Are you lying about your exercise routine?

I’m not on social media much, and when I do feel the urge to see what’s happening, it’s usually on Facebook. I do get lots of emailed newsletters, though, and something struck me this week. One of the fitness platforms I follow did a survey on Instagram and found that, despite the posts showing lots of exercise going on, people lie about their exercise routine. Apparently some people post gym selfies but aren’t really working out. And that makes me sad.

Why aren’t people working out

Why does it make me sad that people lie about working out? Because they’re not really getting the benefits that they could be from exercise. Data collected in a study done by Journal of Family Medicine and Disease Prevention found that people aren’t working out most commonly because of time constraints. Granted, it takes time to go to the gym, change, exercise, change back and drive back to work or home. And sometimes exercise is the least of it. But you can get in a great workout in 20 minutes at home. I know that 20 minutes is about the outside limit for my dogs getting a good nap before they get in my way. If there are kids, you can get your workout in early or late, or when the children are down for naps. The key to having effective short workouts is that you exercise with intensity and focus. 

Lying about your exercise routine hurts you

PS Fit asked its Instagram followers who actually do work out why they exercise. It’s no surprise that many responded that they exercise for their bone health, increased mobility and energy. Many replied that they exercise to benefit their mental health. And still others exercise to increase their resiliency and to provide stress relief.

Why do I exercise?

Besides burning a few calories to justify pizza for dinner, I exercise to be a nicer person. So, I lean into the mental health aspect of exercise benefits. Exercise makes me happier and easier to live with. All of which I want to have continue. 

Don’t lie about your exercise routine. Be honest with yourself above all. If you don’t feel like exercising, as I’ve said, then taking a day off won’t make a whole lot of difference. But, if it becomes more than a day or two that you’re not exercising because you don’t feel like it, then perhaps it’s time to take a look at your routine. See if a different kind of workout might make you happier and more inclined to do it. Because lying about your exercise routine hurts no one but yourself.

Instead of punching something, do this instead

Mondays for me are frequently busy, tending to orders, customer requests, a too-full inbox and dogs zooming around like crazy things. This last Monday was all that and more. Not only were there customer requests, there were also customer complaints, website links not working, and a learning curve on a new mailing program that had me stymied. To say it was frustrating is an understatement. It’s impossible to be productive when we’re under major stress, and we know that stress can compromise our immune system. So, instead of punching something to release my frustration, I took a walk.

Instead of punching something, get physical

Use exercise to release stress instead of punching something

Releasing energy with physical activity is a great way to deal with frustration. I didn’t have time for an intense workout, but I could clear my head with a walk around the block. It was not a long walk, as the temperature was well below freezing and somewhat icy, and even bundled up it was still chilly. So my walk didn’t last long, but I burned a few calories and released some frustration. When I returned to my desk, my head was clearer and I was able to solve a couple of problems.

Exercise helps you handle other stress better

In fact, it’s been found that exercise helps to prevent anger. In a study done a few years ago, people who exercised were “less prone to anger and aggressive tendencies.” One theory as to why this may occur is that while we exercise, we put our bodies under prolonged beneficial stress. After exercise, our bodies are more able to handle other stresses.

Another possibility is that when you’re exercising, you’re putting the stressor on a back burner. You’re not thinking about the thing that got you angry in the first place, and stepping away for a while can help you put it in better perspective. So instead of punching something, you’re stepping away from it.

Replace stress with calm

And Harvard Health Publishing advocates certain autoregulating exercise techniques to help “replace the spiral of stress with a cycle of repose.” These techniques include breathing exercises which are similar to forms of meditation. Practicing progressive muscular relaxation  (tightening and releasing sequential muscle groups) works too, but takes longer to learn.

So instead of punching something when you’re angry or frustrated, try one of these techniques. You may be happier afterward, and your family definitely will be.

Give your body what it needs

You may say, “Oh, I don’t need a lot. I’m happy with the way things are.” But what you really mean is, “I eat healthy and get the nutrition I need within my calorie allotment. I move my body the way the AHA and CDC recommends. I give my brain all the stimulation it could possibly need.” But, is this really true?

It’s a lot. And if it really is true, that’s fantastic! But let’s take each of these individually to see if you do give your body what it needs.

Nutrition

I’m no expert, but I know that if I eat my 3 squares a day, load up my plate with lots of veggies and legumes, a little meat, and not nearly as much potatoes or pasta as I like, I’ll be eating well. I’ll probably be within my recommended calorie range. I’ll be getting enough protein, enough fiber, and enough vitamins and minerals to keep my body fueled. Of course, I also add in a bit of chocolate to keep me happy. You’ll want to check with your doctor or a nutritionist, but I’ll bet they’ll tell you pretty much the same thing.

Exercise

You’ve heard it from me before. The Heart Association recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic activity, and even more strength work. How you get those minutes in is up to you. You know you’ll want to keep your workouts fun – because that keeps your motivation up. But, if you don’t exactly enjoy your workouts, but you know you have to keep it up, what do you do? You might want to hop on the “Cozy Cardio” bandwagon. That’s making your environment appealing. If you walk or run on a treadmill, or use a stationary bike, that’s a great way for your workouts to be more inviting. Listen to an exciting audiobook, like I do when I run, or watch a favorite TV show while you exercise. You’ll enjoy the ambiance, if not the workout.

Brain

And when you exercise, you’re also feeding your brain! Vigorous exercise improves your memory, makes you happier, more resilient and helps you sleep better. 

Put like that, it’s not too much to give your body what it needs.

Make it easy to track it all every day using your Fitness Journal and Tracker!

Exercise for mental health – is it enough?

I’ve mentioned that exercise will boost your optimism, improve your memory and make you more resilient. Exercise is also important for healthy aging. All that’s still true. But is exercise for mental health enough? Perhaps. I’ve mentioned that I exercise to be a nicer person. I exercise to work out my frustrations and anger. But I also exercise so I can eat. And I run to make navigating an agility course with my dog a little easier.

I don’t want to plateau

I don’t enjoy exercise. And for me, exercising for my mental health would not be enough. So I push myself. But everyone is different, and if you exercise strictly for the mental health benefits, you’ll still sweat and get endorphin rush from aerobic activity. But if you don’t push yourself, do one more repetition, run an extra hundred yards, push the speed a little, or the incline, you’ll reach a plateau in your physical conditioning. That may not matter to you.

Progressive overload

But if hitting a plateau is not in your makeup, and you want more from your exercise, then you’re like me. You’ll push a little harder, run a little further, lift a bit more. The experts call this “progressive overload.” By gradually increasing the difficulty or intensity of your workouts, you become stronger, faster, and more fit. The term is usually applied to strength training, but it can be used for any kind of workout. And by gradually increasing the difficulty, you’re continually challenging yourself. 

Gradually increase your speed or reps

Trainer Chad Barribeau, CSCS, says, “A good rule of thumb is to increase your workout load (whether weight, reps, distance, or speed) by 10 percent or less each week. This can ensure you’re challenging yourself while controlling your risk of injury or burnout.” Slow and steady increases will produce gains in your physical fitness without the soreness we frequently experience from doing too much too soon. So, slow and steady really can win the race.

Me? I’m greedy. I want it all. I want the happiness and release of frustration that the endorphins produced by a good workout bring me. And I also want the speed and strength I get from conditioning my body.

Exercise is not selfish

You may think that you’re being selfish when you exercise. After all, you’re the one who’s gleaning the benefits of all that sweat! You’re the one who’s burning calories, strengthening muscles and improving your bone density. You’re the one who’s sleeping better at night and remembering everything. But, think again. Exercise is not selfish.

If I didn’t exercise, I’d be dead

Exercise is not selfish

I’ve said before that exercise makes me a nicer person. If I didn’t exercise, my sister would probably have killed me by now. And no one would convict her in a court of law.

The endorphins produced during a great workout make you feel more optimistic and happier in that moment. And those endorphins can help to ease depression, with some physicians even prescribing exercise as an alternative to medication for some patients. I know that after I exercise I feel better. The powerful feeling lasts well beyond my workout, too. 

Exercise to be an example

Here’s another reason to exercise – Adrienne Bailon-Houghton, singer and entertainment magazine co-host, has recently refreshed her fitness goals. She turned 40 and wants to be an example to others, especially her son. She said, “”I think there’s something so empowering about having a son and turning 40 this year and just wanting to be a great example to him of what health and fitness looks like.” Bailon-Houghton has had health issues for most of her life, and having a son has given her a new reason to stay fit, and aware of all that means. Exercise is not selfish, and Bailon-Houghton is exercising to be a role model.

Exercise to be a role model

It’s not about the numbers. I was surprised a couple of weeks ago at my annual wellness visit that I had lost a couple of pounds. I never weigh myself at home, so I had no idea what my weight was. Feeling great and being healthy are my fitness goals. Many women my age are grandmothers, and even great-grandmothers. I like to think that it’s people like me – and you! – who reject the stereotypes of “little old ladies” who can be role models for younger generations. We can be strong and independent, and look at healthy aging as just part of everyday living. We eat right (most of the time) and exercise regularly just as part of our daily routine. Remember that exercise is not selfish – it’s good for everyone!

OK, exercise! Boost my mood!

By exercising, I'll boost my mood!

I’ve written before about the many benefits of exercise, including brain health benefits. One of the main reasons that I exercise is to boost my mood. I have a tendency to be a gloomy person. If there’s a dark side to a situation, I’ll find it. Likewise, I hardly ever expect things to go well – any things. It’s always a pleasant surprise when things go right, or the way they’re supposed to. I exercise to counter my natural inclination.

I’m a natural pessimist

Here’s one example. I recently received a notice from the IRS that my business had filed its tax return late and was being assessed a hefty penalty. Of course, the return was not filed late and I had documents to prove it. But I did not expect to be able to reverse the penalty. I called to speak to an agent, of course and had to wait an hour for the call back. I was on tenterhooks the whole time I was waiting. Distracting myself with menial tasks helped somewhat, but I was still sweating when my phone rang.

Even though I did not expect a good outcome, I was pleasant to the agent and figured out how to fax (yes, FAX! – who has a fax machine these days?) copies of the documentation to her while I was on the phone. To my complete surprise, she agreed that the penalty should not have been assessed and removed it. Talk about things going right! 

But in the normal course of things, I expect that clients will cancel their appointments. And that their checks will bounce. That hasn’t happened yet, thank goodness.

My mood remains upbeat – exercise does that!

My mood, though, remains upbeat. Even when I expect things to go wrong, I try to have a smile on my face. And I attribute my ability to maintain a positive attitude to exercise. The Cleveland Clinic has shown that exercise causes elevated levels of endorphins, those hormones that improve your sense of well-being to be released in your body when it’s under stress.

A lower rate of depression and anxiety is attributed to exercise. Also, in the long term, people who exercise tend to have more low-key responses to stressful events. I’m firmly convinced that exercise helps keep me in a happier state and, therefore, more resilient. 

Exercise helps reduce depression

Another study showed that being active can help with depression specifically. The effects of a combined meditation and exercise routine were studied as the program related to depression: Twice a week, people with severe depression took part in 30 minutes of meditation and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise over the course of eight weeks.

The result? Improved mood and decreased depression. (They tried this same method on patients who weren’t depressed, and they felt better, too.) Notably, the participants experienced neurogenesis (growth of new brain cells) — something that’s typically inhibited when someone has depression. Specifically, the growth of new neural cells in the hippocampus (the part of the brain responsible for learning, memory, and mood) plays an integral part in how your mind fights depression and controls mood — and aerobic exercise can greatly increase the number of cells produced there.

So, I’ll keep on exercising. It will boost my mood and my family will like having me around more.

I changed the time I run – What happened?

Changing the time I ran really made a difference.

I’ve written before that no matter what time of day you exercise, you’ll still get benefits. The important thing is that you exercise! And that’s true. My preference is to exercise early in the day because I feel so energized afterward. I’ve had to adjust to working out in the late afternoon, after work, though. But I had to switch my schedule last week on a running day to go into work later. I thought it would be interesting to see the effect of changing the time I ran. I usually run twice a week on the treadmill, because I think running outside is even worse than running on the treadmill. The only thing that makes running even tolerable is listening to a fast-moving action novel. No self-help or memoir for the treadmill. If I’m engrossed in the story, then I’m not ticking away the seconds on the treadmill timer.

Why run if it’s so hard?

Why do I run at all if it’s so hard for me? I like to play sports with my dogs – and running agility is just that – running. So I run for endurance and to try to be in the right place to give my dog the cues he needs.

Changing the time I ran made a big difference

My afternoon runs had been getting steadily faster and the intervals longer. The total time remained the same, but in those 20 minutes, the time I took to slow down between fast intervals was less. What a shocker, then, when I ran in the morning last Thursday! Changing the time I ran made a big difference in how I felt. 

Running early was so much harder than I thought it would be. My legs felt like lead pipes. My lungs were burning inside of 5 minutes. I couldn’t go as fast as I could just a few days before. The incline was excruciating. So I backed off. I ran more slowly. I shortened the fast interval. I decreased the incline. And I made arrangements to run early every Thursday, because the higher levels of Agility are run early in the day. If I’m going to be able to compete, I have to be able to run early. So I’ll train for it. I’m changing the time I run to get ready for competition.

Time of day actually does matter

As it turns out, though, the time of day does seem to matter in the actual results you might see. A recent study by researchers at Skidmore College showed that women who exercised in the morning had greater fat loss. Women who trained later in the evening gained more upper body strength and power. There was little difference in performance improvement in men.

All exercise will give you benefits for our healthy aging such as heart health, better sleep and improvements in your mood. But if you ladies want to lose more fat, try working out early!

A specific exercise for a specific memory?

Aerobic exercise to boost certain memories?

It could be that in the future, if you want to remember your shopping list at the grocery store without having to check your phone, you would do a specific group of exercises! Way, way in the future, so don’t get your hopes up. But new research has shown that certain types of exercise helped study participants in remembering certain types of data. We do know that exercise has benefits for our brain and mental health, but this is much more specific than we had previously thought. The thinking that if we do a specific exercise for a specific memory boost is remarkable.

Exercise improves brain health

It’s been shown that exercise improves memory on a general level, even after a single workout. And, on a long-term basis, exercise improves overall brain health. And studies have shown that over time exercise is associated with a reduced risk of brain health problems such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, both concerns for our healthy aging.

Different feelings after different workouts

I know that I feel differently after a run, for example, than after a Pilates session. I’m more energized (and sweaty) and outwardly happy after doing my run / walk workout. After a Pilates session, I feel calm, with a happy buzz. But I must admit that I hadn’t noticed specific memory improvements. I know that right after a workout I can remember some things better but hadn’t noted which “things!”

Correlation between exercise and memory

This research study by Dartmouth, published in Nature, delves into the correlation between exercise and memory. This was a relatively small study with only 113 participants, but the results are interesting. Fitbit data was analyzed after participants were given various types of memory tests post-workout. Researchers looked for patterns between those results and the workouts the participants did. 

Not surprisingly, the study showed that overall the more active people had better memories than the non-active people. But it also showed that high-intensity exercise was correlated with good performance on the “spatial-learning task” (remembering the positions of shapes on a screen). “Low-to-moderate-intensity” cardio activity, like going for a walk, was associated with improved “naturalistic recall” (remembering a narrative of events). And people who performed better on the foreign-language test “tended to be less active,” the report added, while participants who did well on free recall and naturalistic recall were more active.

So, this study supports previous research on exercise and memory, but it also presents a focus for future work needed. Could there be a specific exercise for a specific memory? Time and research will tell. I’ll be looking forward to reading the results.

I needed to release frustration

Pissed off! I got an unwelcome piece of mail a couple of days ago and was totally steamed by it. My company received a notice from the IRS about a penalty charged for late filing of a return. I knew that the return was filed on time, so I was angry. That turned into an overall bad mood. I knew that I needed to calm down to deal with this (in a day or two) because I had to give my 14-year-old dog a bath that day. I had to be calm and gentle with my dog. Not rip his legs off as I felt like in the moment. What’s the solution? A really intense workout to help release frustration and anger.

Kick boxing to the rescue

I chose a short (because I had things to do, obviously) but intense kick boxing program. Pump up the heart rate, get the sweat going and release the frustration.

The workout started with a warmup to let my muscles know they were going to have to do some work. And then eased into punches and kicks..

Mission accomplished

When that half hour was done, I was a sweaty mess, but I achieved my goal to workout to release the frustration. My mood was very much improved and I was able to give Tango a nice calming bath.

How does that work?

Side kick in a Turbo Jam workout

You’ve heard the phrase, “runner’s high?” Same thing works with other exercise that targets the cardiovascular system. Raise your heart rate for a sustained period of time, and your body releases endorphins. Those endorphins attach to your opioid receptors, causing a boost to your mood

So, my immediate mission was accomplished – I wouldn’t kill Tango during his bath – but I also did other good things for myself. I’ve written that exercise not only improves your mood but also has other benefits for our healthy aging: it improves memory, helps you sleep better, and improves optimism and resilience. Not only does a great workout release frustration and anger immediately, but it has other longer-lasting benefits.

All’s well

I dealt with the IRS and the agent I spoke with removed the penalty. I bathed my dog. And I was able to release frustration and anger. A good day.

No. It depends. A while. Answers to goal-specific fitness questions.

When will I see Exercise Results?

When do you see exercise results? It depends... And everyone is different.

“I have a wedding in June. Will I be skinny by then?” “How long ‘til I fit into Size 6 jeans?” “When will I see a six-pack?” Were you laughing when you read those questions? Me too. And yet, deep down, I kind of wondered when I’d see exercise results all those years ago when I lost weight. By now, you know that “No,” “It depends,” and “A while” are the answers. It turns out that “It depends” is the answer to quite a few goal-specific fitness questions. 

Goals are key

Having specific goals, committing to a program and sticking with that program is the sure path to success in reaching a fitness goal. For example, if you want to lose 5 pounds in a month, experts agree that it’s totally doable. Reduce the number of calories you consume (a food journal helps with this), increase calories burned (an exercise program will help here), make sure you’re hydrated, get enough sleep, and reduce stress. That’s the formula. Of course, it’s never so cut and dry. 

Our emotions get in the way. We eat because of stress. And we eat when we’re happy. When it comes to exercise – there’s never a good time to do it. Or we just don’t feel like it. So, having real, achievable, specific goals is the key to keeping on track.

Everyone’s different

We’re human. And as humans, our bodies react differently to the food we eat and exercises we do. Exercise results are different for everybody. My body reacts differently than yours. Your body may not retain water the way mine does – be grateful. Or your muscles may respond more quickly to exercise than mine. Everyone’s different. So – it depends when you’ll see those results you want.

A real time frame … wait for it

But, there is sort of a time frame on when you can expect to see some results from your hard work. “When performed appropriately, exercise can lead to physiological changes in about eight to 12 weeks for most people,” Chris Gagliardi, MS (an ACE-certified personal trainer) says. “This does not mean that everyone will respond to exercise in the same way. Some people may see and feel results in less than eight to 12 weeks, and for others, it may take more time.” 

Don’t exercise for the outward results

It’s such a long time to see any results, that it’s important not to focus on these physiological changes. Remember all the other benefits that come from exercise. Remember that even Khloe Kardashian exercises for the invisible benefits! If I have to wait 2 to 3 months to see any results, there had better be other benefits to this whole healthy living thing! 

The biggest reason for me to exercise is the brain boost I get, and how much better I feel emotionally afterward.