My Story: Benefits of Working Out With Friends

July 28, 2016 at 10:30 am | Posted in Fitness, My Story | Leave a comment
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By Jahnelle Bray
Population Health Coordinator

One of my old coworkers made a commitment to get up early every morning to go spinning. She always had so much energy during her day I thought I’ve got to try this! When a spinning studio opened across the street, I got a group of friends together and that’s what we did. That first class was tough and I had really mixed emotions when it was over. I was sweaty and sore, but also really energized. A little while later I introduced another friend to spinning and she LOVED it. She also suggested we go to a class every week. This was great for me because it has helped me build consistency with my workouts.

If you struggle with staying in shape or sticking with exercise, finding an exercise buddy is really helpful. When you’re by yourself, it’s easy to talk yourself out of exercising or just do the bare minimum. When you make plans with someone else, you’ve made a commitment to be there and do your best. You don’t want to feel like you’re letting them down.

Your exercise buddy can push you to keep going when your muscles start to hurt. If I start to feel like I’m ready to give up, I’ll look over and see how my friends are doing. Seeing them going for it when I’m flagging really motivates me to stick with it. Thinking about the class as a group effort also helps. Everyone is there for the same reason and we’re all going to get through this together. I don’t want to be the only person not doing anything, so I tell myself if they can do it, so can I!

It was great finding someone who loved spinning as much as I do and wanted to go regularly. We have a routine now where we text each other every week to decide what day we’ll go. It’s been about a month since we started doing this, and I’m much less sore than I was after that first time! I look forward to class. It’s a chance for me to disconnect and recharge my body and mind. If I miss a week, I don’t feel my best. Working out is a great accomplishment. If you don’t finish anything else in your day, at least you’ve done that.

Getting Active with Pokemon Go

July 22, 2016 at 1:00 am | Posted in Fitness | Leave a comment
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By Chrisanne Sikora, Sr. Project Specialist
Diabetes Self-Management Education Program

Chrisanne headshot

By now you’ve probably heard of Pokémon GO, the Augmented Reality mobile game where players “catch” virtual creatures in the real world. Out of curiosity, I downloaded the app while I was on vacation.  After about a week of playing around with the game I still don’t quite get many of the details about leveling up your Pokémon or challenging other players to competitions (yet). Finding and catching Pokémon, though? THAT I get and it ties in with what I find most appealing about the game: it encourages you to get up and get active.

The game uses your phone’s GPS to track your location and movements. As you move, your character in the game moves as well. Places where Pokémon will appear are marked on the map and when you get close, you “catch” them using the phone’s camera. While you may be able to find a couple in your home like I did, catching all 100+ different types of creatures (one of the goals of the game) means heading outside and exploring. The more you walk around, the more likely you are to find new and different types of Pokémon.

While you’re out catching Pokémon, you’ll also encounter “Pokéstops” where you can pick up useful items. These places usually match up with real life landmarks or interesting sites. The more of these sites you visit, the more items you’ll collect (and the more walking you’ll do). Eggs are one type of item you can find at these stops. To find out what’s inside your egg, all you have to do is walk. After a certain distance (the app tracks it for you), it will hatch. There may even be a Pokémon inside!

It’s a cute way to spend time with friends and family, or jazz up your regular routine if playing solo. I had the app open when I went walking the other day and found several Pokémon and Pokéstops along one of my regular walking routes. If you do decide to try it, make sure to pay attention to what’s around you and be respectful of other people’s property.

Summer Fitness Idea: Swimming

June 22, 2016 at 10:24 am | Posted in Fitness, Guest Post | Leave a comment
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By Sara Evans, Aquatics Supervisor
The Clubs at Charles River Park

Swimming is a great, total body exercise for building strength in your muscles as well as your heart and lungs. Swimming is also a safe activity for anyone. Because you’re weightless in the water, there’s less wear on your joints and you don’t need to worry about tripping or losing feeling in your feet. Unless your healthcare provider says no, there’s no reason not to try swimming.

Swimming uses every muscle in your body, but especially your core. A strong core is needed to keep your head above water, and will help improve your posture in other activities like running or walking. Since the whole body is used to pull you through the water, swimming is a great time saver workout. Just 30 minutes in the pool is about the same as at 45-minute run on the treadmill. You can also adjust how hard you work by making small changes to your hand positions. For instance, keeping your hands flat adds resistance and challenge.

If you’re new to swimming, the first steps are learning to float and developing good breath control in the water. Most of all you’ll need to have confidence about swimming in the deep end. The best way to build confidence is through practice. I recommend beginners start with 15 minutes twice a week at either the beginning (warm up) or end (cool down) of your workout. Remember, swimming is much different than running so it’s best to take it easy to start so you don’t wear yourself out. As you get stronger, you can increase how long and how often you swim. Eventually you’ll be able to swim every day of the week if you want! Swimming is a life-long activity and there’s no risk of injury from overuse.

One last thought: There’s no one “right” way to swim. You’ll soon develop a style that works for you. Be comfortable with your stroke, even if it’s different from someone else’s. The best fit for you is whatever gets you to the other end of the pool and back.

 

Use the Force (for Fitness)

January 14, 2016 at 10:13 am | Posted in Fitness, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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By Chrisanne Sikora, Sr. Project Specialist
Diabetes Self-Management Education Program

Chrisanne headshot

Chances are “okay grab your lightsaber, get ready to move” is not something you’d expect to hear in a group fitness class. Gyms and health clubs often run special promotions after the holidays when many people begin setting up new fitness routines. Last week when I read an article about one of the nearby gyms offering a free class inspired by the new Star Wars movie, I thought it sounded a little silly but also like it could be a lot of fun. I figured why not? and called to sign up.

After we’d picked out a lightsaber and chosen our spots the instructor, Cassie, explained the class was designed around the idea of circuit training. We’d learn a sequence (or “circuit”) of about four exercises that we would do for a minute each. After we’d done each sequence three times, we’d start over with a new sequence. Cassie showed us the first sequence while a dance remix of the Star Wars theme played over the speakers, and we were off.

I couldn’t help but giggle along with the woman next to me as we swung our lightsabers side to side while doing lunges. Aside from thin disks used to slide our feet along the floor (and of course a toy lightsaber), there was no equipment used in the class. Most of the exercises were versions of basic moves like squats and push-ups that use bodyweight as resistance. Even so, the class was more challenging than you’d think! By the time we started our second sequence you could see several people were already getting tired – and we still had another whole sequence to go!

The second and third sequences were more challenging than the first, but Cassie always gave us the option of going back to an easier move if anything became too difficult. By the end of the class everyone was tired, sweaty, probably a little sore, but smiling. On the way out, I chatted with a couple of classmates about what we’d expected going in and how much fun the whole experience was. Maybe if we take the class again we’ll be able to float rocks with our thoughts.

The two key things I took away from the class were:

  • You can get a really good, challenging workout with using just your bodyweight. No equipment (or even a gym!) required.
  • The most important part of any routine is making it FUN. If you’re not enjoying yourself, it will be hard to stick with it.

Hydration, Hydration, Hydration!

May 26, 2015 at 11:15 am | Posted in Health | Leave a comment
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By Marjorie Clapp, MGH Dietetic Intern

The human body is comprised of roughly 60-70% water. For this reason, maintaining proper fluid balance can dramatically influence how well our bodily systems work, including nerves and muscles, cognition, and immune function. Unfortunately, staying hydrated isn’t always easy. In fact, about 70% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. Here are some tips and tricks to help keep you hydrated this summer.

How do I know if I’m dehydrated? Feeling thirsty is the most obvious indicator that you need to drink more. The color of your urine can also help determine your hydration status. Your urine should be pale yellow or clear. If it’s darker than that, it’s time to drink! Other common signs of dehydration include headache, dizziness, fatigue, confusion, and irritability.

Hydration Tip: Keep a tall glass of water on your bedside table and drink before getting ready for your day.

How much fluid do I need? Although fluid needs depend on many factors, including size, activity level, and climate, a good goal is to consume no less than 64oz each day, although some research estimates needs to be much higher (~90oz/day for women, ~125oz/day for men).

Hydration Tip: Exercisers require additional fluids to replenish water lost through sweat and respiration. Weigh yourself before and after working out and aim to consume 3 cups of water for every pound lost during exercise.

When is the best time to hydrate? Anytime! Aim to sip fluids throughout the day to prevent dehydration. Although it’s recommended to consume the majority of your fluid from water; milk, juice, soda, and caffeinated beverages count towards your fluid goal. Just remember to read labels. Calories from sweetened beverages can add up quickly! Food can also help you reach your fluid goals. Water-rich foods include lettuce (96% water), watermelon (92% water), grapefruit (91% water), broccoli (91% water) and yogurt (89% water).

Hydration Tip: Keep a water bottle on hand in your bag or purse to encourage hydration throughout the day.

What about sports drinks? Most sports drinks contain electrolytes (sodium, potassium, chloride, phosphorus) and added sugars to help your body refuel after strenuous exercise. If you’re sweating heavily or exercising for more than 60 minutes, a sports drink may be appropriate. However, most people can rehydrate appropriately with water and a balanced post-workout snack such as an apple with string cheese, hummus and whole grain crackers, or a banana with 1-2 Tablespoons of nut butter.

Hydration Tip: Try diluting/cutting your sports drink with water to provide some electrolytes but reducing the sugar and calories.

(Post content reviewed by MGH Department of Nutrition and Food Services)

Save the Date: World Diabetes Day

October 30, 2014 at 11:30 am | Posted in Announcements | Leave a comment
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WDD candidAnnual World Diabetes Day Awareness Event

Thursday, November 13 10:00 am—3:00 pm MGH Main Lobby near Coffee Central This year’s event will focus on developing a healthy lifestyle and preventive care.

  • Talk to an exercise physiologist about your fitness goals.
  • Ask our dietitians questions about food and nutrition.
  • Learn about stress reducing techniques and get a free massage.
  • Plus trivia, games and prizes!

Spotlight: Charlestown HealthCare Center Activity Tracker Pilot

May 1, 2014 at 10:30 am | Posted in Fitness, Guest Post, My Story | Leave a comment
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By Rajani Larocca, MD
Charlestown HealthCare Center

with Chrisanne Sikora, Senior Project Specialist
Diabetes Self-Management Education Program

FitBit activity tracker

Lifestyle change is ultimately in the hands of the individual, and our job as medical  providers is to find a way to empower people to make those changes. It’s an old problem, but the question is: how do we get there? And can new technology help us solve the problem in new and innovative ways?

In spring 2013, I ran a series of six weekly group visits with a group of my patients at MGH Charlestown HealthCare Center. The group was originally intended for those with metabolic syndrome, but the majority of the patients already had Type 2 Diabetes.  The idea for this program came from an interest in applying a public health approach to medicine. All of the patients volunteered for the program on my recommendation. The focus of the visits was to educate the participants about healthy lifestyle change, to help motivate them to implement this change, and to provide a support system to help keep them motivated.

Each session focused on a different topic. In addition to the introduction in the first week and a summary group in the last week, we discussed nutrition, exercise, stress reduction, and social connection. A key part of the sessions included removing the all-or-nothing mentality that many people adopt when they are trying to be healthier, focusing instead on taking what steps you can and forgiving mistakes in the past.

During the meeting in which we discussed exercise, everyone who participated was given a FitBit activity tracker to wear. Once the trackers were on, the group went on a short walk through the neighborhood. Many were surprised to learn they didn’t have to walk far to reach 1,000 steps.

In subsequent sessions, reviewing the Fitbit data was part of what we did during our time together. Interestingly, everyone liked the Fitbits – even those who didn’t have ready internet access or who weren’t really internet-savvy. Because the trackers had a display which showed results in real time, everyone could tell whether they were reaching their goals on a daily basis. While there was some friendly competition among participants, most were only competing against themselves, trying to beat their totals from the previous week.

After the program ended, the participants were allowed to keep their FitBits, and some were still wearing them eight months later. Some of those who stopped wearing them said it was because they had incorporated their new habits into their routine and didn’t need the tracker anymore. When asked how he would keep up with his daily walks during the winter, one gentleman responded “I’ll wear a coat!”

Electronic trackers like the FitBit make developing healthy lifestyle habits more fun, but we can’t underestimate what the social connection of the group did to foster people’s success. The participants really enjoyed the group setting, especially the sense of community that developed and the confidence they gained from learning that others face many of the same challenges. Living with a chronic disease can be isolating, but in this group, people realized that they were not alone.

Focus on Functional (Fitness)

March 14, 2014 at 3:46 pm | Posted in Fitness | Leave a comment
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Like many people, we’ve spent a lot of time exercising indoors at the gym this winter (thank you, polar vortex).  Something we’ve been hearing a lot about from fitness instructors is incorporating “functional fitness” elements into our routine.  Functional fitness exercises use movements that mimic everyday activities to increase strength, balance, coordination, and flexibility (range of motion).  This type of training makes performing day-to-day activities like carrying groceries easier, while at the same time reducing the risk of injury.

The key element is using multiple muscle groups together (as opposed to traditional weight machines which work one muscle group at a time in isolation).  In essence, functional fitness trains the body to work with itself.  Bodyweight exercises like pushups, squats and lunges are great examples.  Without a machine for support, the muscles of the core (think back and abs) play a crucial role in maintaining balance and proper form.  Functional fitness isn’t limited to bodyweight exercises, either.  Free weights, kettlebells, resistance bands and balance boards are all useful tools.

Exercises that use more than one muscle group not only help strengthen the core and improve balance, they’re often less time consuming.  Plus since there aren’t any big machines necessary, many can be done at home.  If you have access to a gym, see if there’s a trainer who uses a functional training approach to help you get you started.  And always, check with your healthcare provider before starting a new exercise program.

(Content reviewed by the Clubs at Charles River Park)

 

Beginning Yoga

October 24, 2013 at 1:00 pm | Posted in Fitness, Guest Post | Leave a comment
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By Brenda Santora, Yoga Teacher
The Clubs at Charles River Park

with Chrisanne Sikora, Project Specialist
Diabetes Self-Management Education Program

Yoga is the integration of mind, body and soul. It’s physical, it’s relaxation. It’s working on flexibility, meditation and calming the mind. Ultimately, it’s learning and accepting your own body. There’s a perception that you need to be an athlete and/or able to twist yourself into a pretzel in order to practice yoga. The truth is we’re all built differently. If you can’t do the final pose, there’s nothing wrong with that! Not everyone will be able to do every pose.

If you’re new to yoga, a good first step is finding the correct level class. Starting with something that’s too advanced can be discouraging (and possibly unsafe). Check out the websites for studios in your area and look for classes with the words Intro, Beginner, Basics or Foundation in their title. If you’re still not sure which class is the best fit, you can always call the studio. They’ll be more than happy to answer your questions and make recommendations. Another option is looking into what’s offered by your local YMCA/YWCA or Adult Education Centers. These community centers are a great place to learn about yoga before moving on to classes at a yoga studio.

It’s normal to feel a sense of being overwhelmed at first. Part of it is simply the experience of doing something new, but you’ll find that after a few classes it becomes very familiar. Also when you’re getting started it’s quite normal to see something you’ve never done and feel like you can’t do it. Instead of saying I can’t do this, focus on what you can do. Just walking in the door and standing on your mat is an accomplishment! Over time you’ll start to notice you’re working and stretching parts of the body you didn’t know you could before. You may also notice you start to just feel good and more relaxed.

Finally, remember instructors are all different and each has their own individual way of teaching. Before your class take a look at their background, where they did their training, and with whom. If something doesn’t click with your instructor, don’t give up. Keep an open mind and try experimenting with different styles and teachers.

Brenda is an RYT 200 registered Certified Iyengar Yoga teacher at The Clubs at Charles River Park

Fitting Fitness in Fall Twitter Chat

September 24, 2013 at 1:15 pm | Posted in Announcements | Leave a comment
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MGH logo with blue circle

The beginning of fall is a time of change. Changes in the foliage, changes to your schedule, change in the weather . . . changes in your exercise routine?

Join us on Monday, October 7th at 2pm EST for a chat on adapting your fitness routine to the change in seasons and strategies for fitting fitness into a busy fall schedule. Mike Bento, Personal Trainer at the Clubs at Charles River Park, will be leading the discussion and answering your questions.

Follow #MGHDSME for more details. If you’d like to submit questions ahead of time, contact diabetesviews@partners.org.

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