Tag Archives: health

Stretching: Three benefits you may not know (part 2)

How to get enough exercise in the busy seasons of your life (6)

In the last blog, we covered how stretching helps your Lymph System function, which helps your immune system reduce the effects of being still and stressed.  The second benefit of stretching you may not know about is its effects on the Fascia System.   Fascia is the connective tissue that extends to every structure of the body. It intertwines and surrounds all organs, muscles, bones and nerve fibers, and enables all body systems to communicate with one another to maintain health of the body and mind.(1)

fascia

Fascia responds to mechanical forces, meaning it changes with how you hold your body during the day. It even changes with your emotions!  The above image is from a video called Strolling Under the Skin, that shows what this connective tissue looks like and how it changes with movement (this is a two-minute clip of a longer video also available for viewing). I find it helpful to hold the image of this webbing connecting the whole body when stretching. It is a reminder that when you stretch one area, you are not just stretching a muscle, you are restoring and re-connecting your whole-person.  

The important point is that fascia is always changing and adapting to what is happening in your body and brain moment by moment. Stretching helps the fascia restore its elasticity instantly, leaving you feeling more comfortable, free to move easier. The effects seem to last for anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours, which is another reason why stretching is best done as movement breaks through your day.  

In addition we are just beginning to understand the importance of the cells in the fascia system for our health, immune system function, and mental well-being.  Stretching is one of the most accessible ways to help your fascia system, and thus your whole body.  

Take a stretch break now, in a way that feels good (not painful), and notice the effects on your whole-person. There is still so much more we do not know about this system in the body. As I learn more, I will share it here on Keep Moving Weekly. In the mean time, keep taking those stretch breaks knowing the effects stretch way beyond your muscles.

Keep Moving, Be Well,

Janet

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by | January 22, 2020 · 6:19 pm

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

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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

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by | January 15, 2020 · 5:17 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

 

 

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by | November 25, 2019 · 4:19 pm

Why a busy surgeon makes time for exercise

Team blog series (3)

Dr. Perugini is our director of bariatric surgery here at the UMass Memorial Weight Center and an avid exerciser.  In this post, he shares why he makes time for exercise, what he does for exercise, and why it is an important part of his health and enjoyment of life. 

What do you currently do for exercise? 

Usually, I alternate between strength training and running.  I have free weights at home.  I do P90x routines.  I like the different routines.  I like the fact that they work different muscle groups.  They rotate between free weights, body weight exercises.  For me, I feel like I get a nice routine that works on big muscle groups, balance, core strength and flexibility.

I also love running.  I am presently training for a long race; for the last month or so, I focused on running.  This has been all on roads.  I love trail running. Finally,  I go to a great yoga center for classes.

What has been your biggest challenge with exercise in recent years?

Some small injuries.  I have some tendinitis that makes running on roads interesting.   Also, I ran a lot with my daughter.  She has left home to start college.  I felt a little sadness in losing my running partner.

How did you overcome that challenge to keep moving?

I found some directed stretching and strengthening programs that made the pain much more tolerable (Summit Medical Group has some great rehabilitation exercises available on line).  Also, I pay attention to the bevel at the side of the road.  If I run with my right leg on the outside towards the curb, the pain worsens.  If I run with the right leg inside, my ankle feels okay.   Also, if I need to lay off running, I switch to the strength training routines.  Similarly, if an injury keeps we from strength training, I switch to running.  I think it’s good to exercise in cycles anyway.

Why is exercise important to you right now in your life?

For me, it is a great way to relieve stress.  I don’t like to listen to anything when I run, so the run becomes a time for meditation.  I think it is good for me to let my mind wander.  Its great for creativity, too.  A lot of people describe getting their best ideas when they let their minds wander during exercise.

What advice do you give patients who are struggling with exercise motivation?

If we are struggling for motivation, I don’t think we are doing it right.  Exercise should be a time to feel good.  It helps to relieve stress.  There is a good buzz that happens during and afterwards. It should feel like play, and we all need play.  Be playful, and courageous.  Try something new.  Find the thing you love.

Thank you Dr. Perugini!

Keep Moving, Be Well

Janet

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by | November 18, 2019 · 3:59 pm

The exercise mindset shift of a new mom

Inspired by Dr. Gitkind’s story last week, about how he used his fitness to help others, I decided to do a blog series about the real life exercise challenges and successes of UMass Memorial Weight Center Staff. This week I interviewed Anna Grotevant, one of our amazing dietitians.  As many of you know, she had a baby last year.  I asked her about how being a new mom has shifted her mindset about exercise.


Team blog series (2)

What was your mindset about exercise before pregnancy?

Before starting a family I exercised to stay fit and as a social activity. I wasn’t very consistent. I had more time to myself and tended to procrastinate. I didn’t really use exercise as a form of self-care because I had other forms of self-care that were more relaxing. Exercise felt more like something I had to check off on my to-do list. I would go weeks or months without exercising even though it is important to me.

What do you do now for exercise as a new mom?

After giving birth to my daughter a year ago, I spent time recuperating. I stopped exercising completely as I didn’t have the physical or mental energy to think about it. I also felt like I was so “out of shape” that my typical forms of exercise (running /yoga) were out of the question. Once I hit six months postpartum, I started with some walking. I built up from there, and now I’m walking, running, strength training and doing some yoga – usually something every day. I exercise on my own in the evening and with my sister on the weekends (we have “run dates”, which I really enjoy). I also walk on my lunch at work when it’s nice out.

How has your mindset about exercise shifted since having a baby?

My mindset about exercise has shifted. Since I have less time to myself, I tend not to procrastinate. If I’m going to do anything it has to be while my daughter is sleeping, so I get right on it as soon as my daughter goes down. I also have to multitask – I look at exercise not only as a way to stay fit but as a form of self-care and relaxation. I appreciate the time I have to myself a lot more. I’m a lot more gentle and forgiving in my workouts because it’s not about burning calories or running faster, but just about being able to move my body and have some time alone.

What is the biggest challenge about exercising as a new mom?

The biggest challenge about exercising as a new mom is the time that it takes. There’s always something I “should” be doing. Exercising during my daughter’s nap time means I’m not doing any of my household tasks. Having exercise dates with my sister on weekends means I’m not spending time with my daughter and husband.  That can actually make my life feel more stressful, especially if I’m falling behind in my responsibilities or it’s a particularly busy time of life. I try to manage this by prioritizing. I say no to some activities and requests from others so that I can preserve time for the people who are most important to me. I try to incorporate exercise into family activities on the weekends. Most importantly, I try to remember that no one is perfect. I can’t be the perfect mom, wife, sister, daughter, employee or exerciser. I can just do my best with what I’ve got and keep moving forward.

Thank you Anna!

Keep moving, be well,

Janet

 

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by | September 30, 2019 · 8:17 pm