Tag Archives: exercise

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

A longer pandemic means a greater need for exercise

We are living in a time when our opportunities to exercise and be physically active are limited, yet we have a greater need for what regular exercise can give us. This problem is solvable, but knowledge is key. Six months into this pandemic here in the US also means we have accumulated some research about the long term effects of social isolation on mental health, a better understanding about the way the COVID-19 virus spreads, and how to exercise safely and effectively during this new normal.

Social isolation and your health

Although social isolation plays a key role in protecting our health right now, it can take its toll on our mental health. There are greater levels of fear, and distress, and people are more vulnerable to depression and anxiety. Studies show rates of mental health issues are on the rise since the pandemic started. 1 Add this to the fact that we are moving less as we shop and work online and have less reasons to leave our homes, and we have a recipe that is taking its toll on our mental and physical health.

Exercise is part of being safe

We know that people who exercise regularly are less likely to have colds and flu as well as better management of the higher risk medical conditions like diabetes. People who exercise regularly have lower rates of depression and anxiety. Exercising regularly keeps your immune system stronger and your brain chemicals in better balance. However not all exercise is created equal. There are some specifics about how to keep moving right now that can make a big difference in keeping you safe and healthy

How to exercise to stay safe

Recent research has found some tips to keep in mind when exercising during the COVID-19 pandemic

  • Moderate intensity rather than high intensity: High intensity exercise means more mouth breathing and a higher breathing rate. This can increase the spread of those droplets carrying the virus. High intensity exercise can also drain rather than increase your immune systems function.2 Moderate intensity exercise, where your breathing is comfortable, but more than if you were sitting and resting, is enough to keep your immune system strong and could reduce the spread of the virus if you are exercising around others.
  • Side by side and distancing: Studies are showing that exercising side by side such as walking outdoors with a friend is safer than in a line or a group. Runners and bikers need more of a distance when they are lined up because the droplets from mouth breathing are passed backward from one person to another. Six feet is still the rule for side by side, but further is needed for exercising in a group when someone is in front of you. 2
  • Stay consistent, even through winter: As the weather is going to change very soon, its time to think about your Spring Training plan so you have enough in home options or are ready for exercising outdoors through the winter. Exercising is great but it’s the ‘regularly’ part that gives it power.
  • Click here to see a chart for more detailed recommendations

Bottom Line: As the pandemic is lasting longer than most of us expected six months ago, exercise becoming an even more important part of staying safe and healthy, both mentally and physically. As we have more and more research on the effects of this pandemic on our health, its becoming clear that making the extra effort to keep exercise a part of your lifestyle can give you the boost you need to get through this time healthy and well.

If you are not exercising regularly right now, start with something you enjoy, do it at a light intensity, for a short duration like five to ten minutes and build up gradually by listening to your body. You want it to leave you feeling better both mentally and physically so it improves health and it is something you want to do regularly.

If you are a weight center patient and don’t know where to start, contact me and we will figure it out!

Keep Moving, Be Well,

Janet

  1. Czeisler MÉ , Lane RI, Petrosky E, et al. Mental Health, Substance Use, and Suicidal Ideation During the COVID-19 Pandemic — United States, June 24–30, 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020;69:1049–1057. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6932a1external icon.
  2. Dominski, F.H., Brandt, R. Do the benefits of exercise in indoor and outdoor environments during the COVID-19 pandemic outweigh the risks of infection?. Sport Sci Health 16, 583–588 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11332-020-00673-z

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by | September 29, 2020 · 8:12 pm

What it means when exercise makes your weight go up

 

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You work really hard at exercising for a whole month, enduring tough workouts, achy muscles and fatigue.   You get on the scale and WHAT!!??? How could you have gained weight?

It’s just not working. Whats the point?. Maybe you just need to step it up a bit.  Maybe you should just give up.

Before you do anything, when it seems like exercise is making you gain weight rather than lose weight, take a moment understand what is happening when the scale goes up when you exercise.

It starts by understanding that the scale measures EVERYTHING in your body.  When the numbers go up, you don’t know what you gained. When the numbers go down you also don’t know what you lost!

When your muscles are sore, it means they are working hard to recover from doing more than they are used to doing.  That recovery takes fluid.  This is one possible explanation for the scale going up.  It means your body is trying to help you recover, not that it is trying to sabotage you.  Once the soreness goes away, your body will let go of that extra fluid.

This brings up an important point.  Soreness is a sign of doing too much too soon. It is NOT a sign of progress or burning more calories or fat.  The saying ‘no pain no gain’ is meant for athletes trying to gain a competitive edge. Pain is a side effect of that kind of exercise.  Pain for the rest of us only means you that you are pushing it too hard.  This is one of the most challenging facts about exercise.There is no such thing as a ‘good sore’.  

Doing too much too soon also signals to your body that you are going to need more energy, so it increases hunger signals.  You may end up eating more when you make a sudden increase in your exercise and activity levels.  This could also be contributing to the scale is going up.

One thing is for sure, that sudden increase is NOT muscle gain.  In a really good strength training program it takes about three months to increase a pound or two of muscle mass.  If you are limiting calories at the same time, you are less likely to gain muscle mass.  Plus, if you are over thirty, your body is tending to lose muscle just from aging.  If you are a women in the stage of  perimenopause or menopause, you are losing muscle faster.  Certain medications also speed up muscle loss.   Gaining muscle, for most of us, is not a problem – losing muscle is the problem. For most of us, muscle is not going to show up on the scale in any measurable way.

Even though it seems counter-intuitive, if the scale is going up when you have suddenly increased your exercise level, it could be a sign you need a bit less exercise right now, not more.  Listen to your body.  If exercise leaves you with more energy, less pain, and a better mental outlook, you have found your level of enough. That better mental outlook will most likely do more for weight loss if it helps you reduce emotional eating.

Remember that your body is trying to help you, so work with it and exercise will give you so many benefits that no medication or super food can provide! The scale is a guide, that’s all.   A slow gradual progression and consistency with a balanced exercise program is the way to weight loss success, that lasts.

Keep Moving Be Well,

Janet

 

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by | August 18, 2020 · 9:14 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 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