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Tips for finding online strength exercises that are right for you

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

Online exercise has become a lifeline for exercising during the COVID-19 outbreak.  It’s always a good idea to have as many options for exercise as possible.  This challenging time is an opportunity to find new ways to exercise when time and equipment are limited.   I am hearing from many people how they are discovering old favorites and new ways to exercise.

In the last blog we covered what to look for in acardio online exercise program.  Today, we will look at what to avoid and what to look for in a strength exercises online.

What to avoid in strength exercises

    • Exercises that target certain areas like triceps, core, thighs. These are most likely to waste your time and put your body in positions that increase the risk of injury.  The biggest benefit to strength training for weight loss is the overall metabolism boost that strength training provides. It does this better than other types of exercise, as long as you challenge a large amount of your muscle mass in the right way.  Target exercises use small amounts of muscle mass. Since your body does not burn fat directly from the area you are exercising, focusing on target areas means you are most likely missing out on the metabolism boosting benefits.  Words like ‘tone’, ‘firm’, ‘slim’ or ‘tighten’ are great red flags the exercise is based more on what is marketable than what is science based.   Examples of marketing based exercise include sit ups (any variety), triceps exercises (dips, overhead, kickbacks), leg lifts meant for toning thighs, and twists (for ‘love handles’).
    • Core workouts, are popular to reduce back pain and because of the belief that they will give you a flat stomach or get rid of belly fat. Yet many exercises, like sit ups and planks, actually strain rather than strengthen your back.  As we discussed above, exercising a certain part of your body wont burn more fat in that area.  Your core muscles are not designed to be movers, they are there to stabilize the center of your body while moving your arms and legs.  Core exercises like sit ups and crunches and planks do not reduce belly fat, and ask your body to move in ways it was not designed.   Click here for more information about how to strengthen your core.
    • Workouts that start at a high intensity are most likely to leave you feeling sore.  There is absolutely no evidence that muscle soreness has a benefit for your body.  No pain no gain is a term for athletes how have to endure pain to overcome the competition. If you want to be healthy, you don’t need to be in pain to get more benefits from exercise.  More importantly, your brain is hardwired to avoid what feels uncomfortable. That ‘great workout that left you with a good sore’, is really telling your brain to start making excuses why you cannot do it again and again. Be wary of any program that has a ‘jump start’ to get quicker results.


  • What to look for in an online strength program

    • Exercises that mimic movements your body needs to do in daily life such as lifting overhead, stepping, squatting, pulling, pushing are all movements your body has to do in daily life.  You will be using more muscle mass with each exercise and this is what will help keep your metabolism up so you are more likely lose more fat overall, rather than targeting certain areas and using less muscle in the hope it will burn fat in certain areas of your body.
    • Exercises that incorporate your core into each exercise, rather than strengthen it separately. this not only saves you time but teaches your body to work together, with your core keeping your whole body strong.
    • Exercises that start at a very light level because strength comes from muscle memory.  Your brain is what coordinates all the muscle fibers to work together so you can be strong.  Starting at a lower resistance gives your body time to build strong muscle memory so when you do challenge those muscle fibers, your body is ready.  Skip this vital step to improving strength is like building a house with a weak foundation, its not likely to last.

If you are a weight center patient, email me at for information about our free online course for strength training.

Keep Moving, Be Well,


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by | May 27, 2020 · 7:36 pm

Tips for finding an online cardio workout that is right for you

How to get enough exercise in the busy seasons of your life (1)Online exercise has become a lifeline for exercising during the COVID-19 outbreak.  It’s always a good idea to have as many options for exercise as possible.  This challenging time is an opportunity to find new ways to exercise when time and equipment are limited.   I am hearing from many people how they are discovering old favorites and new ways to exercise.

Here are some things to look for when searching for online cardio exercise:

    • If the cardio involves using hand weights or bands to add upper body toning or more calorie burning, do the exercises without anything in your hands. Studies show adding upper body resistance does not burn more calories and puts more strain on your upper body joints (shoulders especially).   Just enjoy moving and do strength training separately to strengthen your upper body.    The same goes for wearing ankle weights when walking or doing cardio; the risks far outweigh the benefit
    • High Intensity Interval Training is very ‘in’ right now.  Some people love exercising at a super high intensity. For most people, it is NOT a positive experience.  Considering that your brain is hardwired to avoid what makes you feel worse, you may want to reconsider HIIT training if you don’t love it.  There is  more research that shows moderate intensity cardio has plenty of benefits and it is much more enjoyable for most people.  You can still do intervals, just keep them between moderate to comfortable challenge for your breathing and stay away from the uncomfortable levels.
    • If the program has very complicated moves that limit your ability to keep moving, choose something that has more simple moves.  (examples below) The goal of cardio is to move continuously. If the moves in the cardio program are so complicated you end up standing still until you figure them out, it will not be as beneficial as something that keeps you moving.
    • If your lower body is limited by pain, try seated aerobics (links below) or doing a hybrid of seated and standing.  This is a great option to improve stamina without straining weight bearing joints.  If it seems like it won’t be challenging enough, I challenge you to give it a try.  🙂

Here are some free resources you might try for cardio:

Basic aerobics:  Walk at home has great videos for free online as well as a subscription for more videos including an app. (Reminder, skip holding onto anything in your hand when doing the ones they include bands)  They even have a video with all men, which is not easy to find with aerobics videos.  Body Groove is a paid subscription but there is a sample you can try. If you like to dance, you might enjoy this approach that is very body positive and friendly for all sizes.

Seated aerobics videos free online: Fuzion Fitness is a great seated dance exercise program.  Paul Eugene  offers a wide variety of videos that are higher intensity (and his smile is contagious).   The Walk at Home videos are simple enough they can be done in seated as well.

Kickboxing:  Tae Bo on YouTube is offering some fresh workouts just for the pandemic.

Next week we will focus on  what to look for in strength training videos online.

Keep Moving and Be Well






by | May 4, 2020 · 6:34 pm

Eating during the COVID Crisis

How to get enough exercise in the busy seasons of your life (19)

The following article was written by Jennifer Hall, RD, dietitian for the UmassMemorial Good Fit Teen Weight Loss and Wellness program.    It contains wonderful tips and a wealth of resources for eating during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Thank you Jennifer!

During this COVID-19 pandemic, maintaining good nutrition can be a challenge.  This article is to share with you some tips of how to plan and prepare “balanced” meals during this time, which provide nutrition, satiety, satisfaction and, yes, comfort for you and your families.

Food is a sense of security, especially at times like these.  Having to be “present” for this extended period of time at home, we now have an opportunity to fine-tune how we regulate our appetite, known as a “Hunger Satiety Scale”.  You may be finding yourself or your children “constantly eating”, snacking on a lot of refined cracker and snack items.  Part of this practice may be due to using food to cope with feelings of stress, anxiety and/or boredom.  Am I eating because I am afraid/full of fear?   At this time, it is important to remember to be kind and patient with ourselves, as many of our cravings are biologically driven to help decrease stress that we are experiencing.  The other piece to keep in mind is can I be more mindful in my food choices?  Am I looking for food often because I am choosing unsatisfying foods (lacking protein, fiber, flavor, and fat) or not following my normal meal/snack schedule like I would in my usual routine?   If I realize I am not physically hungry, what other things could I do in place of eating (read a book, call and check in a family member, make a soup).

As someone in charge of shopping and/or cooking at your home, you also may be under a great deal of stress about how to feed your household members, three meals per day, on a newly restrictive income.  We are sensitive that many families may need to become more resourceful and flexible in what menu items you are now offering.  Involve children when preparing the menu, and meals themselves; have them measure out or safely chop ingredients.  This necessary task is a great way to incorporate math and science skills as so many parents adjust to home-schooling.   Try to embrace this situation as chance to try out new recipes, reduce food waste, and get creative stretching the dollar.  Items such as dried legumes (beans, lentils, peas), canned (*look for no added salt or sugar) or frozen vegetables and fruits can be a less pricey option, which work well in times when you will not be able to keep as much fresh produce in your house (due to decreased shopping trips).  You can also save money by buying in bulk such as bags of potatoes and apples, or larger quantities of meat and poultry, which can be divided and frozen.  For those families experiencing food insecurity at this time, here are some links for adjustments in services such as WIC, SNAP, and the National School Breakfast and Lunch program.

Adaptations for COVID:

  • FRUIT: Applesauce/fruit cup, canned*/dried/frozen fruit, canned pumpkin
  • VEGGIES: Canned*, frozen, root veggies, pickles/pickled veggies (carrots, green beans, red cabbage, sauerkraut), canned or jarred artichokes, jarred roasted red peppers, canned tomatoes
  • PROTEINS: Canned/dried beans, deli meat, frozen chicken, turkey, beef, pork, fish, tofu; canned tuna; nuts, peanut or nut butters, dried meats (i.e. meat sticks or jerky), cheese ; frozen edamame or lentils, hummus, Palmalat or UHT-treated cow’s mik, shelf-stable soy milk, dried milk
  • STARCHES: Rice, pasta, quinoa, bread, potatoes, packaged/boxed stuffing
  • FATS: olives, nuts, seeds, olive or canola oils, fish (canned or frozen), nuts as above, avocado/guacamole

For tips on buying frozen and canned produce, click here.

Breakfast Ideas:

  • Oatmeal with flax, nuts, fresh/frozen-thawed/dried fruit
  • Smoothies with fruit/greens (spinach or kale), chia seeds
  • Egg and low-fat cheddar cheese on whole wheat English muffin
  • PB Toast-add sliced bananas or raisins
  • Banana or Pumpkin bread/muffins made with whole wheat flour, flax seed, and walnuts
  • Pancakes (boxed or homemade) with fruit compote (frozen berries-heated with a little water and honey or agave), frozen sausage (ckn, pork, veggie)
  • Cold cereal with fresh or dried fruit
  • “Green Eggs and Ham” (add spinach and chopped ham to scrambled egg and cheese)
  • Veggie quiche (use frozen pie crusts, defrost frozen broccoli/spinach/kale, canned mushrooms)
  • Hard boiled eggs and whole wheat toast and dried apricots
  • Cottage cheese with cinnamon and diced pear

Entrees/Items for Lunch or Dinner:

  • Tuna noodle casserole (tuna, cream of mushroom, canned/frozen peas and/or carrots, pasta)
  • Rice and beans
  • Chicken, tofu, or Veggie* stir-fry using frozen veggies (carrots, cauliflower, broccoli), canned water chestnuts, mushrooms; serve with canned pineapple, cooked rice . *Top with cashews for crunch and/or extra protein
  • Canned or homemade Baked beans and turkey kielbasa
  • English muffin or French bread pizza-top with veggies, turkey pepperoni or Hawaiian (canned pineapple and ham)
  • Black bean (canned) and sweet potato burritos
  • Shepherd’s Pie (ground meat/turkey/veggie crumbles, canned/frozen corn, instant or homemade mashed potatoes)
  • Tacos with beef/chicken/beans, salsa, shredded 2% Mexican blend cheese, guacamole, olives
  • Homemade nuggets and fries (cut up white or sweet potatoes, toss with canola oil, S &P)
  • Bean-based and/or chicken quesadillas


  • Chili (ckn, beef and/or canned or dried bean-based, canned tomatoes, canned/frozen corn) topped with cheese, sour cream/plain Greek yogurt; serve with brown rice, tortilla chips or corn bread (from box or homemade)
  • Beef stew (stewed meat, carrots, potatoes, onions, canned mushrooms)
  • Minestrone (pasta, beans, frozen or canned veggies) and grilled cheese
  • Split pea (ham optional) soup and crackers
  • Beef (frozen stewed meat) and barley soup

For recipe ideas, check out


  • HBE and fruit cup
  • Olives and cheese plate
  • Nuts and dried fruit/trail mix
  • Nuts/seeds with raisins and dry cereal
  • Apples with PB or low-fat cheese
  • Ham or turkey with cheese roll-ups/pin wheels
  • Oatmeal, peanut butter or pumpkin chocolate chip cookies (homemade with whole wheat flour and ground flax seed)
  • Carrots with hummus
  • Popcorn (you have the time-try making homemade!) If you do not have an electric popper, or do not want to use the stove, add ½ cup kernels to brown lunch bag, fold and seal bag with tape. Shake kernels flat-place in microwave for 2-3 minutes.  Viola!  Air-popped popcorn.
  • Dried seaweed and turkey/beef/pork jerky

Take out Guidelines

At this time, there is no evidence to suggest COVID-19 is being transmitted via food If you can afford it, purchasing take out is a great way to support local business and ease the stress of purchasing food and meal preparation for you at this time.  Cornovirus does not live well on foods-but it can live on the containers/wrappers from human contact.  Take care to wash your hands after you remove food from containers and wrappers before eating. Place food on clean serving wear (plate, bowl) for consumption/serving. For ideas of what to choose when taking out, please see this link from the American Academy of Dietetics, Covid Nutrition Resources:

  • Hand washing
  • Choosing healthful take-out and delivery meals

Shopping Guidelines-Keeping Your Family Safe

Be sure to purchase long-lasting produce, as well as your family’s favorites.  Stagger your produce so that you eat the most perishable items first such as berries, lettuces, grapes, cucumbers, bananas and asparagus.  Citrus, avocados, apples, pears, beets, celery, kale, cauliflower, Brussel Sprouts, and turnips can last a bit longer.  The real stars that will do the best long-term are potatoes-sweet and white, winter squash (acorn, butternut, etc.), onions, garlic, carrots, and parsnips.  Consider storing these in cool, dry, dark space i.e. cooler in garage.

For more information about the below topics, please check out and the Academy’s  Covid Nutrition Resources

  • Opportunities to make the best of time at home: family meals, get kids cooking
  • Buying groceries during quarantine

*Click here for a video on shopping during this pandemic.

Other resources that may be helpful


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by | April 14, 2020 · 4:28 pm

Surgery on hold? Here’s what you CAN do.

How to get enough exercise in the busy seasons of your life (18)

If your plans for having weight loss surgery, or another surgery,  have been put on hold until the COVID-19 pandemic is under control, it may seem like your life is on hold.  Let’s flip that script to see the opportunity this time presents.

When you have surgery, even though you are laying still during the operation and when you recover,  your body is working hard to keep you well.  For that reason, the practice of prehabilitation has gained popularity. Improving strength and stamina before surgery has been shown to reduce the risks of surgery and improve recovery after surgery.

The number one fact to know about your body is that it gets used to what you give it.  Everyday your body gets signals to either grow stronger or weaker, increase or decrease inflammation, lose bone cells or build new ones, build muscle or let it go, (and so on, and so on).     When you move in the specific ways that tell it to stay strong and healthy, your cells will do all they can to work together and keep you strong and healthy.

What is in your control right now is what you tell your body about how prepared you want to be for surgery.  As difficult as it may seem to be waiting in a body that does not feel the way you want it to feel, you have been given more time to prepare it for surgery.  This is a tremendous opportunity to improve or maintain your strength and stamina so your body has the best chance to handle surgery well and recover well.

Both strength and stamina are equally important but use different types of movement:

Strength: The amount of muscle mass you have is directly related to your health, metabolism, longevity and success with surgery.  Aging and weight loss, as well as other medical conditions and medications, lower muscle mass.  Strength training (AKA weight lifting or resistance training) is the best kind of exercise to help preserve your muscle mass.  Cardiovascular and stretching are not designed to do this near as well as strength training.  Simpy put, strength training uses more muscle fibers.  Remember  that  “use it to keep it” rule?  The muscle fibers you don’t use go into a sort of ‘hibernation’.  The ones you use stay active and ready to help you move well.  Strength training does not mean you have to lift heavy weights or go to a gym and you  definitely do not need to be sore.  Learn simple strength exercises that challenge the functional movements of your body and do that every other day and you are on your way to stay strong for surgery.  

Stamina: Surgery is about four times more work for your cardiovascular system than it is to be sitting and resting.  Cardiovascular exercise is the type that strengthens this system, so surgery is not as much work.  Just as a marathon runner who is well trained feels better after running 26 miles than someone who did not train, preparing your cardiovascular system through regular cardiovascular exercise increases the chance the whole experience will be easier for your body.  Fortunately, you do not need to do the training of a marathoner to be ready for surgery.  Simply moving as much of your body as possible continuously at a moderate intensity for your breathing for 5 min several times a day up to 30 min several times a week is enough to build stamina.

If you are a UMassMemorial Weight Center patient, we are doing tele-visits and have free online courses with exercises you can do.  We are here to help you figure out how to keep moving while you wait.  Feel free to email me with any questions at

Keep Moving and Stay Well,




by | April 8, 2020 · 2:19 pm

Getting control over comfort eating

How to get enough exercise in the busy seasons of your life (17)

Below is an article written by one of our medical providers, Dr. Elizabeth Benjevin.  During this COVID-19 outbreak, many people are turning to food for comfort, and this is adding to the stress of weight loss.  She offers advice for reducing comfort eating here.  Thank you Dr. Benjevin for sharing your timely insights.  

 Emotional and Comfort Eating

Emotional eating is very common. Many people find themselves turning to food in times when they feel anxious, depressed, bored or tired. Often, they will turn to foods that in the past they have associated with comfort, often sweet or high in refined carbohydrates, foods that may be associated with childhood and good times.

Part of stopping emotional eating is to identify when you are eating for hunger and when you are eating for emotional reasons. Some signs you are eating for comfort include: you get a sudden craving for a specific type of food (hunger usually gradually builds up and is usually satisfied by most foods), you’re not satisfied even though you are physically full, you feel the hunger mainly in your head and not in your stomach, you feel guilty or regretful after eating.

Getting control over emotional eating

Just being aware that you are eating because of emotions is probably the most important step that you can make to start getting control. What you do after that may be variable depending upon the circumstances. Sometimes simply paying attention to your feelings may be enough to cause it to gradually fade into the background. Sometimes, you will need to do more than that and having substitute activities that are enjoyable and soothing can be very helpful. Below is a list of some activities that people have found helpful. This is not meant to be complete, if you have one that has been helpful in the past but not listed, make note and try it out.

  • Physical Activity such as walking, running, dancing, stretching
  • Listening to music
  • Reading a good novel
  • Knitting or crocheting
  • Coloring in an adult coloring book
  • Playing solitaire or a game on your phone
  • Taking a walk in nature
  • Gardening
  • Playing with or petting your pet
  • Looking at favorite pictures of your pet or other animals
  • Woodworking
  • Taking a relaxing bath
  • Getting a massage or giving yourself a self-massage
  • Talking to or calling a close friend
  • Prayer/Meditation
  • Fishing
  • Writing/Journaling
  • Having a soothing cup of tea
  • De-cluttering your desk or other area
  • Drawing or doodling

Take a break from the news and social media – social media sometimes increases stress because you see everyone else’s “perfect life” and your life doesn’t seem to measure up. (Of course people don’t usually post the bad stuff)

Close your eyes and take some slow deep breaths – make the out breath about twice as long as the in breath; you may wish to imagine yourself in a calm relaxing place. Visualize all the little details.  If you like to be on the beach, then imagine the sand and the ocean, how the heat and the breeze feels on your skin, the smell of the ocean, the sound of the waves. Take the time to soak it all in, and realize that this is available whenever you want.

If you find your stress becomes unmanageable or overwhelming, consider seeing a therapist , talk to your primary care provider or contact your mental health provider if you have one.

Take Care, Stay Safe and we’ll all get through this together. 

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by | April 1, 2020 · 5:18 pm

Exercising at home. The new (temporary) normal

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

The “new normal” right now is exercising at home.  If you are not set up to do that,  here are some tips for staying healthy and well as you create your home exercise program. Start with these three simple rules:

  1. Any time you do something new, start small.  Your body gets used to exactly what you give it.  Anything new is likely to produce muscle soreness.  However there is no such thing as a ‘good sore’.  Muscle soreness does not mean you are getting more benefits or burning more calories, it just means you did too much too soon.  Start with half a video or a lighter version of an exercise.  See how you feel the next day and then gradually progress
  2. Discover something new. Despite all the problems this outbreak is causing, it is also presenting many new opportunities.  While easing into something new, enjoy the novelty of moving in different ways. You never know what you might discover.  Keep your mind set on the opportunities this is presenting to help you stay positive and optimistic and well.
  3. Some thing is better than nothing.  The most effective thing you can do for your health and well being right now, besides washing your hands and social distancing, is to keep moving in a way that keeps your immune system strong and your stress low.   This is no time for perfection, it’s time to keep moving and be well!

Here are some links to online exercise programs I often recommend.  

Dance fun for anyone:

Body Groove is an online program that is a fun way to exercise alone or with a group. there is a fee but check out some of the free samples to see if it is a fit for you.

Richard Simmons is a blast from the past for many of us.  His videos are online and worth checking out if for no other reason than to see the fashions!

Put on music and dance.  Its that simple.  A daily dance part with your family or with friends through video chat is a great way to reduce stress and connect while doing some great cardiovascular exercise.

Leslie Sansone Videos  are simple and  FREE.   They can also be done while seated in a chair if standing is painful.


If you are limited by pain, seated aerobics is often a great option

Chair aerobics for Everyone DVD

Paul Eugene seated aerobics – FREE

Fuzion Fitness seated aerobics – FREE


Chair yoga

Do Yoga With Me has some free videos for all kinds of yoga including chair yoga. 

Amber Karnes for Body Positive yoga for chair yoga: Some FREE some for a fee

Yoga with Adriene  chair yoga session – FREE

Happy yoga has several chair yoga sessions – FREE


Exercise with your kids

Cosmic Yoga – FREE

Yoga for Kids – FREE


I will continue to post links to ideas for home exercise.  Feel free to share yours in the comments section. Keep Moving.  We will get through this together!

Keep Moving, Be Well,




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by | March 25, 2020 · 4:29 pm

Keep moving. Especially now!

How to get enough exercise in the busy seasons of your life (16)For each and every one of us, life is more stressful right now.  Our daily routines have shifted.  Nearly every aspect of our life is Affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.

This is why we need to Keep Moving. Especially now:

  • Stress puts your body in a state where healing, repair and protection from illness are down regulated as it prepares to handle the ‘threat’.
  • Stress makes thinking clearly and creatively more challenging.
  • All that happens in your body during this stress response is preparing your body to move, to fight or flee the problem.
  • If you are moving less, and stressing more, your body has a lower defense against illness and your ability to creatively deal with the multitude of problems this situation presents is lowered.
  • Movement, that is stress reducing, is your best way to put your body back in a healing and protective state.

How to use movement and exercise to help you stay mentally and physically well right now:

  • For everyone:
    • This is not the time to greatly increase and challenge your body.    Doing too much too soon is stressful for your body and lowers its defenses.
    • This is also not the time to give up on exercise.  Adjust what you are doing so your body can help keep you well
    • This is a great time to start moving regularly if you don’t already.
    • Use exercise and movement to reduce stress.  That is most important right now.
  • If you regularly exercise
    • keep in mind that something is better than nothing.  Even shorter, less intense bouts of exercise can do wonders for you physically and mentally.
    • This is a great time to discover something new.  The internet is full of exercise programs.
    • Start slow and progress gradually with any new form of exercise so it is not stressful for your body
  • If you do not exercise regularly,
    • take small movement breaks for as long as feels good for your body to avoid prolonged stillness
    • at a light to moderate intensity for your breathing and muscles
    • repeat several times a day avoiding more than 30-60 minutes of stillness
    • move in ways that calm your mind, make you smile, and feel good for your body
    • Walk, dance, stretch, anything that feels good mentally and physically

I will continue to post information on this site about how to keep moving and be well during this pandemic.  Post your questions and comments below and let’s keep reminding each other to Keep Moving. Especially now.

Keep Moving, Be Well,



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by | March 18, 2020 · 2:45 pm