expert.”  Are they highlighting that they  a) have a personal success story,  b) were successful as an athlete, or c) trained someone famous? These are all red flags! Even if they are certified, know that there are no requirements for certification programs and no one is ensuring that person’s certification is up to date. Our professional organizations for degrees and certified exercise professionals are working on this, but it is a very slow process!

Currently, there are two sites that provide helpful information about fitness professionals for consumers. Use these sites to find a qualified professional who holds a certification that is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). This means the certification exam has met set standards for the exercise professional’s role as defined by the U.S. Department of Labor.

The United States Registry of Exercise Professionals maintains a list of professionals with any accredited certification. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) is the “gold standard” for certifying exercise professionals. The ACSM continuously clarifies the various levels of training for exercise professionals,  defining their role and scope of practice clearly. This makes it easier to find a professional who has the right level of training for you, whether you are without health concerns and looking for a qualified personal trainer or have a health concern and need a clinical exercise professional to safely guide you with exercise. Check the ACSM ProFinder to find professionals with this level of certification and training in your area.


The myth here is that just because someone looks fit they know about how to help you get fit too.   Most important is to trust your instincts.   If the advice you are receiving is not leading to feeling better right away, keep searching for the right professional for you.  Remember, you don’t need to suffer now to feel good later. If exercise is causing increased pain, speak up.  If the professional you are working with tells you the pain is necessary to lose weight,  walk away from it and find a new approach.   My hope is that some day, this will be easier for you as a consumer. Until then, let’s not let the confusion get in the way of exercising consistently and enjoying movement.

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.


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by | March 28, 2017 · 4:10 pm

Keeping Exercise Safe

safetyExercise is generally very safe.  In fact it is usually much  safer to move than not move.    Just as with driving, there are ways to enhance safety – and awareness is the key.

So here are things to stay aware of to reduce the risks with exercise.

  1. Pay close attention to symptoms:  Report any of these symptoms to your physician
    • pain or discomfort above the waist (ie: chest, neck, jaw, arm) that comes on with physical activity and goes away with rest
    • shortness of breath at rest or  that wakes you from sleep.
    • an increased shortness of breath with usual activities.
    • dizziness or fainting
    • rapid or irregular heart rate
    • unusual fatigue with usual activities
    • increased joint or muscle pain (beyond normal initial muscle soreness) with physical activity
  2. Be consistent! 
    • after only three days of not doing cardiovascular exercise, the body starts to forget, and loses stamina
    • after about a  week of no strength training the body starts to lose strength
    • if you have to take time off from exercise, know that you will lose some strength and stamina
    • when returning to exercise, reduce the intensity and duration of your exercise session until you gradually build back up again
    • best is to maintain exercise if at all possible – something is better than nothing. Maintain with three days a week of 30 minutes of cardio and at least one day a week of strength training
    • to keep the calorie burning up increase lifestyle activity as much as possible to make up for fewer calories burned during structured exercise.   A pedometer is a great tool to help monitor this.
  3. Warm up and cool down properly: 
    • give the body 5-10 minutes of lighter movement to increase body temperature before exercise. Include light, short duration or dynamic stretching too.
    • after exercise slow down for 5-10 minutes by doing a light activity such as walking slowly, finishing with stretching
    • sudden starts and stops to exercise put strain on the cardiovascular system and increase the risks with exercise
  4. Progress your program gradually:
    • 10% per week is what the body can adapt to. This is  physiology.  Pushing to hard too fast is asking the body to do what is not designed to do and something eventually breaks down.
    • for example: if you are walking for 30 minutes, a 10% increase the following week would be 33 minutes. That’s it! Just three minutes more.  But that is enough. Keep that up each week by increasing the intensity or duration and you will reach your goal more safely
    • listen to your body – if it tells you to just maintain for  a week, listen. Your body will tell you if you are doing too much too soon
  5. Monitor exercise intensity:  
    • exercise should feel comfortable or just a bit challenging for the breathing during cardiovascular exercise
    • if breathing is uncomfortable the risks begin to outweigh the benefits for general health and weight loss
  6. Stay aware of competition: 
    • When we are exercising with others around, even if it is not a formal competition, we tend to push harder.  This is OK if your body is ready for this push.  When just starting/restarting exercise, use caution when exercising around others.  Listen to your body.
    • If it is challenging for you, consider staring an exercise program at home or on your own before joining others
  7. Take precautions in the hot and cold weather:
    • I will add a blog with more detail on this soon.
    • especially in the heat, since the body produces heat with exercise, the risk of heat injury is greater.
    • generally stay hydrated, exercise in cooler parts of the day or in an air-conditioned environment.
  8. Wear proper footwear:
    • this is very individualized so find what is right for your feet.  It is the foundation for the rest during weight-bearing exercise.  Get advice from a knowledgeable professional about footwear, one that understands you goals.

Keep Moving, Be Well,


 These 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 | July 2, 2015 · 8:55 pm

How to Be A Savvy Fitness Consumer

While scanning Facebook one day, an advertisement for an app popped up with a picture of a woman doing dips. (A dip dipsis shown in the picture on the right.) I honestly first thought it was an article on exercises to avoid.

The ad stated “this app has gone viral in days.” Curiosity got the best of me, so I opened it.   It stated the “research backed program has become an international hit” and was  “published in the leading research journal ACSM, and then popularized by the New York Times,”   “equivalent of working out for over an hour – for only slightly longer than 7 minutes,”  “the exercises are simple to perform, do not require any equipment, and therefore, can be done anywhere! NO MORE EXCUSES.” This was a  “research-proven workout.”

This is brilliant marketing for sure – kudos to the designers.  They used all the right tools to sell their product: Continue reading


by | April 20, 2015 · 3:31 pm

Are you exercising to exercise better or to live better?

“Exercise was invented to help us move and live better.. not exercise better.” Kelly Dean from the Tummy Team

January 5, 2015 – Happy, Healthy New Year!

This quote really resonated with me. I am noticing a rapidly growing trend to make exercise a goal in and of itself instead of a means to an end.thCA80MXTA

When we take a step back, we can ask the basic question of “what is this all about anyway?” Why are we exercising?

If your automatic answer is to lose weight, I invite you to “divorce” the words diet and exercise. We use these terms so much together that it has become (in my opinion) an unhealthy relationship. One telling symptom of this is when patients tell me they lost motivation to exercise because they were not losing weight. They tell me “it was just not working!”. It was working!!! They just could not see it!”

When the scale is the end all, be all of why we move, it is time to get back to basics. If this unhealthy relationship has left the word “exercise” completely toxic for you, please exchange the word exercise with movement.

We start to become misdirected when focus exercising different muscle groups or specific parts of the body. i.e: I am working my chest muscles today. I am doing cardio to strengthen my heart. I am stretching my hamstring muscles. When we do this it is easy to forget the ultimate goal – which is to work many system/s in the body – not isolated parts. It’s all connected – work one part or system and another will be affected in a helpful or hurtful way depending on many factors.

thCACO6R9AAnother distraction is this trend toward “challenges” as a way to motivate – plank challenges, squat challenges, yoga competitions, etc. Although they can and do motivate folks to move more, they also can create muscle imbalances, overuse injuries, and in the end sap motivation or at least distract from the goal of moving and living better.   Don’t get me wrong – if a challenge got you up off the couch – awesome! Just as long as you remember they are not always healthy. Too much of one thing is not healthy. Replacing an annual pie eating contest with a broccoli eating contest would be a big improvement but still not completely healthy…. Catch my drift?

I am currently re-reading Move your DNA by Katy Bowman – considering this is the only book I have ever read two times in a row – I highly recommend it. As an exercise scientist, it has challenged my views of exercise beyond its impact on a few body systems and parts.

So…Over the next several emails, let’s take a deeper dive into movement science to understand the big picture better.  

Don’t worry if you are not the science-y type – we will break it down with the ultimate goal to move us from – exercising because you are just trying to be a “good” dieter to get that darn scale to move – to moving more because you have a better understanding how the systems in our body are designed to improve with movskiingement.

This week simply do a movement diary – notice all the various movements (exercise and non-exercise) you do during the day. Also take a mental image of your body position when you are not moving – that is really important too.

Keep Moving, Be Well


Janet Huehls, MA, RCEP, CYT, CHWC

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by | January 5, 2015 · 8:22 pm

Tips for finding the right exercise professional

July 17, 2014

“I have changed so much in the past 18 months.  It is truly amazing to have people stop and watch me at the gym…I’ve been called a “BEAST” on several occasions by random folks.  Talk about a boost to the confidence!  I’ve really made exercising a part of my daily life.  I feel SO much better.  Not only am I in a physical state of fitness that I never dreamed possible, but everything else is better too:  my hair and skin look really good and my bloodwork is amazing.”

“I wanted to relay my story, related to not starting out too hard.   I sit here now recovering from knee surgery.  I started with a personal trainer a year and a half ago.  I started out slow and then ramped to very intense quickly.  Long story short, I hurt my knee squatting 200 lbs.  I hurt both of my shoulders lifting too much weight.  I was getting discouraged, but I have a goal to do a Spartan sprint and I just bought a new mountain bike.  Moral of the story is two –fold:  When Janet says start out slow, do it.  Three injuries in 1.5 years is not fun.  If you get injured or it isn’t working, try something new and go back to something fun.”

Hi Everyone!

Above are two quotes from patients with the ups and downs of exercise training.

This is the easiest time of year to be an exercise professional in this part of the country. More people seem to come out of “hibernation” with a renewed appreciation for moving outdoors.

Continue reading

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by | July 17, 2014 · 8:33 pm