Tag Archives: learning

Exercise in the age of distraction

Exercise in the age of distraction

There is no denying we are living in an age of distraction.  So many ‘bright and shiny’ things to capture our brains attention, its a amazing we get anything done.  It takes extra brain energy to shift attention, and when your brain has to do it all day long, it can really drain your energy and dampen your ability to get things done.

You probably have heard the term Executive Function. It is a way to describe how your brain helps you get things done.  If your energy and time are limited by your life, or a medical issue or a medication, boosting your executive function could make life a bit easier.

There are mixed results on the various methods for improving executive function.  There is however,  one research-backed method that seems to work with great consistently in people of all ages.   Yes, you guessed it, exercise!

 “ample evidence indicates that regular engagement in aerobic exercise can provide a simple means for healthy people to optimize a range of executive functions.”

What do you notice about how exercise helps your brain function?  If you are a regular exerciser, you may not notice any benefits until you don’t exercise and you feel a bit more distractable and less effective.  If you have not yet found that exercise helps your brain, here are three things to consider that may help:

  • Aerobic exercise (AKA Cardio):  This is when you move continuously using a majority of your muscles (IE: Walking, dancing, swimming, seated aerobics, biking) at a level that your breathing is moderate to a comfortable challenge.  Studies show as little as 10-15 minutes of cardio can improve executive function.
  • Use it as a tool:   Studies show the brain benefits are immediate; the brain functions better after one bout of aerobic exercise.  Exercise can be a tool for functioning better each day.  It can also be a way to ensure you are at the top of your game before a test, important meeting, or doing any task requiring focus and organization. Try a 10 minute bout of aerobic exercise before reaching food or caffeine when your energy is low and see if it works just as well (or even better?)
  • Your enjoyable time-out:   If exercise is stress-producing, it will not have as much brain (or health) benefit as when it is stress-reducing.  Exercise is your time-out from the strains of everyday life.  Make it enjoyable and your brain (and body) will thank you for it.

In this age of distraction, how can you make exercise one of your best tools to help make the most of every day?  Be your own investigator. Try different types and timing of exercise to see what works best for your brain.

Keep moving, be well,

Janet

 

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by | May 7, 2019 · 4:57 pm

How to get the most from sitting less

how to lose ten pounds of gym guilt(2)

Like other health recommendations, the research on the risks of sitting for too long is a bit conflicting.  No matter what the latest research says, it is pretty much common sense that prolonged sitting is just not what our body is designed for and its a good idea to avoid it.

But is it enough to just get up and move during the day? Does a standing desk erase all that worry? How about wearing an activity monitor? Lets look at some of the research and see if we can come up with a way to know you are doing what you can to counteract the effects of the sedentary activities in your life.

This study published this month in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found the following:

For people who sat a lot (6-8 hours a day or more), replacing sitting with vigorous physical activity was better than replacing it with moderate activity; and replacing sitting with moderate activity or walking was better than replacing it with standing.

What does that mean?

Replacing sitting with standing?  In this study, replacing sitting with standing did not reduce the risks.  This study even found that people with occupations that required long periods of standing actually had a greater risk of heart disease then those who sat or those who did mixed activities.  Every study has its limits but the bottom line is, standing and working is not necessarily better.  If you fought for a standing desk at work, don’t ditch it yet.  If changing your position while you work helps you feel better while working, that is a great thing. If standing and working just does not work for you, don’t feel guilty for sitting. There are other, more powerful options.

Do vigorous physical activity?  The word vigorous can sometimes be mistaken for exercise that makes you feel tired, sweaty and sore. but that is not what vigorous physical activity means.    The actual definition used in research is any activity that is six or more times the amount of effort as it takes to sit and rest.  Examples would be running, walking up hill, fast cycling, aerobic dance or other activities of similar intensity level.  The thing is, it’s all relative.  These may feel more moderate for one person and impossible for someone else.  Instead, if you want to add more vigorous activities, choose the level of an activity that challenges your breathing and your body at a challenging but still enjoyable level that you can sustain.

Do moderate physical activity? This study shows that moderate activity works to reduce risks. Moderate level activities are ones that are three to six times the amount of work for your body to sit and rest.  They include walking, housecleaning, dancing, gardening.  Again,  it’s relative to how your body feels when you do that activity.  Choose a level that takes your breathing to level where you notice your breathing,  it but feels comfortable enough you could continue the activity for a while without stopping.

So how to you know if you are doing enough?  Know that even if you can only do a few minutes of an activity to break up your stillness times, and do it consistently, you will probably counteract the effects of prolonged stillness.

But don’t take the advice from research or even my word for it.  What does your body tell you when you have been still for an extended period of time?  How much and what kind of movement makes it feel better?  Chances are your body is telling you what it needs.

Keep moving, be well,

Janet

 

 

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by | April 24, 2019 · 6:47 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

 

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by | April 17, 2019 · 7:13 pm

Spring Training Check-in

How calorie burning makes it harder to lose weight(11).png

Back in October, I invited you to set some Spring-training goals. Now that the days are longer, and weather warmer, its time to check in on how it went.  Keep in mind, this check-in is not a pass/fail.  It’s all about learning, so you know more about how you can Keep Moving and Be Well all year long.

Winters in New England can be some of the most challenging times to exercise consistently.  Yet, it keeps coming back every year.  Adopting a mindset about your exercise plan in the winter is a key to use exercise as a tool to keep you feeling healthy and well all year long.

Mindset it so powerful.  It has been shown to change  how medications, foods and treatments work in our body.  What was formerly known as the Placebo Effect, is now called the Belief Effect because it has been proven to be real.  How you think about something changes how it effects your body.  It is shown to hold true for how you feel about exercise too.

This is why each year we address the winter exercise mindset and call it Spring Training here on Keep Moving Weekly.  Seeing winter exercise as a form of Spring Training changes the whole outlook and motive for exercising through the winter.  With a clear vision in your head about what you want to be ready to do when the weather is better,  you are no longer just waiting for spring, you are actively in training for it.   When that is connected to the activities that are most important to you in springtime, the whole approach and motive for exercising in winter changes.  When you design what you do for exercise in the winter as the way to be ready for all the activities you want to do in spring, your motivation gets a nice little boost of energy.

So, how did your Spring Training go?  What did you do this winter that is making your more confident you can get out and enjoy the spring activities?

What do you wish you had done more of so you had more strength, stamina and mobility for those things you want to do now?  If you fell short of your goals for your winter exercise plan, it is not failure. Simply learn from it and apply it to next winter.

Take a moment now to write down what you learned about your 2018-2019 Spring Training Season your calendar for October 2019.  We will use this valuable info to make your 2019-2020 Spring Training season even more motivating.

Keep Moving, Be Well,

Janet

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by | March 25, 2019 · 1:54 pm

Why all the hype about heart rate? Part 3

How calorie burning makes it harder to lose weight(8)

This is the last part of our series on heart rate.  Check out blog #1 and blog #2 for the full story. 

We have been looking beyond heart rate to see what is really going on in your body with cardio.  This ‘behind the scenes’ look is important because it lets you take charge of self-monitoring your cardio, so it feels right for your body.  When you know what is happening during cardio, it is clear that your breathing level, not your heart rate, is your best guide to getting good cardio exercise for weight loss, health and well-being.

When exercise feels light to moderate, your muscles are able to use oxygen to produce enough fuel. However when exercise starts to feel more and more challenging, it means your body is no longer able to produce energy using oxygen and needs to use other ways to produce energy.  This source of energy production is not as long lasting, so unless you slow down, fatigue will soon make you need to stop moving to let your body catch up.  

The more oxygen your body can use, the easier it is for you to keep moving without getting out of breath or tired and needing to stop or slow down.

The purpose of cardiovascular exercise is to build stamina in your whole cardiovascular system,  so you can move for longer periods of time without stopping.

When the level of an activity reaches a point where your body can no longer use oxygen to produce energy to fuel muscles, it has to go back to creating more energy through the process that does not need oxygen. The downside of using this non-oxygen requiring system is that it produces carbon dioxide. If levels of carbon dioxide get too high, your body starts to shut down, so getting rid of that carbon dioxide is really important. .

When you feel uncomfortably short of breath with exercise, it is because your body is getting rid of carbon dioxide, not because your body is trying to get in more oxygen. When you feel that uncomfortable shortness of breath, it means your body is producing energy in a way that is not sustainable. Its a sign you are not going to last very long at that level of movement. You either need to slow down, so your body is not using so much energy to fuel muscles, or stop so your system can catch up.

How do you build stamina so your body can use more of the long lasting oxygen using system for fueling muscles?  Simply getting your heart rate up will not make that happen.  Moving your body at a level that your breathing is at a moderate to comfortable challenge for an extended period of time, and repeating that on a regular basis will improve stamina. 

You could do this in three 10-minute bouts a day, two fifteen minutes a day, or three thirty-minute sessions a week. The key is consistently challenging your whole cardiovascular system to help your body build the equipment needed to provide fuel for your muscles in a sustainable way.  After about three days, your body starts to lose what it has started building, so do some cardio at least every three days.  

In the end, that consistently with sustained movement at a moderate breathing level will make  everyday activities are easier for your body so you have more energy left over for the activities you enjoy!

Keep Moving, Be Well,

Janet


Please share these posts with anyone you know interested in losing weight with or without weight loss surgery.  Click here to learn more about the UMass Memorial Weight Center

These weekly blogs are general guidelines. These guidelines apply to patients who are cleared by a physician for the type of exercise described. Please contact your physician with any concerns or questions. Always report any symptoms associated with exercise, such as pain, irregular heartbeats, and dizziness or fainting, to your physician.

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by | March 12, 2019 · 7:50 pm

Keep Moving Forward

Keep moving forward. These inspirational words remind us that setbacks will happen. It is part of being on the journey. It’s part of life. Keep moving is the title of this blog, to remind us that movement is a key to health, but also to remind each one of us that setbacks are normal. They are just part of the process.

Looking back, have you noticed that the setbacks lead to the best ‘ah ha’s’? Learn from what is not working and you will find the path you need to follow for lasting weight loss. Focus on what you can learn from setbacks, and you will keep moving forward.

Learn from when your body is saying “no thank you, I cannot do that right now”. The ‘right now’ is a critical thing to remember. Your body is in constant change. Ignore it and it will ‘speak’ louder. Work with it, listen to it and you will keep moving forward. Focus on what your body can do right now, and you will keep moving forward.

Learn from what your thoughts are creating. Negative thoughts will drain your energy faster than anything. Your mindset changes your body. Focus on what is going well each day, and you will keep moving forward.

Keep Moving, Be Well,

Janet

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by | January 22, 2019 · 7:05 pm

As the cost of medication is goes up, the cost of exercise stays the same.

The prices of the 20 most commonly prescribed brand-name drugs for seniors have risen nearly 10 times more than the annual rate of inflation over the past five years  CNN Report March 2018

Blog images(2)The rising cost of medications is in the news a lot isn’t it.  There are many ‘angles’ to these news stories,  but the one you care most about is how it is effecting your wallet  As you watch the cost of your medications rise, what can you do?  You need them, but they can be so costly.  This puts many people between a rock and a very hard place these days.

As you may have heard, the 2018 government guidelines for physical activity were released last week.  While that might not have been big news for you, it could be when you put a dollar sign next to those recommendations.

The amount of exercise recommended has not changed – 30 minutes five days a week (or the equivalent in terms of totaling 150 minutes a week) of moderate intensity exercise.   In terms of your time investment, it comes to less than 2% of your total time per week.

To put that into a dollar return for your 2% time investment, a 2016 study estimated a cost savings of $2,500 in medical expenses per person per year for people who do this amount of exercise.    You could think of exercise as a ‘tax rebate’ you receive a little bit every day.

Even better though, that ‘rebate’ is not only in the form of dollars, but an even more valuable resource – your enjoyment of life.  Designing your  150 minutes of exercise a week in the right way means you have a bit more energy for the people and things you love.  It means less days of missing out on life because you are not feeling well. It means you have an easier time enjoying life because of a better mood. (I could go on…)

These are the things you cannot put a dollar amount on – they are priceless!

Keep moving, Be Well,

Janet

 

 

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by | November 19, 2018 · 10:08 pm