Tag Archives: exercise

What it means when exercise makes your weight go up



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,



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by | August 18, 2020 · 9:14 pm

Strategies for staying healthy and well in the new normal


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,


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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


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,


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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.


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



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,


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by | June 23, 2020 · 6:40 pm