Tag Archives: exercise

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

More screen time? How to use exercise to stay well.

 

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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.  

Because social distancing is a key strategy for controlling the spread of COVID-19, many of us have started to meet with friends and co-workers remotely online.  The last pandemic in 1918 did not have this luxury.  We are fortunate to live in a time where technology can help us stay connected and do our work.  The downside however is more time looking at a screen which limits the movement of our whole body for more time each day.

You might have noticed in in greater tension in your neck or hands, more back pain or headaches.  When connecting in person,  movement is built in. When staring at a screen to connect, not only is movement limited, but your body is pulled out of alignment.  Your head weighs about 12 lb.  When you are looking forward, your head gradually migrates forward too and that pulls your spine out of alignment. (not a chiropractic alignment, but a positioning of your body so your spine is lined up).  Its normal to slip into a slouch.   But, as we discussed last week, sitting or standing out of alignment creates more work for muscles in your body  and those muscles then have to let you know they are over working.  The way they do that is through pain and stiffness.

When your screen time is stressful, it also strains your body.  Stress prepares your body for movement.   Like revving the engine in your car when it is not moving, sitting and being stressed wastes energy. This is why you can feel like you ran a marathon after a day of working on your computer.  Your body is working and draining your energy because it is ready to move.

But even if you do take walking breaks, your body is still missing something important – whole-body movement.   Walking is a limited movement.  Every part of your body that moves needs to move on those screen time breaks.   Taking whole-body movement breaks, with movements for everything from your eyes to your feet is how exercise can help you stay well even with more screen time.  Here is how:

  • Start by closing your eyes and bring your attention to your body and your breath to help you relax as you do the following movements
  • Look at the farthest distance you can, then move your eyes (without moving your head) side to side, up and down, all around.  Hold on to something as you do this if you tend to lose your balance easily
  • While sitting or standing, take off your shoes if possible, and move the joints in your feet and ankles
  • Bend and straighten your knees slowly all the way
  • Move your hips around by moving your legs in all directions one leg at a time sitting or standing and shifting your weight around through your hip joints
  • Face a wall, chair or table and hold on as you move your spine slowly in all directions
  • Hold on with one hand to something stable and then move your other arm through your shoulder joint, elbow joint, wrists and fingers
  • Sit or stand holding on to something and move around through your neck, lifting your head slowly up and down and side to side

Research supports the importance of using exercise to be healthy, both in one longer bout several times a week and by moving in several short bouts sprinkled thorough each day.

  • This study of adults ages 64-84 found sitting time was directly connected to lower muscle mass and those who took more frequent breaks from sitting had a  45% lower risk of sarcopenia- the loss of muscle mass that is strongly connected to longevity and health.
  • This study found that having lower back pain was connected with sitting time.  As sitting time went down, so did lower back pain.
  • This study found that breaking up sitting time every thirty minutes with three minute bouts of simple strength training exercises resulted in lower blood sugars after meals.

Bottom Line:  To stay well in this new normal that involves more screen time, one of the most beneficial things you can do is get up every thirty minutes and move each part of your body from your eyes to your feet.

Keep moving, be well,

Janet

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by | June 23, 2020 · 6:40 pm

Keep moving. Especially now!

How to get enough exercise in the busy seasons of your life (16)For each and every one of us, life is more stressful right now.  Our daily routines have shifted.  Nearly every aspect of our life is Affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.

This is why we need to Keep Moving. Especially now:

  • Stress puts your body in a state where healing, repair and protection from illness are down regulated as it prepares to handle the ‘threat’.
  • Stress makes thinking clearly and creatively more challenging.
  • All that happens in your body during this stress response is preparing your body to move, to fight or flee the problem.
  • If you are moving less, and stressing more, your body has a lower defense against illness and your ability to creatively deal with the multitude of problems this situation presents is lowered.
  • Movement, that is stress reducing, is your best way to put your body back in a healing and protective state.

How to use movement and exercise to help you stay mentally and physically well right now:

  • For everyone:
    • This is not the time to greatly increase and challenge your body.    Doing too much too soon is stressful for your body and lowers its defenses.
    • This is also not the time to give up on exercise.  Adjust what you are doing so your body can help keep you well
    • This is a great time to start moving regularly if you don’t already.
    • Use exercise and movement to reduce stress.  That is most important right now.
  • If you regularly exercise
    • keep in mind that something is better than nothing.  Even shorter, less intense bouts of exercise can do wonders for you physically and mentally.
    • This is a great time to discover something new.  The internet is full of exercise programs.
    • Start slow and progress gradually with any new form of exercise so it is not stressful for your body
  • If you do not exercise regularly,
    • take small movement breaks for as long as feels good for your body to avoid prolonged stillness
    • at a light to moderate intensity for your breathing and muscles
    • repeat several times a day avoiding more than 30-60 minutes of stillness
    • move in ways that calm your mind, make you smile, and feel good for your body
    • Walk, dance, stretch, anything that feels good mentally and physically

I will continue to post information on this site about how to keep moving and be well during this pandemic.  Post your questions and comments below and let’s keep reminding each other to Keep Moving. Especially now.

Keep Moving, Be Well,

Janet

 

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by | March 18, 2020 · 2:45 pm

Ready? Set? Spring!

How to get enough exercise in the busy seasons of your life (14)

This weekend, we turn the clocks ahead, which means more daylight at the end of the day.  This is awesome news for those of you who (like me) crave outdoor time and feel more energy to move when the days are longer.

Before we jump into Spring, there is an important question that will make next Winter easier to manage.

What was your biggest takeaway from your exercise routine this past Winter? 

It does not matter if you exercised or not, there is still some great information to be gained by asking this question right now when it is fresh in your mind.

Take a moment right now to write down what worked well and what you want to do differently next Winter.  Tuck it away in your calendar for October 2020.   When the days get shorter, I will remind you to pull out that list and we will make a plan for your Spring Training 2021.

If your Spring Training did not go as planned this past Winter, forgive yourself, learn from what happened, and then give your body time to adapt before jumping into all the Springtime activities.

If your Spring Training went well this past Winter, get out there and enjoy the benefits of your dedication this past Winter.

Either way, keep learning about how to keep moving all year long.

Keep Moving, Be Well,

Janet

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by | March 4, 2020 · 4:59 pm

How can I exercise to lose weight when moving is painful?

How to get enough exercise in the busy seasons of your life (11)Many people want to lose weight because their body is in pain and are hoping weight loss will help. They know eating right and exercising are keys to weight loss, but when movement is painful, it seems even more overwhelming to lose weight.    If this catch 22 sounds familiar, let’s take a closer look to find how you can exercise  even when you are dealing with pain issues.  Ironically, it is not about pushing through pain to get to your goal weight. Here is why:

  1. Pain is complex and involves signals from the brain. The level of pain does not equal the level of injury, or any injury at all.   Evidence of this came from the fact that people who had a limb amputated still had pain in that part of their body. Its called Phantom Pain and inspired neurosciences to investigate the source of pain symptoms.
  2. Usually, pain is a signal from your body to your brain to tell you there is something wrong and it needs your attention. However, acute (initial) pain and chronic (long term) pain are different and need to be treated differently.
  3. The term “good sore” does not make any sense.   There is absolutely no evidence that muscles need soreness to get stronger, nor that when you are sore you are burning more calories, fat or making more progress.  Muscle soreness is only a sign of doing too much too soon.

The first thing to remember about pain is that it creates a ‘negative habit loop’ for your brain about exercise.  That means, if exercise leads to pain, it is much more likely your brain will start making excuses why you cannot exercise.  Pushing your body to do more than it is ready to do, only gets you more stuck.

The irony here is that when you learn to listen to your body and work with it, you end up exercising in a way your body and your brain can do long term.  That consistency with exercise that leaves you feeling better in your body, rather than worse, and is the way exercise will help you with weight loss and health.

The details of how to do that depends on many factors including where you have pain, how long you have had it for and the cause of the pain.

If it is arthritis pain, you need to find the sweet spot of moving often enough so your joints don’t stiffen up from lack of movement, but not doing so much that it increases inflammation and causes more pain.

If it is an autoimmune illness like fibromyalgia, starting at a much lower level that what you think you should do, and using a slower progression is the way to work with your body.  Also knowing different types of exercise you can do for different stages of the illness.  For example, stretching during a flare up so you maintain mobility and help lower inflammation.

If it is back pain, knowing how your core is designed to function is essential for moving in a way that reduces your pain.

The specifics here are beyond the scope of this blog, but the overarching message is to listen to your body by using mindfulness; presence with kindness.  Starting with that mindset, you will be more willing to listen to your body and give it what it needs to help calm the pain signals.

Living with pain is not easy, to put it mildly.  Thankfully there is so much great new information from scientific research that has given us a better understanding about pain.  The more you understand your body, and the more self compassion you can have for the situation you are in right now,  the better you will be able to move away from pain and toward more comfort and function in your body.   For all of you in this situation, please know exercising without pain is possible.  I have seen it happen over and over again. Stay curious, mindful and most importantly be kind to yourself.  

Keep moving, be well

Janet

 

 

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by | February 26, 2020 · 4:58 pm