Fitness for Well-being

I am noticing a bit of confusion in fitness lately – confusion between sports and military training and exercise for health and well-being. I want you to be a savvy fitness consumer who gets what you want from your investment. I want you to stay motivated to be well.  Let’s take a look at the difference between the two approaches and see what you think:

Training for wellbeing.pngIf you were an athlete or military professional at some point in your life, the switch may be challenging. Those approaches to exercise can be strongly ingrained in your approach to movement. If you have done a fitness program with a sports-minded approach in the past, or admire those who do, this approach can be so enmeshed in your thinking about exercise, they can seem to be one and the same. But clearly, they are not.

Here are questions to ask yourself to be sure you are training for health and well-being:

  • Am I pushing through pain and discomfort in my fitness class/program?
  • Who is my primary guide for what is right for my body – a “fitness expert” or how my body feels with a certain exercise?
  • How often do I ignore and “tough out” pain with exercise?
  • How often do I get injured when I am on a fitness program?
  • Am I consistent with exercise all year long?
  • Does my exercise program leave me too sore and exhausted to move more throughout my day?
  • Am I  feeling and living better as a result of my training?

Are your answers more in line with the training approach on the right or the left of the chart above?

If you are ignoring pain, listening to a trainer more than your body, feeling sore and exhausted more often than energized, inconsistent with exercise, have a love/hate relationship with exercise, and/or have sustained an injury as a result of your training – you may be using a sports approach to health and well-being training.

If you feel better mentally and physically, have less pain and injury, are listening to your body, are consistent all year long, have more energy and stamina and strength to enjoy life – congratulations! You have found a fitness program for well-being.

Because the two types of training can be so cleverly intertwined in our society, let’s take the next few blog posts to dissect the differences a bit more and get really clear about how to train for well-being.

Please share your comments about your experience with this fitness trend.

Be Well Now,


PS: My mission is to provide resources for training for true well-being.  In the coming year, I will be offering more and more online tools for movement for health and well-being on this site.

The Magic Pill

exercise as medicineThank you, WBUR, for this new podcast series that starts today called “The Magic Pill.”  The positive news about movement as the most powerful medicine we have for health and well-being gets lost easily in the media. It is refreshing to see an encouraging approach getting some more air time!

Thirty years of prescribing this medicine has taught me one thing – the prescription is very individual. So take in the information and suggestions but above all trust your own knowledge about your body and what works best for it today. For example, they end the  first podcast with a cheerful “take the stairs” suggestion. Sounds easy enough, but for many, stair are a big challenge. So if stairs are not right for you at this time, try pacing while you wait for the elevator, or take an extra lap around the hallway before getting onto the elevator, or take a big morning style stretch as you wait. (You might just inspire the people waiting with you to do the same). You see … ALL movement is medicine – not just the ones that count on our Fit Bits!

The best medicine of all is enjoying movement. A recent study in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine found that “our belief in how much we will benefit from physical activity has a considerable effect on our well-being in the manner of a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Enjoy it and you will reap the benefits! Move in the ways that give your mind and body a lift. Because we are made to move, the body responds with a big “thank you” by boosting the immune system, giving amazing health benefits, and best of all, helping you be well now!

May you be well…now,



Rise Above Negativity


Why is negativity used so often in marketing and politics?

“Our ancestors had to pay a lot of attention to bad news,” states Rick Hanson in his TED talk. The more primitive part of our brain looks for problems to solve to keep us safe. It was essential in that lifestyle to remember where there was danger or a lack of food. This negativity-bias is normal and helpful…to a point.

In today’s world, marketers, leaders and politicians know problems will get our attention. They speak our negative thoughts, leading us to believe they are the truth, to believe we need their product or leadership to fix things.

The problem is, our brain will search for potential problems as well. We think of what might happen if we make a mistake, yet our thoughts are not reality. Our body reacts the same to these potential problems, though, so they seem very real. Again, helpful…to a point!

This works especially well in health and fitness marketing because our ancestors’ physical capability meant safety and survival. If you were physically unfit in some way, not only was your safety threatened but your tribe’s safety as well. Talk about peer pressure!

before and after

Seriously! Look at these before and after pictures. Notice the difference in facial expression, in body stance. Why is the lighting different? Yes, there was certainly a change, but marketers know how to highlight the negative.  Our brain sees the “desired” picture. If it does not match what we see in the mirror, our sub-conscious brain says “uh oh, problem! We better fix this!”

As Rick Hanson also notes, the more we focus on the negative, the faster our brain goes to problem mode. The good news is we can train our brain for a positivity bias (see Dr. Hanson’s TED talk to find out how).

When we are in alarm mode, though, this primitive part of our brain hijacks the more evolved part of our brain. We need to calm the alarm first to regain access to our logical brain. Mindfulness means to see clearly. Movement calms the body and reassures the brain that the body is capable. Mindful movement allows us to rise above the madness and see what is real and true.

Before turning on social media, casting a vote, making a purchase, take a mindful movement pause. Override the negativity bias and outsmart the ones who are using it for their own gain!

May You Be Well,


Janet Huehls, MA, RCEP, CHWC

Clinical Exercise Physiologist

Health and Wellness Coach

Yoga and Meditation Teacher

What Activates Well-being? #6: Self-discipline or Self-care

Before we dive in, let’s get clear about what we are going for here. Is it just improved health and fitness? A lower weight?  Absence of disease?

From what I have learned over the years from clients, patients, and myself, most of us really want more. We really want to be well.

Well-being is a sense of contentment, resilience, confidence, and satisfaction in life; deeper even than happiness, which can be more dependent on outside factors. Well-being is an internal sense. Health and fitness can certainly contribute to well-being, though  the two do not necessarily go hand in hand. Do you know of someone who is very fit and trim, yet missing that internal okay-ness?

If well-being sounds like what you are seeking more of,  which works better for you, self-discipline or self-care?

Certainly, self discipline could lead to fitness and weight loss. How much would it bring about contentment or satisfaction – both in this moment and long-term? Discipline often uses reward and punishment to motivate abiding by a set of rules. Research shows this form of self-discipline can actually decrease our motivation long term.

How about self-care? The definition sounds like it would activate well-being. However, in our culture the term self-care can sound a bit hedonistic, selfish, self- indulgent. Is it selfish to clean your house, take care of your car, wash your clothes? No, I think we would agree that is just part of taking care of something, keeping it in good condition.

The body is constantly striving to take care of you. Heart beating, lungs breathing, nervous system communicating, immune system healing. Self-care is then automatic and built right into the design of the body! So cool!

We can either inhibit the body’s natural self-care by being in a stress response, or help it beyondawholesomealong by being in a state of mindful awareness. The answer lies in how each are used. When self-discipline triggers stress through ignoring signals of pain and fatigue from the body or w
hen self-care weights us down with guilt, neither activate well-being.

When self-discipline is done as a form of true self-care, as an act of kindness, it does not interfere with our body’s built-in systems of self-care.

Check it out for yourself and let me know.

Activate It:  Brainstorm all the words you associate with self-discipline and all the words you associate with self-care. How can you find the blend of the two so they activate your well-being?

May You Be Well,


Janet Huehls, MA, RCEP, CHWC

Clinical Exercise Physiologist

Health and Wellness Coach

Yoga and Meditation Teacher


What Activates Well-being? #5: Sleep

Although the why and how is not completely clear to scientists yet, sleep certainly activates well-being.

What do you notice when you get enough sleep?  When you are sleep deprived?

When not sleeping well, I notice more cravings for simple sugars, my short term memory and focus are reduced, I am more likely to stress about something small, and exercise does not feel as enjoyable or satisfying.

Motivation to move tanks when sleep quality is low, not only because of the physical fatigue, but also because sleep deprivation puts the mind and body in a stress response. And we know what that means – smart brain goes offline and healing is on hold. Working on sleep issues is the first goal before setting any other healthy lifestyle goals. Setting big goals while sleep deprived is like trying to climb Mt Everest without any provisions.

Without the recharge time during sleep, the brain looks elsewhere for energy and comfort. Cravings for quick energy foods increase. Since the smart brain is taken over by the emergency part of the brain, intentions to eat healthy and stick to an exercise plan are not the priority.  Finding energy and comfort in a quick and easy way becomes the brain’s focus.

The great news is that there are many natural strategies that are shown to help. Movement is among the most effective.  Because stress prepares the body for movement, exercise is the perfect antidote.  Movement that relaxes the body before sleep, like gentle stretches, sends signals to the brain that it is okay to relax.

Below are more science-based sleep resources.  Not every strategy is right for everyone, but each are worth a try to find what works for you if lack of sleep is keeping your well-being on hold.

Activate It: 


May You Be Well,


Janet Huehls, MA, RCEP, CHWC

Clinical Exercise Physiologist

Health and Wellness Coach

Yoga and Meditation Teacher