fitness · motivation

Motivation and moving more

Move More
Image description: Grey and yellow text which reads “Move More.” The “V” looks like raised arms with a head. Or maybe a ball. I can’t quite decide.

New Physical Activity Guidelines Urge Americans: Move More

Of course they do. It turns out that fewer than 20 per cent of Americans meet the minimum recommended amount of daily physical activity. It’s not a lot either, just 150 minutes a week. I don’t have the numbers for Canadians but in this regard I know we’re not that different.

Now 150 minutes a week is not the optimal amount of recommended exercise. That number would be much higher. This is the minimum. There’s been talking through the years of raising the minimum recommended amount but the public health consensus seems to be that just wouldn’t be motivational. People would look at the higher number, cry, and go sit back on the sofa with Netflix.

Image description: Browsing images for “Netflix and sofa” I found this one on Unsplash. It’s a white cuddle chair with purple throw pillows near a window. I like it!

There’s another interesting thing about the amount of exercise Americans get. Of the fewer than 20% who make the minimum, a small percentage get 5 or 10 as much as is recommended.

Maybe you do. You’re reading this blog, after all. I aim for 90 min a day (Google Fit tracks it for me) and make it most days. So I meet the minimum in 2 days.

So rather than most people exercising a moderate amount through daily movement and everyday exercise, we’ve got a few people who work out a lot while the majority of people get no exercise at all. ( Again, I say “we” because although these are US numbers, Canadians aren’t much better.)

So how do we do it? Here’s some advice on making time for movement.

And when I asked on our Facebook page, there was a lot of positive discussion.

Here are some of the Facebook commentators’ ideas:

  • Fitting it into your workday is helpful – taking a brisk walk during your lunch hour, and/or using a standing desk.
  • Create a culture of exercising for fun. I wouldn’t be where I am re: amount of exercise per week if I didn’t have running, barre, and climbing buddies to go with.
  • Cities designed to be walked in, fewer malls that require driving to and working fewer hours so that people have time to walk, cycle etc.
  • Stop building towns that require or encourage you to drive everywhere. encourage people to walk or cycle, to work ( or public transport & walk) to school, to church, to shops. Build sidewalks instead of parking lots. America’s obsession with the automobile is a massive part of the problem. Health insurance incentives for the active. Fitbit etc can help monitor.
  • Doctors could suggest movement for minor muscle strains/ bad backs rather than drugs.
  • Be European for a day and walk more / drive less
  • Infrastructure changes to restore walkability, cracking down on developers putting more and more fast food businesses in economically depressed areas. Adjusting the school day to include more fitness, but fitness for fun, not the hated structure of gym class where you “have” to participate in that day’s activity even if it’s something that makes you really uncomfortable.
  • A city design that doesn’t require that you drive everywhere, making physical activity something that you have to go out of your way to do?
  • It would be nice if you could take your dog more places. I’d love to combine walking my dog with doing errands but the only place I’m sure I can take her is the bank/ATM.
  • As someone who hated sports and slowly found her way to regular exercise between age 25 and 40, I wish school PE classes would focus on helping kids find what they like, and maybe focus more on the things that people do as lifelong activities. I think some of the things they focus on do meet that criteria but using that as a focus I feel like might be helpful
  • I also hated team sports growing up, but now in my 30’s I’ve discovered hiking, working out with a trainer, and horseback riding as activities I now love. I dreaded PE in school and if they would’ve been more focused on just MOVING instead of team sports, I may have figured out how to enjoy exercise much earlier.
  • Shorter work hours. More accessible green spaces. Affordable shared spaces for activity. Free childcare at gyms/studios.
  • It’s a public health issue, not a personal health issue at this point. And I think it is an issue of access more than an issue of motivation. (That’s an observation- I haven’t looked into the actual research.)
  • Better sidewalks, bike lanes, walkable cities, public transit. The infrastructure current in the US defaults to car travel.
What are your suggestions?
femalestrength · fit at mid-life · fitness · Martha's Musings · motivation · training · weight lifting

Fostering resilience through fitness

By MarthaFitat55

jenelle-hayes-4397-unsplash
Image shows a small fire surrounded by stones in the woods. In the background, a person wearing jeans and a plaid shirt holds a small branch. Photo by Jenelle Hayes on Unsplash

Every day I find myself using something I learned in my almost ten years with the Guiding movement.

While I might not ever go camping in the woods again by choice, should I land there, I know how to build shelter and fire and how to find water. I use my map reading and orienteering skills when I travel; I am conscious of my footprint on the earth and what I need to do to take care of it.

With my Brownie pack and my Girl Guide company, I learned to be part of a team, to solve problems jointly, and to respect others and their gifts. I learned to set goals, to acquire new skills, and to cultivate resilience and strength in myself and others.

I am grateful to the fabulous women who gave their time to support us girls in growing up to become competent, committed, and engaged members of our society.

Today is Thinking Day and I am reminded of what a great space for girls and young women the Guiding world is to learn some practical skills. And this reminds me that I have found or built other spaces where I can continue to grow and develop.

Like the gym. Not the gym of my childhood though. That place was fraught with stress and fear, the kind that is negative and immobilizing. While I know my gym of today can sometimes cause me stress (hello, wonky hip) and a little fear (goodbye Jacob’s ladder), it’s the good kind of stress and fear.

Photo by Meghan Holmes on Unsplash
Image shows a gym with green carpet and grey tile. In the background, a person moves ropes while another does pushups. Photo by Meghan Holmes on Unsplash

The gym is a place for me where I can build the skills that will make me strong, and I hope, keep me that way for a very long time.

The gym is a place where I can push myself to try new things. And it’s a place, when things don’t work, I can try again, or figure out a way to do it differently.

The gym is a place where I learn how marvelous our bodies are: for the things they do naturally and the things they don’t and the things we may need to re-learn how to do all over again.

For me, the gym has become a place of opportunity and a place where I value physical strength, in the same way being in Guides developed and supported others kinds of strength.

How about you? What does the gym mean to you (if you go to one)? What are the other places where you grow and support resilience and strength through fitness?

MarthaFitat55 is a writer lifting all the things, physical and mental.

fitness · health · Martha's Musings · motivation · research

Guilt-free heart health for women

By MarthaFitat55

February is Heart Month and there are lots of messages across multiple platforms on how to be heart healthy. In the past two decades, we’ve seen a lot of attention being paid to heart health and its links to obesity, diabetes and high cholesterol.

The messages fall into three camps: what to eat, how to exercise, and why it all matters. There are multiple diets focusing on optimal cardiac health, an almost equally dizzying array of guidelines on exercise, and tonnes of research on the risks and genetic factors present in 21-century populations.

In more recent years, there’s been significant work looking at women and heart health. We are often misdiagnosed, we don’t get the right treatments, and we are less likely to have the better outcomes. In its landmark report in 2018,  aptly named Ms. Understood, the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation said the following:

  • Heart disease is the leading cause of premature death for women in Canada (dying before reaching their expected lifespan).
  • Early heart attack signs were missed in 78% of women.
  • Every 20 minutes a woman in Canada dies from heart disease.
  • Five times as many women die from heart disease as breast cancer.
  • Two-thirds of heart disease clinical research focuses on men.
  • Women who have a heart attack are more likely to die or suffer a second heart attack compared to men.

Why this matters became even more critical this year when the the Foundation released a new piece of research demonstrating the link between heart disease and increased rates of dementia. The report (found here as a PDF) says its research “mapped the connections between heart, brain and mind diseases and conditions for the first time and found even stronger links and a much greater impact than anticipated. People managing these conditions are overwhelmed and the system is overloaded. This is a crisis and it is not sustainable. We need to find solutions now.”

So we know what’s happening, and we know what we are supposed to do. But are we actually doing the work we need to prevent and reduce the risks? Well, there is another piece of research, this time at the University of Alberta, which challenges some of our assumptions on the messages we use in promoting heart health.  Says one of the co authors, Tami Oliphant: “Women are told they need to exercise more, they need to lose weight, they need to be social and all these heart-healthy activities, but we found that these messages made the women feel guilty, like they had caused their heart disease,”

We know we should reduce the stress we feel, but hey, women deal with a lot of stress. Reducing it isn’t necessarily an easy option. Many of us can’t afford some of the more common stress reducers recommended to women. And then there is the social pressures women face in keeping family and community together, let alone taking time for themselves.

While I am a big fan of the concept behind putting my own mask on first so I can help others, it’s a bit of a juggle and for some, a bit of a fight. Not being able to meet those recommended guidelines can pile on guilt which leads to more stress, etc etc etc.

The research at the U of A suggests we tailor our health messages to the needs of different audiences. That means creating different messages for women compared to men.The symptoms for heart attack in women are different, so the messages building awareness have to differentiate between male and female experiences of cardiac disease to be effective.

It also means letting women know what the alternatives can be for reducing risk. As one of the researchers noted, if you hate running and you can’t find something else in the “sports” field to get your 150 minutes of cardio in a week, what else is there? Ordinary activity for one. Vacuuming is a form of activity and while it may not help you run marathons, it does keep you moving.

The most positive aspect of this focus on women’s experience of heart disease is the empowerment of women. For quite a long time, we have not had control of many aspecs of our health, especially reproductive health. Researcher Oliphant said: “Women’s bodies are perceived as problematic, post-menopausal, whereas when you’re treating men for heart disease it’s about efficiency and getting them back up to speed. So women are diagnosed later, they delay treatment, they can be disbelieved and sometimes they’re even discouraged from seeing a health-care practitioner.”

There is some work on understanding the experience different groups of women will have with heart disease. What else can we be doing to support heart health in women beyond the healthy weight, be active, live smoke-free messages?

Image: A red heart on a square yellow sheet of paper clothespinned to a strong and hanging on a white wall.

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash
cycling · monthly check in · motivation

Sam is Checking In for January (brrr….)

January is a long month. Long, and this year, especially cold and icy. Brrrr.

I’ve had three different things going on bike wise: winter riding (see here and here), trying Zwift, and riding bikes in Florida with Sarah and Jeff. (I’ll blog about that later when I’m back. Here now basking in +12. Not warm by Florida standards but warm enough to ride a bike.)

There’s also the new year enthusiasm of the 219 workouts in 2019 group. This year there’s even two versions, the old standby that’s been going for years that Cate and I have been part of and the feminist version started by women from the Tracy/Cate/Christine fit feminist challenge group.

My knee trundles along with some aches and pains but it’s nowhere near as bad as it was a year ago. I’m still getting synvisc shots under my knee cap. I’m still trying to lose weight. I’m still considering my options in the surgery department. The unstable knee has made walking on the ice an extra big challenge. Mostly I try to avoid it. Sorry Cheddar!

 

Image of Cheddar sitting my our bike boxes, packed for flying.
aging · motivation · weight lifting

Love the story, hate the headline: On guilt and fitness messaging

Occasionally stories come across my newsfeed where I love the story and hate the headline. This is one.: She’s Powerlifting at 76, So You’re Officially Out of Excuses.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love that Patricia Horn, age 76, starting lifting on the advice of her physiotherapist to strengthen her legs and help with knee pain. I love that she lifts with a group of women who call themselves The Golden Girls.

She also looks super happy in the photos of her with weights. Go Patricia!

But the no excuses talk? I hate it.

Cheryl hates it too. She blogged about giving up “no excuse” talk and personal training from the point of view of body positivity. I think I’ve blogged about the “no excuses” fit mom thing before but now I can’t find it. But hey, here’s a new, really good piece on misogyny and the “fit mom” trend.From the article: “The presumption of the “No excuses” trope is that mothers are leaning on motherhood to indulge their natural tendency to be lazy and gluttonous. This idea is misogynistic.”

I especially hate older people or disabled people being held up as super-heroes. The “they can do it, what’s your excuse?” trope is insulting to disabled/older people and insulting to those of us with our own struggles. I have to say, for me at least, it’s not particularly motivational.

fitness · motivation

Exercise is not a substitute for change

It’s the new year and my newsfeed is full of inspirational images and sayings. Mostly I’m not a fan but I do love the ones generated by Inspirobot: “an artificial intelligence dedicated to generating unlimited amounts of unique inspirational quotes for endless enrichment of pointless human existence. “

In all caps, the words “exercise is not a substitute for change,” are displayed across an image of a sunset, a body of water, and a tree.

Thanks Inspirobot! Generate your own inspirational saying here: https://inspirobot.me/.

#deanslife · death · monthly check in · motivation

Sam is Checking in for December, #monthlycheckin

A red and pink heart shaped rock, resting on fall leaves on the ground, sprinkled with snow. It’s hand painted and the black letters read “every day is a fresh start.”


You can read all my past monthly check-in posts here.  They all have a content warning for discussions of weight loss, including this one.

What’s up? (and down?):  I’m working out a fair bit. I’m going to easily make my goal of 218 workouts in 2018. I’m doing lots of different things and enjoying them. But something feels different now. It’s catch as catch can. I don’t mean that in a bad way but I’m not training. It’s not purposeful. It’s fun and it feels good but I’m learning that, for me, that’s not enough motivation. It’s got me thinking about life and plans and what makes me tick.

On the one hand I’m impressed that I’m managing to work out while dean-ing, but on the other, I want to achieve something. I need goals, people. Big goals. Like being the fittest by fifty! But not that. I’ve been there and done that and co-written the book. You can buy it here

I’m a type A goal achieving sort of person and I need that in my fitness if it’s going to be fun.

But there’s only so much Type A my life can take. And Dean-ing is a big job. I don’t mean that just in terms of hours. It’s also about scope of responsibility and making big plans. It’s no surprise that my big fitness burst took place during my break from academic admin roles. I was Chair of Philosophy at Western from 2002-2011 (with a year off for good behavior somewhere in the middle, hello Australia!). I started Dean-ing in 2018. The fittest by fifty challenge and this blog began in 2012. Tracy and I turned 50 in 2014.

So big ambitious jobs and big ambitious fitness goals aren’t fitting together very well for me. That might be just fine.  The one, modest but very important goal I do have concerns my knee. It’s a lot of work!  All of this damaged knee maintenance is wearing me down. Yes, I’m doing the thing. I’m losing weight. I’m doing physio. I’m so far successful at wearing the knee brace when I am doing long walks. 

And fitness is still fun but I’m also still sad about all the things I miss: No more running. (See sad bye bye running post.) Definitely no more soccer. I’ve  also said goodbye to Aikido, but not here on the blog. I’ve been too sad to even write about that loss. I’ve got a post in the drafts folder about how I miss throwing people around but I can’t finish it. 

I keep  thinking I should just stop blogging about fitness-y things, make it a less central part of who I am.  Blog about dean-ing? Or, sometimes I keep looking for big fitness goals I can do, like riding and lifting. Or continue to make progress with swimming. Or new things I want to try like horseback riding.

Basically, I’m a bit at sea with things, still struggling, and not sure how it will all turn out.  December is also a sad time. It’s the third anniversary of my father’s death. My uncle in England just died.  I still think this doesn’t get easier, losing people. See One of the hardest parts of getting older: Friends, family, illness, and death.

Oh and it’s dark, really dark. We’ve got the earliest sunsets right about now. And some days it doesn’t ever seem to get light at all.

On the bright side, I’m really loving my new job. I love the College and all the exciting work that’s being done here. I also love Guelph. You can come check it out in January at the Night at the Museum Event. Register here.


Obviously, I’m still thinking this all through. The one thing I do know is that I’ve got some big bike goals for 2019. I am reading about kicking my cycling goals into high gear.

And I might schedule knee surgery–partial knee replacement–for the future. If I could choose the date it’d be fall 2019.

Have you ever had “at sea” times? Big life changes? Tough stuff but I’m thinking it through!

I share lots of #sportsselfies but here’s a #deanselfie to balance it out!

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#officeselfie #deanatwork #feministselfie @uog_arts

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