The Olympics are always inspiring. Athletes pushing their limits to be the best. Those “gold medal” moments on the podium are a sweet the reward for all their hard work.
When you are exercising for sports performance, thoughts about those are the moments that keep you going. But what about when you are exercising for being healthy, losing weight or keeping it off? The gold medal moments can easily be missed, overlooked by the times you didn’t make progress or reach a goal.
Plus, athletic careers come to an end. The desire to be healthy never ends. The long road ahead can seem daunting when you don’t have those ‘gold medal moments’ to keep you going.
If there were gold medals for exercising to be healthy and well, consistency would be the ultimate challenge to overcome. Yep, I know that sounds boring. I have not seen any news headlines saying “Woman beats the odds and sticks with her exercise program through stressful times” or “Man exercises consistently through the winter months”. Stories about being a healthy exerciser isn’t the stuff of great ratings, but it is the golden key to being healthy.
We have a use it to keep it body. We live in complicated and stressful times. These two facts mean that every day you are consistent with exercise, it’s a “gold medal” moment. So treat it as such! Celebrate those small wins that only you know. The times you kept going even when the scale didn’t move. The times you chose to get up rather than hit the snooze button. The times you got creative when your kids wouldn’t nap and had a dance party with them instead of doing the video you planned on doing.
Share your ‘gold medal’ moments of consistency with exercise and I will be cheering you on every step of the way of this life long journey to Keep Moving and Be Well!
I am one week out of surgery. If it wasn’t for the exercises, I would of had a much harder time. I had plenty of strength right after surgery. I am strong in places I didn’t realized would be. The exercises before surgery help me so much with getting up and doing other things in these early stages of recovery.
This is a patient, who was a regular exerciser when younger, had a major back injury from a work related accident struggled put that on hold for a long time. Living with pain for many years had taken its toll on him not only physically, but mentally too.
When he committed to having surgery, he committed to regular exercise. He purchased exercise bands so he could exercise at home. He started walking short walks, listening to his body and not pushing through pain. He added small stretching breaks to his day to keep his body feeling as good as possible each day.
Motivation was also an issue. The gym used to be motivating but now it was a stark reminder of how far he had come from his younger more fit self. It made him feel worse and that led to put off going. He knew he needed to move more but was afraid of making things worse and struggling with motivating to get started. Doing a little at a time, at home where he felt comfortable helped him get out of the overwhelming state of thinking about how far he was from his goal. Instead he focused on what he could do to feel his best each day. He also committed to regular exercise visits every few weeks to ensure he was staying on track.
This is the struggle for most people who are trying to lose a large amount of weight. You know you need to exercise but your body is limited. You cannot just jump back into what you used to do or what everyone else is doing. You are in a unique situation and need exercises that are meant for the state of your body and your mind right now. This is why we need exercise programs that are specifically for people who are preparing for weight loss surgery.
The problem is, the area of prehabilitation before weight loss surgery has very few studies and most bariatric surgery programs do not include professional clinical exercise guidance as part of the preparation.
The current research shows that exercising before weight loss surgery provides the benefits that make surgery and recovery easier for your body and improves your chances of success with weight loss surgery. The key is, only exercise can provide all these benefits.
One of the most important benefits unique to exercise is the improvements in muscle strength and the prevention of muscle and metabolism loss with weight loss. Muscle loss is one of the down sides of weight loss surgery. Rapid weight loss has been shown to lead to loss of muscle mass, which is one of the largest parts of your metabolism. In one study, people who didn’t exercise after surgery, 22% of their weight loss was muscle. No wonder it is so difficult to keep weight off! But studies show those who exercise greatly slow or even prevent this loss during weight loss.
The common thought is that people who are carrying extra weight tend to have more muscle mass, and this is true but they tend to have lower muscle strength. This is like having a really cool sportscar in your driveway but not being able to use it. Strength and muscle mass don’t go hand in hand because strength is the function of muscles. That depends on how you use them. Exercise, specifically strength training, tells your muscles how to function well and be strong. Only exercise can do this for you. Since functioning better in daily life is one of the main reasons for weight loss surgery, exercise is an essential part of success.
Studies support other benefits of exercising before weight loss surgery is:
better blood pressure control
better blood sugar control
decrease of inflammation
improvement of cardiovascular function (Ie; less shortness of breath, lower risk of heart attack, more energy)
If you want to lose weight to be healthy, isn’t it nice to know you can be healthier while losing weight!
Fitness is a measure of your function in daily life. The image above shows that people represented by the grey line, who didn’t exercise before or after surgery don’t improve their fitness levels after weight loss surgery. Having weight loss surgery is too much work to miss out on this key benefit of weight loss!
As shown in the top two lines in the chart, people who exercise improve fitness and thus are probably enjoying the most success from weight loss surgery. Notice though, the people who do best are the ones represented in the blue line. They are the ones who exercise before and after weight loss surgery.
Exercising before weight loss surgery is one of the best ways to prepare for surgery and up your odds of success after weight loss surgery. Exercising prepares your body by giving it the strength and stamina it needs for surgery and recovery. You are also preparing your mind for making exercise part of your lifestyle, so you stay strong and function better with every pound lost. If you feel stuck, unable to exercise, know that the problem is not your mind or your body. You simply need exercise that is specifically for you, someone who is preparing for weight loss surgery. When exercise addresses the unique needs of someone preparing for weight loss surgery, those physical and emotional struggles with exercise are much less.
Hopefully in the future more research will provide the incentive for more bariatric programs to make exercise a part of their program. UMass Memorial Weight Center is unique in their commitment to including clinical exercise support and guidance as part of the preparation for surgery and success after surgery. If you are preparing for weight loss surgery, make the commitment to include exercise as part of that preparation, seek guidance and support from professionals who understand your unique needs, and give yourself the best chance for success before and after surgery.
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
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
from 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!
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.
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.