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You get more results from exercise with gratitude than with guilt

Exercise guilt works.

The problem is, exercise results happen when it is done consistently. That means you need a source of motivation that is renewable, not one you have to use a lot of energy to churn up every day you need to exercise.

Guilt will produce short term motivation, but it takes a lot of brain energy. Its just not an efficient way to stay motivated for exercise. In the end you wont really get results from exercise because you are less likely to do it consistently.

Gratitude however, has lasting effects on motivation as well as mental and physical health. Plus, it feels way better than guilt!

Guilt is the feeling you ‘should’ be doing something different than you are in this moment.

Gratitude is the feeling of deep appreciation for something or someone.

This time of year we hear a lot about gratitude. In January, we hear a lot of guilt producing messages about exercising and eating healthy, losing that holiday /pandemic weight.

What would happen if we started using gratitude to motivate for exercise now, and just kept it going in the new year? Studies show motivation would be easier, both through the holidays and in 2021.

“We found that across the participants, when people felt more grateful, their brain activity was distinct from brain activity related to guilt…simply expressing gratitude may have lasting effects on the brain.”

The Greater Good

Look, we’ve been through enough this year! There is no need to add guilt to the mix. Take this week to move your body as a way to take care of it, shed some stress and notice something you are grateful for about that time you took for yourself.

Keep it simple. One unique thing you are grateful for each time you exercise. Whether you do a five minute walk to to get away from your computer, a fifteen minute dance party with your family before dinner, or a set of strength training to start your day feeling strong and confident, take five seconds to write down your one thing from that time. It will tell your brain this is something to repeat and that means next time motivation will be that much easier.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!

Keep Moving, Find Gratitude, Be Well,


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by | November 24, 2020 · 10:05 pm

Balance, falling and weight loss success

After my shower yesterday, I stepped one foot out to grab a towel, and as I was moving back into the shower my foot slipped. It was that slow motion “oh my God, I really am going to fall and die in the tub”. There was a little floundering, and then it was over… I actually caught my body in a back bend position – I didn’t hit my head or bang up anything, and today I am feeling no pain or strain. Yay!!

UMass Memorial Weight Center Patient

This was a Non-scale Victory (NSV) from a UMass Memorial Weight Center Patient. She attributes her ‘success’ with sustaining a slip in the bathroom to her regular strength and stretching program.

A Non Scale Victory is a term we use to highlight the benefits of all the nutrition and exercise changes made along a weight loss journey that do not show up on the scale.

There are many NSVs that go unnoticed. This is a perfect example.

One might think it was luck that kept them on their feet, but regaining balance is a skill that can easily be lost without practice. Having a body that is free and able to move quickly is something you only keep with practice too.

Fear of falling is a big deal, especially with aging. Its not just a big deal because of the risks associated with falling. There is a greater risk underlying every thought that you might fall – the risk of moving less.

When you move less because you are afraid of falling, your body adapts and gets weaker, lowering your ability to move quickly and freely when you fall off balance, so you move less, and so on, and so on.

The fact is, we humans are going to fall off balance. Its just part of being a human living on two feet! Exercising to improve balance is just one piece of preventing injury from falls. The other equally important skills to practice often is stretching so your body is able to move without resistance and strength training so your bones can withstand impact if you do fall.

The thing is, you cannot get this from taking more calcium, getting more protein or eating super foods. You can only get supple and strong by telling your body often that you want to stay supple and strong!

Every time you catch yourself when you fall off balance, or don’t sustain an injury when you do fall, celebrate that your body took care of you because you are taking care of it! That is a Non-Scale Victory worth more than its weight in gold!

Keep Moving, Be Well


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by | November 17, 2020 · 9:21 pm

What it really takes to make exercise a habit

Last week, we started our 2021 Spring Training Challenge. How is your plan shaping up? One thing is for sure, Winter will come and go. What you are able to do in the Spring is dependent on your winter habits. Let’s be ready for a Spring that has you feeling good from the first day and throughout the summer.

Habits are not formed over time

There are many theories about how many days it takes to make something a habit. Neurosciences tells us we are looking at the wrong variable when we do though. Brain scientists found that it is not time that crates a habit, its experience.

The Habit Loop

Our brain really likes it when something makes us feel better. Eat a comfort food, feel better and your brain wants you to repeat it. Our brain does NOT like it when we do something that makes us feel worse, mentally or physically. Do a form of exercise, feel sore/tired/embarrassed, and your brain wants you to avoid it at all costs!

Willpower versus Motivation

Will power is when you have to spend a lot of energy convincing yourself to do sometime you don’t want to do. That negative experience has part of your brain saying no and the logical reasons to exercise have the other half of your brain saying ‘ but you know you should’. This is willpower not motivation. Motivation literally means “the desire to do something”. Desiring the results is not enough. Rather than wasting energy using willpower, make exercise a habit by making it a positive experience for both your body and brain.

Positive experience leads to habits

When exercise is a positive experience it is not a cop out, its what makes it a habit. All that ‘no pain no gain’, mentality does is tell your brain exercise is something to avoid. In the end it does not lead to results. Consistency leads to results and that is why exercising in a way and a level that feels good now is the way to get results later.

Making exercise a habit

How you move matters a lot! It makes the difference between willpower and habit. When you know how to move your body the way it was designed, you feel better and get better results without the inner argument when its time to exercise. Check out previous blogs on how to make exercise a habit in the new normal for more information about what to do and how much is enough. You might be pleasantly surprised at how pleasant exercise can be when you play along with your body and brain.

Our Spring Training Challenge is not the kind of challenge you do and then forget about. It’s the kind of challenge that builds a strong foundation for your body and your motivation upon which you will keep moving with confidence all year long .

Keep Moving, Be Well,


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by | November 3, 2020 · 9:39 pm

Stay healthy and well this winter: The 2021 Spring Training Challenge

Each year here on Keep Moving Weekly, we set a Spring Training plan. Exercising through the winter can be challenging, and this year we have an extra large challenge. Thankfully, we have been practicing making a winter exercise plan for years so we are ready for the 2021 Spring Training Challenge!

We call it Spring Training instead of a winter exercise plan because spring is a great motivator! We all want to feel good that first spring day when we can get outside and enjoy an activity we missed all winter long. Those springtime activities can be your motive and your guide for exercising through the winter.

Studies show that writing down a goal and saying it out loud both increase the chances of achieving it. Ask yourself the questions below. Write down your answers and then share them with someone else.

  1. What do I want to be able to do in the Spring of 2021? Choose a physical activity that you enjoy or is important to you. Maybe enjoying a hike with family members or doing the gardening with more ease.
  2. What do I need to be able to do those activities? Strength? Stamina? Mobility? This will help you decide what types of exercise are most important to you this winter. We generally need a mix of all three but which is your body needing most?
  3. What types of exercise can I do indoors to get more strength, stamina, and mobility? Fortunately there is a wide array of online exercise opportunities right now for cardio and for strength . If you are a UMass Memorial Weight Center patient, you have access to our very own online exercise courses for free.
  4. When will I do these types of exercises? Make a plan a and a plan b so you have a set schedule with some flexibility for the normal changes in life. Remember, small bouts work just as well as one longer bout. Be creative with how you fit exercise into your schedule
  5. How can I connect what I am doing for exercise with what I want to do in Spring? A picture of someone hiking or a plant to remind you of your garden? In those short dark cold days of winter, you are going to need a reminder that spring is coming and you will be ready!

You are ready for your 2021 Spring Training Challenge! I will be doing more check in’s through these blogs throughout the Fall and Winter to help us stay on track. Post your plan in comments for some extra commitment! If you are a weight center patient, contact me with any questions or for extra support.

Despite all the challenges of 2020, we will get through this winter and come out stronger in spring because we will Keep Moving and Be Well!

Keep Moving, Be Well


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by | October 27, 2020 · 10:03 pm

Does exercise really need to be painful to see results?

Despite our ingrained belief that exercise needs to be painful, sweaty and uncomfortable to get results, there is no evidence that pain is needed to improve fitness. Yet, the belief lives on through media images and tough exercise programs all based on the four word mantra “no pain no gain”. Interestingly, there is plenty of evidence from neuroscience that pain will most certainly keep you from staying motivated. Do we really need to be in pain, exhausted and sweaty to get results from exercise? Lets take a look.

What results do you want from exercise?

The first question to ask yourself is “what results do I want from exercise?”. If you want to be an athlete and gain a competitive edge, yes, you will need to endure some pain. If you just want “aesthetic fitness”; to look better in a bathing suit or body building stage, ye,s pain and fatigue are likely going to be side effects of your training routine. If you are exercising to feel better mentally and physically, be healthy and well, both now and in the future, pain will actually take you in the opposite direction, leading you away from the results you really want.

“No Pain No Gain” Is Not Meant for You

The saying “No Pain No Gain” was invented for athletes to remind them that if you want to gain a competitive edge, pain is going to be part of the process. It was NOT invented to mean that you have to be in pain to get gain. If you are not exercising to be an athlete, this saying is simply not meant for you.

But What About a Good Sore?

The term a ‘good sore’ was born out of the misuse of the saying “no pain no gain”. It comes from the belief that muscle soreness means you are burning more calories and fat, getting more muscle tone and making progress toward losing weight and getting ‘in shape’. Yet, there is not one published study that shows muscle soreness is necessary for improving strength, burning calories or fat, or improving muscle tone.

Not a single study!

The term ‘good sore’ is really an oxymoron. There is no good reason to be sore.

Isn’t Soreness Part of Getting Back in Shape?

I often hear from patients, “yes it’s painful but its because I am overweight and out of shape”. When we take a step back from that statement, and see that there is no benefit to pain, we realize that it is not your body that is the problem, it is the exercise you are doing to get back into shape. When you adapt exercise for your body, rather than thinking your body just has to get used to an exercise you think you need to do, the pain goes away, enjoyment goes up and so does consistency.

Science Says: No pain, More Gain

So the body scientists agree, there is no gain in pain. The brain scientists also agree that pain is a sure sign motivation will fade. Your brain is hardwired to avoid what makes you feel worse, and repeat what makes you feel better. When exercise is painful, your body is telling your brain this is something to avoid. No matter how much you tell yourself it’s a good sore, your brain is going to believe what your body is feeling and eventually your will make excuses why you cannot exercise.

When you know how to adapt exercise so it does not cause pain, and instead leaves you feeling better, you gain something much more valuable for results – the ease of staying motivated! Consistency is how we get results that last.

Bottom Line About Pain and Exercise

If the ‘No Pain No Gain” mantra rattles around in your head when you are exercising (or thinking of exercising), trade it for a way of thinking about exercise that is meant for you. There is no gain in pain. Pain is simply a sign something needs to change.

  1. Learn how to move the way your body is designed to move so exercises feels good
  2. Notice when your brain is telling your body what it should be able to do and instead let your body tell your brain what it can do now.
  3. Notice when exercise makes you feel better physically (less pain, more energy, less anxious, not sore, etc). That will help your brain want to choose to do it again.
  4. Use a slow gradual progression when increasing exercise. Your body can adapt to only 10% more each week. Slow and steady gets you results.

Whew! Isn’t it great to know you don’t have to endure pain to get results!

Keep Moving, Be Well


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by | October 6, 2020 · 8:51 pm