Tag Archives: Inspiration

Moving in the outdoors keeps this physician young and healthy

Team blog series

Dr. Elizabeth Benjevin is one of our physicians here at the UMass Memorial Weight Center.  She shares how she keeps moving by enjoying exercising in the outdoors year round, how she overcame an injury, and stays active on busy days in the clinic.  


What do you currently do for exercise?

Currently I like to mix it up when it comes to exercise.  I enjoy exercising outdoors and being close to nature, so many of my activities revolve around that.  On weekends and my days off I will often go hiking, kayaking or biking in the summer.  During the winter that will switch to skiing – primarily downhill but also cross country as well as occasionally snowshoeing or winter hiking (I use yak trax when walking/hiking to avoid slipping when there’s slippery conditions on the trail.)  I enjoy exercising in the cold.  I realize a lot of people will often hibernate in the winter, but I’ve found that with good warm clothing and practice, one can enjoy exercising outdoors in the cold air.  I often prefer it as I find the cold more invigorating.  But I don’t like being cold so I have invested in some warm jackets, socks (woolen or polyester are much better than the usual cotton), hats, and mittens as well as the footwear.  If I didn’t have these things, I’m sure I would be hibernating as well!   

On days that I am working, I will try to get at least 6000-10,000 steps per day.  I wear my Fitbit and will find excuses to get up and log some extra steps.  It starts in the morning when I park my car in one of the furthest parking spots.  If I have some free time I may walk around the medical school and hospital (outdoors if it’s nice, indoors if not.)  If things are busy then I try to at least get a few steps just walking from my office to the Weight Center front desk – I will often bring charts back one at a time instead of all at once to get more steps as well as to get a break from sitting.  After work, I will often walk with my husband around the neighborhood. 

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

One of my biggest challenges to exercise has been my knee problems.  I had major knee surgery almost 10 years ago.  That knee does have a tendency to act up from time to time.  Often just pacing myself (going on shorter hikes, taking a break from getting my step goal for the day and babying it a little – but not too much because then it can stiffen up) will be all that is needed.  About three years ago when it was not getting better by my usual routine, and I was worried I wouldn’t be able to do my usual hiking and skiing, I finally bit the bullet and made an appointment with my orthopedist.  He recommended physical therapy and what a game changer that was!  With a lot of stretching, a little bit of strengthening exercises and attention to form, I was back hiking again and with much less discomfort than I previously had.  (I had almost hung up my hiking boots so I was thrilled!)

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

Exercise is obviously a very important part of my life.  I find that I feel not only physically better but also mentally more alert when I exercise.  It can also be stress relieving (even more so when I can get out in nature) and I feel that it keeps me young.   When I was a primary care physician and saw healthy 80 and 90 year olds in the office, the one thing they all had in common was that they stayed physically active.  It also gives me pleasure – the accomplishment of hiking up a mountain or successfully tackling a black diamond ski trail cannot be beat!

Thank you Dr. Benjevin!

Keep moving, Be Well,

Janet

Leave a comment

by | October 21, 2019 · 8:31 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

 

Leave a comment

by | September 30, 2019 · 8:17 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

Is it your body or your mind holding you back?

Why exercise for diabetes_(12)

The header at the top of this page is a collection of pictures of people who are on a weight loss journey. They are all at various stages on that journey, most are not at their goal weight yet.  However, each of them are now doing things they could not do before losing weight.  It is quite inspiring to see these smiling faces enjoying life while on the journey. How did they overcome their body and get so fit?  It took changing their mind so their body didn’t get in the way.

 The brain is a reality simulator.  What you imagine can seem very real.  Just think of how you feel when waking up from a dream.  The feelings can stay with you for a while, even though it was all in your head.

When your body is carrying extra weight, it can hold you back from exercising and doing many other activities you once easily enjoyed.  It can seem like you cannot exericse and it would be better to wait until you lost some weight to get started.  What you are feeling in your body is very real.  Just like a dream however, what your brain believes about how much is enough exercise may not be the reality.  Your expectations could be based on your memories of what you used to be able to do and what you want to be able to do now.  They could also be based on recommended amounts, which are really general guidelines.    Just like your dream, your mind can hold beliefs about what your body should be able to do, even when your body is telling you that it cannot do it.

This can feel like your body is getting in the way, holding you back from exercising.  However it is really your ideas about what it means to exercise that is holding you back.  Your body does not know the recommendations.  It only knows what it can do now, in this moment.  Your body does not know how many calories you want it to burn, it only knows what it will burn based upon what will be keep you healthy and well.  Your body does not know the numbers displayed on the weight machine or the treadmill or your activity monitor.  It only knows if it can tolerate what you are asking it to do.

If it cannot tolerate it, your body will let you know through pain and fatigue. Pain and fatigue are a sign of too  much too soon. Contrary to popular beliefs, pain is not a sign of progress (nope, not even muscle soreness). If you body has what it needs to do what you are asking it to do, it will let you know instantly through more energy, greater freedom of movement, more focus and a better mood.  Basically, your body is smarter than your brain when it comes to exercise. Your body and brain work best when they work together, that means your brain observes your body rather than dictates what it should be able to do.

So the next time you start thinking your body is working against you, ask what it is trying to tell you.  The answers may not be clear right away, and usually it is not telling you to stop exercise completely.  It is usually telling you it needs less for a while until it has time to adapt. You will know you have found the just right level and type of exercise by how you feel during and after exercise.  Your body  will tell you if and when it is ready for more. Until then, keep the peace between your brain and your body, by trusting you body to tell your brain how much is enough exercise right now.

Keep Moving Be Well,

Janet

Leave a comment

by | September 18, 2019 · 6:44 pm

Exercise and diabetes

3[1]

If you have been told your blood sugar (glucose) is too high, you probably have also been told to exercise.  But why?  Knowing how exercise helps lower blood sugar levels is a key for staying motivated to exercise regularly.  Let’s take a look at the inside story of exercise and blood sugars. 

Sticky Blood: When sugar gets wet, it gets sticky.  One of the biggest problems with having high blood sugars is that sugar makes blood “sticky”.   When sugar is at higher levels in your blood for too long, it is concerning because that “sticky” blood is now traveling to every part of your body.   This is why diabetes puts you at risk for so many different medical issues.  Nearly every part of the body is strained when blood sugars are high; your kidneys, your nerves, your eyes, etc.

Natural blood sugar management: Two of the most important ways your body is designed to move sugar out of your blood after you eat is (1) the movement system (2) the insulin system.  The movement system is meant to be the main system for keeping blood sugar from getting too high. The insulin system is designed to be your back up system, for use when you are not moving.

When you move:

  • your body uses the sugar in your blood to help fuel moving muscles
  • your body is able to use its own insulin more efficiently.  After exercise, your body is more sensitive to its own insulin, making this back up system work better for hours after exercise.

When you don’t move often:

  • your main (movement) system for managing blood sugars is not available
  • your body needs to use the back up (insulin) system to bring sugar into cells to be stored as fat
  • over time your back up (insulin) system gets overused and can ‘wear out’

When you have type II diabetes, your body is resistant to insulin, causing sugar and insulin build up in your blood.   When you move your body, you activate the main natural system for lowing your blood sugar.   Exercise then, temporarily reverses the cause of type II diabetes.

Not all movement is created equal.  However, if you move all day for your job or for child care, your movement system could be counteracted by another system – the stress system.  When you are moving but stressed, your body releases more sugar into your blood.  That means the movement system cannot do its job as effectively.  This is what sets exercise apart from your every day physical activities.  Exercise is when you are moving for the purpose of self-care. When movement reduces, rather than increases stress, it is able to do its job of lower blood sugars. 

Plus, exercise has GREAT side effects. The bonus is, exercise also helps you manage diabetes in other ways too:

  • Think clearly:  Moving your body can help your brain function better, giving you a better mood, focus and ability to make healthy choices
  • Health protection:  Regular exercisers have a lower risk of heart disease, cancer and stroke.  When you have diabetes you are at greater risk for health concerns, so the extra protection from exercise comes in very handy.
  • Weight managementExercise (specifically strength training) counteracts the metabolism lowering effect of dieting by keeping your muscles strong and functioning well while losing weight.
  • Improved sleep: When sleep deprived, the stress response in the body is triggered, raising blood sugar and making weight loss more difficult.  Using exercise to improve sleep has a ripple effect to many other parts of your life.
  • Reduce Arthritis pain: stronger muscles around joints can decrease arthritis pain and make moving easier.  Less pain means you can move more and moving more helps keep blood sugar in check.
  • Reduce Back Pain:  The job of the core is to protect the spine from wear and tear. Exercises that teach the core muscles to do their job in a functional way can reduce back pain.  Plus, stretching in a way that helps to improve tolerance of things like bending and lifting and helps the body recover from strains of daily life can reduce back pain flare ups. Again, less pain, more movement, better blood sugar control.
  • Counteracts depression, anxiety, and improves mood and focus:  Exercise, when used properly, has been shown to be very effective as part of a treatment plan for depression, anxiety, ADHD, and other areas of mental health.  Living with a disease like diabetes can be overwhelming at times and can affect mood.  Exercise can help boost your ability to cope with the stress and pressures of having diabetes

Bottom line:  Moving your body, in a way that reduces stress, activates the natural blood sugar management system in your body.  Keep moving to keep this system working for you and your health.

Keep Moving, Be Well,

Janet

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

by | May 28, 2019 · 8:55 pm

Who can you inspire to move?

Who can you inspire to move_

My whole team is doing the stretches as part of our morning huddle.  We don’t have pain during the day and have more energy at the end of the day!

This week a patient shared with me an inspiring story.

She is a dental hygienist and she would always get pain her her neck and shoulders from being in that position all day long. That pain drained her energy too.  In her first visit, we did some stretches that she could incorporate into her day to see if they help with this energy draining discomfort.

They really worked for her.  So she showed the stretches to her co-workers one day at morning huddle.   Now they all don’t have that pain any more and they have more energy at the end of the day too.  They decided to make it part of their morning routine.

Kudos to you for inspiring others to move and feel better!

Who could you inspire today to keep moving and be well?

Share your story!

Janet

Leave a comment

by | May 22, 2019 · 4:44 pm

“Exercise is Medicine for a Good Day”

consistency is the holy grail of exercise(1)

This is the patient quote of the week. I could not have said it better myself.  Design your exercise time, no matter how long or short it is, to be your medicine for a good day.  Enjoy!

Keep Moving, Be Well,

Janet

Leave a comment

by | April 10, 2019 · 6:45 pm