Quantify All Your Movement Using Metabolic Equivalents (METs)

Want to know an easy way to count all your movement? Try using METs. These are metabolic equivalents and they help you determine how hard you are working when you do movement.

A MET is an absolute value used by exercise physiologists to help us understand how much work is being expended by any given activity based on how much oxygen you are using to complete the activity.

The measurement is based on your weight. Once you have determined your personal value based on your weight and oxygen needs, you can then determine all sorts of caloric values for a number of activities. This helps you count all the household chores, shopping, activity at work, play, and daily living activities you do everyday toward your exercise goals.

You can find the caloric burn of things like sleeping (.9 METs) or working at my desk (1.8 METs) to things like vigorous exercise and high intensity workouts.

When we think about moving for mental health and brain function lots of things count. It does not have to include an expensive gym membership or fancy equipment. It is a simple as standing up and sitting back down 10 x right now or marching in place while swinging your arms, ok that one may be a little hard, but not expensive! It really is just the mindset that I have to move everyday. Movement IS medicine.

As you exercise you help build the hippocampus. The hippocampus is the part of our brains active in memory formation. During periods of high stress the hippocampus is damaged by glucocorticoids (stress chemicals in the body) and as a result does not function as well. Research shows that those with mental health disorders related to emotional dysregulation may be operating with a smaller hippocampus. Physical exercise has the benefit of increasing brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Increasing BDNF is a factor in neuroplasticity and helps build the hippocampus, thus increasing your ability to regulate your emotions, focus, and remember. Not so bad for something so free, huh?

Movement for mental health doesn’t have to be hard … it just has to be done.


Want a quick and easy way to see how hard you are working? Check out the Compendium of Physical Activities

Want more info on METs? National Public Radio just did a story on using METs to reach your fitness goals: Read the NPR story here.

Interesting in calculating your own activities? Check out this calculator to help you determine your calories burned: MET Calculator

Read past blog posts on METs and using them for cardiovascular exercise. 

Free Athletic Training

Holiday Exercise

I know its a bit early for the holiday exercise lecture, but ya know what? The stores are already gearing, the parties are being planned, and the frenzy is just around the corner. Many people dread the holidays because they feel they always put on weight. However, with a bit of pre-planning you can make it through the holidays without too much trouble.   First, look at your schedule. For many people the holidays either become overwhelmingly busy or they become a time to not go out because everyone else is so overwhelmingly busy. If you are in either camp or somewhere in between it is a good idea to take realistic stock of how your life changes during the holiday season now. This will allow you to begin to modify workouts that need it now.

Next, start adding intensity to your workouts now while you’ve got the time. This will allow you to continue to workout for the whole time but pump up the caloric burn while you do so. This allows you to begin to cycle your workouts so the upcoming weeks which have more going on you’ll be able to workout shorter durations saving you time but not sacrificing all you’ve gained.

Finally, remember the 80/20 rule. 80% is going to go as planned and 20% its not. This goes for workouts, party foods, and obligations. So don’t beat yourself up if you show up at the party and they are serving your favorite meatballs drenched in the best sauce ever – I used to cater and this was one of my favorite downfalls during the holidays! The trick is to honor its something you want, have a bit, and if you still have a bit more remember you want the overall picture of your diet and workouts to reflect the 80/20 rule so you might need to make a few changes in the next few days to get back into balance.

Oh – and don’t forget to prioritize your time. Its very possible you don’t need to attend every party, gathering, concert, or whatever you are invited to.

Feed Yourself Well – Learning To Read Food Labels

Many people are more and more confused when it comes to food choices.  The majority of Americans are increasingly concerned about nutrition and pesticides.  Many base their food choices on what is in or on them. This has led to an explosion in the organic food market, and to increasingly more confusing food labels.

Studies repeatedly show the foods we eat today are not as nutrient packed as they were in the past. According to food-navigator.com, “Changes in agriculture during the last 50 years include the widespread use of pesticides, plant growth regulators, and highly soluble sources of plant nutrients, along with decreased use of humus-containing fertilizers.” Due to certain farming methods, mass planting of a single crop, and transporting foods over long distances, crops have been made to withstand depletion of soil, long journeys from vine to table, and have been bred to handle lots of handling. All this translates into less nutrients for us.

Many are willing to pay more than fifty percent more for organic food. Organic food markets have begun to grow at approximately twenty percent each year. This means organic food prices and selections have gotten better, but how do you know if you are getting organic? When confronted with the enormous amount of options how do we make good choices and not throw up our hands in overwhelming frustration? Getting educated about labels will help you make the best food choices.

Deciphering labels:

An article in the Seattle Times outlined the following label definitions:

  • If the product is labeled “100 percent organic” it means that, by law, there are no synthetic ingredients. Also, production processes must meet federal organic standards and must have been independently verified by accredited inspectors.
  • If the label says, simply, “organic,” no less than 95 percent of the ingredients must have been organically produced. And if it’s labeled “Made with Organic Ingredients,” you can be sure that at least 70 percent of its makeup is organic. The remaining ingredients must come from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s approved list.
  • Labels that specify “natural” or “all natural” do not mean organic. The reason is that no standard definition for these terms exists, except when it’s applied to meat and poultry products, which the USDA defines as not containing any artificial flavoring, colors or synthetic ingredients. The terms “free-range” or “free-roaming” are similarly meaningless. U.S. government standards are weak. The rule for the label’s use on poultry products, for example, is merely that outdoor access be available for “an undetermined period each day.”
  • Labeling seafood “organic” is also misleading, since the USDA has not yet developed organic-certification standards.

Why does organic cost so much more than conventionally grown foods? Organically grown foods are usually produced on much smaller farms. These farms do not receive subsidies from the government and they must follow much stricter guidelines when growing, harvesting, transporting, and storing foods. Many shy away from organic foods because they feel they cannot afford them. It is possible to eat nutritiously on a budget, I know, I do it. It takes patience as you learn to read labels and understand which foods to choose. If you have to select from both conventional and organic foods on your regular shopping list apply the following ideas.

  • 1stBuy as much organic or locally grown as possible. The farmers market season is just around the corner-we have two great ones in town. Better yet try growing your own. The Broadway Community Garden is beginning! Free plots, help, and support is here in Superior! Call: Theresa at 218-727-4820 for more information.
  • 2ndShop the perimeter of the supermarket. Whole foods or foods with the least amount of processing will help, but get educated on companies – learn how they treat the animals or what types of growing they do.
  • 3rdAvoid the dirty dozen. These are 12 fruits and vegetables that have high levels of residue on them: apples, bell peppers, spinach, celery, cherries, grapes, nectarines, peaches, pears, potatoes, raspberries, and strawberries. Although, scientists have trouble connecting all the dots between disease and long term, small dose exposure to pesticides, there is evidence that we have more in our bodies today than in the past. This is especially important for expectant mothers and small children, as proportionally they end up with more in their systems. There is also some concern over the combined effects of different pesticides in our systems even in low doses.
  • 4thLearn to read labels. Choose foods with small ingredient lists, avoid the “bad” fats, and learn what the ingredients are. Try to not to eat foods with lots of unpronounceable things in them, artificial colors, flavors, and lots of salt or sugar.

Hopefully, you have a better and not worse idea of what to put on your grocery list next time you shop – your body will thank you for choosing wisely. 






Whole Foods Co-Op, Duluth MN

Body Fat And Weight-Loss

You have taken the weight loss challenge, been consistent, and the scale has not moved!  What is going on?  You are ready to quit, you know this is good for you, but frustration is mounting; you are beginning to question the whole idea…is it a conspiracy?  Why hasn’t the scale moved and why  does my  (insert body part here:____________) still look like that?  There are a couple of reasons we do not see immediate change when we begin a weight loss program.First, weight loss is a slow, slow process. Forget the commercials claiming you’ll lose 7-15 pounds a week. If you drop a dress size that fast, that’s about how fast your dress size will come back, and you’ll probably gain a size as well. When you are trying to better your health, it is best to approach it as a lifestyle change, not just a short term goal.

As our bodies begin to adapt, it begins to change composition. As lean mass increases it does not immediately need stored energy. Fat is stored energy, think of fat as fuel. You have given your body fuel for a later date and it is holding on for as long as possible because it is smart, and your body gets twice as much energy for one gram of fat, meaning it will use all other possibilities first. It is important to remember that exercise is half the equation and you must consider diet the other half.

Simply put, the weight loss equation is: calories in, must be less than calories out. You must create a deficit if you are going to loss any fat, and you must do this over time to allow your body to used stored fat. As you begin the weight loss challenge your body begins to build lean mass. Think of lean mass as a positive – bones, blood, organs, muscle tissue, and everything that is not fat. As your lean mass increases, it needs more fuel to sustain function; therefore, as you consume a deficit in calories (food) your body will dip into stored fat as fuel. This is the point we begin to see weight loss. Consistency is the key to continued success. When losing weight ,trainers look for one to two pounds a week, this ensures it is lifestyle driving change. Your body needs time to adjust and accommodate activities, plus create balance in new patterns which support your continued health.

Exercise is a maintenance tool. You must continue to expend calories to maintain your weight. Exercise breaks down into two basic categories – cardiovascular and strength. We call cardiovascular training aerobic activity; or with oxygen. Our body performs work in different energy systems, and we want to work aerobically to burn fat. Strength training will help you build more lean mass, which will require more energy and calorie expenditure. This is what is known as raising our metabolism. Many complain as they age their metabolism drops and the weight rises. Are they as active as they used to be?

Diet is not supposed to mean deprivation. It may correspond with a current fad or book, but it should be something you can do, enjoy, and stick with. Diet simply is what you eat. If you follow portion control, eat as many whole (unprocessed) foods as possible, and variety you’ve got a good start. A calorie is a calorie is a calorie – I don’t care where it comes from – carbs, protein, or fat – it is all energy and your body will store it as extra fuel for a later date if it is given extra. So consume in moderation, give your body good food , and it will respond – no deprivation involved. Shop the outside of the grocery store – the produce, fresh meats/fish, dairy, and bakery (for whole grain breads) to help learn how to choose whole (unprocessed) foods.

Remember, your weight may go up before it comes down as you begin a weight loss program. Something that sounds too good to be true probably is, and it will take consistency over time to produce results. If you eat well you’ll feel well, and as you create a calorie deficit throughout your day your body will begin to use the fuel you’ve stored. The first step is the hardest, persevere and you’ll get there – take the first step this week.

10 Ways to Handle Office Donuts

 Many of our health sabotagers are the folks we work with. Damn those office mates! Most are well meaning. They are trying to be the good one bringing everyone Friday donuts or lunch meeting cookies and pop. However, when we are trying stay on fitness track having those extra calories around can be pretty devastating. How do you handle those well meaning office diet sabotagers?

1) Be pro active – you bring the snacks

2) Post a healthy snack list around the office – hit all the major bulletin boards when no one is looking – somebody is bound to notice.

3) Enlist co-workers in a weight-loss or other fitness challenge – then you are all working toward the same goal

4) Keep healthy snacks in your desk drawers – make ’em good and tasty otherwise you are bound to reach for the sweet treats!

5) Tactfully ask the person responsible for the breakfast, lunch, snack, or dinner meeting food to include some healthy treats – be ready with #1 when they ask what types of foods you are looking for.

6) Propose an office wide policy to serve healthy options – people are more productive when they’ve eating something healthy than when they’ve carbo loaded on empty calories and sugar.

7) Ask your boss to sponsor workout incentives – people who workout are more likely to seek out healthy food choices. Bonus for the Boss – companies who have created a workout /  exercise program report fewer absentee days, greater productivity, and better employee morale from those who participate.

8) Ask the vending machine supplier to add a few healthy choices in the machine

9) Quit walking by the break room until all the donuts are gone

10) Remember – your fitness is your responsibility. Take accountability for what you feed yourself. What you eat is no one else’s responsibility but yours.