Tag Archives: Fitness

Stretching: Three benefits you may not know (part 1)

How to get enough exercise in the busy seasons of your life (5)

When you think of stretching exercises, what do you imagine?  If the thought of stretching sounds boring, a waste of time, or something you just are not flexible enough to do,  let’s take a new look at stretching and three benefits you may not know.  

The science of stretching lags behind the research on other types of exercise.  With less facts, we have more myths.  One of the biggest myths is that stretching is about making muscles longer.  The fact is, stretching has less to do with your muscles and more to do with three other parts of your body; your nervous system, fascia system, and  lymph system.

We will take a look at what happens in your body when you stretch over three blogs because with more and more research on stretching, there is so much great information to share.

Lets start by talking about the Lymph System

2202_Lymphatic_Capillaries_big

Lymph is the fluid part of your blood.  The vessels run right alongside your blood vessels. (see image).  Lymph vessels, just like blood vessels are spread out throughout your whole body.   

The lymphatic system’s job is to maintain a healthy immune system by absorbing fluid from the blood so it can be transported to the spleen. The spleen acts as a filter, helping your body fight infection and detecting potentially dangerous bacteria and viruses. Your spleen and your lymph nodes create white blood cells to defend your body against these ‘invaders’.

However, this important system in the body needs you to move for all that to happen. Unlike the circulatory system, your lymph system does not have its own pump. It relies on movement to move the lymph fluid through the body. Stretching can provide that movement instantly, even in the smallest vessels in the body.

The lymph system is one of the big reasons‘sitting disease’is a health concern. But the name is misleading.  The truth is,  sitting is not the problem.  The health strain on the body comes from the combination of  being still and stressed.

Stillness keeps your lymph system from working at its best.  Stress adds to the inflammation in your body as it prepares your body for movement to deal with the stressor.  So the combination of stillness and stressed allows inflammation, the precursor for many lifestyle diseases, to build up.  

For this reason, stretching,  not just taking steps,  is a great way to lower your risks from prolonged sitting.  Unlike ‘getting steps, stretching reaches even the smallest parts of your body where inflammation can build up.  If you just focus on getting steps you might be tempted to multitask them, rather than take a break from stress.   When done mindfully, stretching gives your mind a break 

brooke-cagle-QJ1j4HOdNtI-unsplashfrom the stress, giving your body a chance to clear inflammation. 

Give it a try this week.  When you have a time you are still for a while, take a big morning style stretch and imagine how your muscles are pushing on your lymph vessels giving them help with doing their job!

 

Keep moving, Be Well,

Janet

Leave a comment

by | January 15, 2020 · 5:17 pm

How to get enough exercise in the busy seasons

How to get enough exercise in the busy seasons of your life (1)This time of year, getting enough exercise can seem next to impossible.  The solution starts by knowing what it means to ‘get enough exercise’.  Here are some tips on how to get enough exercise in the busy seasons of your life.

Typical tips would be to multitask like march in place while you are on the phone or do exercises while sitting at your desk or watching TV.  Although they seem logical, this is where we lose motivation and the ability to get enough of what we truly need from exercise when we are busy.

First, lets get clear about what is exercise. Physical activity is any movement.  But the word exercise literally means to practice.  Exercise is when you move specifically for the purpose of taking care of your body, practicing a skill or ability you want more of now and in the future.   Like any quality time spent practicing, movement goes from being just another task to exercise when it has the following qualities:

Consistent:  practicing something for five minutes a day will be more effective than just during the times of year you have time to practice.    Your body is a use it to keep it system, which means the movements you do regularly you get to keep.  It is easier to make it part of your daily life when you see it as a way to feel better.  That brings us to the next two qualities.

Focus:  When practice of any skill is done with full focus, it is more time efficient. If you multi tasked learning a new skill by doing it while watching TV, you just would not get as much out of the time you invest in it.  When you move with full focus on your body for the purpose of taking care of yourself,  you not only improve the quality of your exercise time, but you also ramp up the benefits by practicing mindfulness while you move.  Focusing on the present moment calms the nervous system. So does movement. The two together are just what we need when we are busy and stressed. Since stress deteriorates motivation, exercising to reduce stress is the way to stay motivated.

Just right level:  If you practiced a skill at a level higher than your abilities, you would get frustrated and probably lose interest.  That just right level of challenge is key for exercise too. Your body and brain both benefit from exercising at a level that feels like a comfortable and motivating challenge.  Listening to your body allows you to find the just right level without wasting time doing more than your body needs that day, causing you move less because you are in pain the next day.  More is not always better.  When it comes to exercise, constantly trying to do more usually leads to lower motivation long term.

Those steps you might be racking up at the mall doing holiday shopping or shoveling your driveway ‘count’ for physical activity.  However, shopping or shoveling can be stress producing instead of leaving you feeling or functioning better because they are often missing the three elements that turn physical activity into exercise.  

Exercise for being healthy and well is not about keeping score, its about feeling better and functioning better, now and later.  Think of exercise as a time to practice improving the function of your body and calming your mind.   Instated of putting exercise on hold when you are busy, adapt how much you do so you can stay consistent while using exercise as a ‘time out’ to de-stress.  This way you are more likely to keep moving and stay well through all the seasons of your life, 

Keep Moving, Be Well

Janet

 

Leave a comment

by | December 18, 2019 · 3:35 pm

How our supervisor keeps moving strong into her seventies

Linda Guerin is our supervisor here at the surgery clinic at UMass Memorial. Outside of work she is active with her grandchildren.   I have known her for many years and her energy level has not wavered.  Her secret?  Healthy eating and exercise!  Read below about what she does for exercise and how she keeps moving strong in her seventies!

Team blog series (5)

What do you currently do for exercise? I currently work out 4 nights a week and have been for over a year- I take a variety of classes including Zumba, P90x, and HIIT class.

What has been your biggest challenge with exercise in recent years?- I need to have both my knees replaced but it does not prevent me from attending classes

How did you overcome that challenge to keep moving?  I just keep moving, I was doing a fitness program with weights for over five years and decided it was no longer working for me and my knees and joined FIT Friendzy Studios over a year ago and I just over the variety of classes they offer and I love to challenge myself.

Why is exercise important to you right now in your life? I’m determined to stay healthy and fit especially the older I get it’s even more important to me. I will be 71 in January. I  work full time and I eat healthy.  Over a year ago I gave up junk food and sweets (sugar) and don’t miss it at all. It’s so important to me to be healthy, you never know what tomorrow brings but it will not be because I didn’t work on my health.  I have also lost 90 lbs since I changed my lifestyle.

I love spending time with my grandchildren and family and friends. I also love to tent camp for a couple of weeks in the summer when I’m visiting my son and family in Michigan. I need to be healthy to do that. I also found a way to exercise while camping. I truly enjoy being active, it’s a big part of my life.  I stay late at work just not to miss my classes. I truly love my life!

Thank you Linda!

Janet

 

 

Leave a comment

by | November 25, 2019 · 4:19 pm

It’s Spring Training Time Again!

Why exercise for diabetes_.png

It’s spring training time again! 

Each year as we enter the shorter, colder days of the year I invite you to take time to think about spring.  First, it keeps us aware that the days will get longer again and the weather improve.  Second, this is the time of year we find more reasons not to exercise, yet it is the time of year we need it most.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons, typically starting in the late fall and early winter and going away during the spring and summer.  Even if you do not have SAD,  it is easy for your mood to drop this time of year.  This, along with the weather and other seasonal challenges puts a drain on  exercise motivation.

Using a spring training mindset about exercise this time of year can be a reminder that it is temporary.  Considering yourself in spring training gives purpose and hope to each and every exercise session.

The fact is, your body and mind area always ‘training’ for something.  Your body is either ‘training’ for less stamina, strength and mobility or more stamina, strength and mobility.  Your body gets used to what you give it.  Since you are in spring training anyway, why not spend this time of year in a way that will make springtime even more enjoyable.  The  added bonus is, exercise is a powerful treatment for the low mood of the season too!

Let’s set your Spring Training plan in motion:

  1. Close your eyes and imagine it is the first beautiful day of Spring.  What physical activities will you be doing?  Brainstorm a list.
  2. What do you need for those activities?  Strength? Stamina? Mobility?  All three?
  3. Choose types of exercise that will build what you need for the activities you want to do.  When you do them, picture how they are helping prepare your body for the activities you want to enjoy in the spring.

This simple act of writing down what you want and your exercise plan to get it, improves your chances of achieving it by about 33% according to one study.   Writing down what you did along the way has also been shown to improve chances of success.   This time of year, we need all the motivational boosts we can get, so take this extra step to write down your plan and progress.

Your mindset matters here too.  Mindful self-compassion is a powerful tool for motivation as well.  I recommend tracking in a way that keeps you present to how what you are doing makes you feel now.  Tracking is a great way to recognize accomplishments of any size, because it is easy to forget what you did for exercise.  When you fall short of your own expectations, use self-compassion to keep you from giving up completely. Use positive self talk to remind yourself this is not about perfection. Something is always better than nothing and consistency is most important.

I will check in on how your spring training is going as winter approaches.  If you need a bit of extra accountability, post your plan in the comments below!

Keep Moving Be Well,

Janet

 

Leave a comment

by | November 13, 2019 · 7:45 pm

Stepping out to help others

Many of our patients find it rewarding to be able to do a fundraising walk for a cause that is close to their heart.  The ability to participate in these is an added bonus of ‘getting your life back’ after weight loss surgery.

Gitkind

If you are a UMass Memorial Weight Center patient, you know about the diversity and dedication of our team.  What you may not know is how each member of our team makes exercise a part of their lives as well.  Like our patients, many members enjoy using their fitness to benefit others too.

Dr. Mitch Gitkind is one of them.  This past weekend he and his wife completed the Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk. Together they raised $1000 in memory of a young woman in their town who passed away a few weeks ago at the age of 18.

Gitkind steps

To be able to do 50,000 steps at age 60, raise money to help others, and come in to work with a smile the next day is the reward of someone who is a regular exerciser.  His daily routine keeps him healthy and young.  The ability to enjoy being part of this and other incredible fundraising events during the year is an added bonus to the many ways exercise adds to his enjoyment of life.

Studies show that our health improves when we help others.  We know exercising regularly improves to health too. When you add this kind of meaning to your every day exercise routine, your  health benefits from exercise are multiplied.  You don’t need to walk 50,000 steps to do it either.  The amount of steps you do, nor the money raised don’t matter. It is the fact that you are adding a broader level of purpose to your exercise time.

Has your regular exercise routine enabled you to complete a fundraising event lately?  Share your story in the comments below.

Keep moving,  Be Well,

Janet

 

1 Comment

by | September 23, 2019 · 5:51 pm

How to lose ten pounds of gym guilt

how to lose ten pounds of gym guilt(1)

The trend in affordable gyms has made it so much easier for many people to exercise year round.

It has also expanded the problem many people have with a gym membership  – gym guilt!

In trying to get more exercise, you might be tempted to join a gym because it’s only $10 a month.    As you may have discovered, your exercise motivation depends on A LOT of factors so getting to that gym might be not so easy.   You may be busy right now and just cannot fit it in.    Often, when trying to lose weight, walking into the gym feels like a spotlight is shining on your extra weight. It’s just too embarrassing to go right now.   You might wait until you feel better about your body and then you will start.

The bigger problem with these low cost memberships is that they are not expensive enough to make you end the membership if you are not going.  When things calm down a bit, or when you lose some weight, you will go, so why cancel it?     In the meantime, that membership fee on your credit card statement each month is a constant ‘weight’ on your mind. Its a constant reminder that you are not exercisign the way you ‘should’.

(No, I am not reading your mind, you are just not alone in this. I see it all the time!)

Lets talk about how to lose the weight of that gym guilt.  Here are some questions to ask yourself so you can finally make peace with using, or losing your gym membership.

  • Is it the commute? Does it take more time to get to and from the gym than its worth?  If your time is limited, no matter how inexpensive the membership, you probably will not to choose to spend your time on a gym commute on a consistent basis.
  • Is it the environment? When you walk into the gym, how do you feel?  Happy to be there or counting the minutes until you can leave? That initial instinct about the gym is so subtle, you may not realize it is the reason your brain finds excuses not to go.  Either find a way to make it more comfortable for you or find a new place to exercise.
  • Is it the people?  There is a definite vibe in each gym.  Some are welcoming and friendly in a very authentic way.  Some are ‘friendly’ in a “my boss told me to say hello when members walk in so I am going to flash a fake smile and say a cool hello” kind of way.  Some gyms are meant for people with very definite exercise goals. If they are not the same as yours, you may feel unwelcome, no matter what you do.  Either give yourself a pep talk reminder that the attitude of others is not your concern or find a more welcoming place to exercise.
  • Is it equipment overload?  It seems that the less expensive the gym, the larger and more daunting it can be.    If you feel overwhelmed by the equipment choices in the gym, know that much of that equipment is not useful anyway.  Find the machines right for you and  stay focused on that.  You don’t need to do everything that is in the gym.  Get a comfortable routine going and do what you enjoy most. (well OK more than the sauna and massage chairs!) When you are ready for a change, learn only one new machine at a time to stay out of overwhelm.
  • Is it too crowded when you go?  Rush hour times at the gym are about as much fun as rush hour time on the highway.  If the crowds are getting in the way of efficiently enjoying your gym time, and you cannot go at another time, seek alternate routes to exercise.
  • Is your body not ready yet?   Some types of exercise are not great for starters.  The elliptical for instance starts at a higher intensity. If you are just starting out you are likely to feel like a failure in about two minutes flat.  Group exercise classes can be motivating but they also are more likely to make you do too much too soon. Gain skills in listening to your body before joining a group. Choose the types that feel best for your body to start and gain some stamina, strength and body knowledge before expanding to other more challenging forms.
  • Is it lack of know-how?  There is no time in adult life that we learn how to exercise correctly.  If you don’t know how to exercise, you are not lacking some skill that everyone else has.  There is a lot of useless exercise information available out there, much of it based on what is marketable, not how your body is designed.  If it does not feel good, it is not good for you.  If you are a UMassMemorial Weight Center patient, contact me to chat about how to strengthen your exercise know-how

Some times the healthiest decision is to let go of the gym membership and exercise at home or someplace else.  Most importantly, lose the gym guilt, it’s is not helpful for your mind or your body.  There are plenty of other options out there and exercising at a gym is not right for everyone.   Find a way to make it work or let it go.

Keep Moving, Be Well,

Janet

 

Leave a comment

by | April 17, 2019 · 7:13 pm

Exercise motivation from an unlikely source

How calorie burning makes it harder to lose weight(12)

This article gives a surprising yet research backed perspective about will-power and making changes that stick.  It is pretty clear that our old way of  making exercise a habit works against us.    If you think exercise has to be hard, and you just need more self control to make yourself do it until it becomes a habit, there is a much more effective way.

We’re using tools that aren’t only weak; they’re also potentially harmful. If using willpower to keep your nose to the grindstone feels like a struggle, that’s because it is.

It turns out too, this way also puts a drain on our health

Those who were better at using self-control did have more success when it came to resisting temptations, but at a cost to their health. Their bodies suffered not only from increased stress responses, but also from premature aging of their immune cells.

What is this unlikely source that is better for our motivation and our health than good old fashion self control?   Fostering emotions like gratitude, compassion and awareness of your own strengths has a better track record for both sustaining motivation and for promoting health.

This is one of the most challenging mindsets to change about exercise.  From my experience the belief in grit, willpower and self discipline comes from the place many of us learned about exercise – through sports.  Think about it, athletes make up the majority of our images and messages about exercise in our culture.    They have amazing self control and discipline and achieve amazing levels of fitness.  How could that model steer us wrong?

An athlete has plenty of reasons to push through and stay disciplined – the competition, team mates, coaches, records – all of these external motivators drive willpower.   We ‘regular folks’ don’t have all of those, so we replace them with other external motivators –  weight goals, challenges, competitions, social media, and accountability partners.

The research is pretty clear though.  Trying to make yourself have more discipline and willpower is stressful and not built to last.   That stress strains health and energy.  It works, but it is just not sustainable, nor is it helping with exercising for long term health.

The easier and more lasting way to motivation for exercise is to  practice the skills of gratitude, compassion and pride (awareness of your personal inner strengths).

If your New Years Resolutions have faded, it may be time to dust them off and look at them through the lens of our updated understanding of lasting motivation.  You could:

  • Keep a gratitude journal, writing down one thing each day that you are grateful for about how your body moved that day
  • Practice a brief self-compassion meditation a few days a week, so you are practiced up on your skill of self compassion for those times you might use self criticism to make you motivated to exercise.
  • Do a Strength Survey to raise your awareness of your inner strengths and how you can use them to keep you motivated to exercise when life tries to get in the way.

How to you use these tools already to keep yourself motivated?  What else could you do to move away from trying to have more willpower to applying these positive emotions to help you keep moving and stay well?

Keep Moving, Be Well,
Janet

 

Leave a comment

by | April 2, 2019 · 6:04 pm