It’s amazing how quickly time flies! I feel as though it was yesterday when I was writing about May being Exercise Is Medicine month and here we are at the end. How did you do with my goal for you of moving more every day? Some of you met my goal, some of you did not. Don’t despair, it was my goal after all! What are you going to do next month? How does my goal for you align with your goals for yourself? How are you going to fit activity into your everyday life? Think outside the box and stay focused on the quality of life you dream of.
As I write this before the long Memorial Day Weekend and you are reading it during or after the weekend, I am reflecting on what we are celebrating. Before I jump into exercise myths, I want to take a moment to thank the men and women serving or retired from the United States Military. I want to take a moment to appreciate and respect the supreme sacrifice that many men and women have made over the years in the pursuit of democracy and protecting the freedoms that we take for granted daily. Because of people like our military, I have the privilege of watching my dreams come true. Because of the sacrifices you and your families make, my family lives each day safely, free to express their opinions, and with appreciation for each day. We have the fortune to have freedom of choice! Choice is a key word!
Myth 1. “No pain, no gain”, “I must have burned a lot of calories because I was dripping sweat”, “you can only burn fat at a low intensity”, the list goes on! Intensity of exercise is important, however, it is only one factor in the equation to fitness, weight management, and overall measure of exercise benefit. I fact, when you are in pain, you are counterproductive and most likely causing injury. Keep in mind pain and discomfort are two very different feelings. You strive to feel as though you challenged your body, however normal everyday movement should not be a challenge! It is most important to meet yourself where you’re at with fitness, begin slow/appropriate and build daily and weekly. This will allow your body to adapt with minimal risk of injury. Higher intensity exercise does burn more calories within a given time, however if you are not conditioned, it’s too challenging to maintain without causing another myth! On the flip side, you don’t necessarily have to start at a snails pace if you are more fit than that! Lastly, intensity and sweat do not necessarily equate. Sweat is our bodies' way to cool itself and many factors influence sweat. In fact, many people who are highly conditioned athletes have a lower sweat rate because their bodies are so fit!
Myth 2. I can’t exercise as much as I should, so I can’t lose weight. Although exercise is the key to achieve ALL of the reasons that you desire weight loss, it is not the key to moving the dial down. Nutrition plays a stronger role during the weight loss phase than exercise. However, importantly, exercise/physical activity is the key to keeping weight off and maintaining your goals. If you lose 10 pounds or 100 pounds and are de-conditioned, then you are still going to be out of breath at the top of the stairs! There is an abundance of research on the theory of “fit and fat” showing the benefits of being fit are much more impactful than the benefits of being thin and unfit. Steven Blair from the University of South Carolina and formerly the Cooper Institute is well published and well accepted on this all important research.
Myth 3. If I can’t get my full workout in and workout often, there isn’t any point. Exercise is Medicine, the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans and quality fitness professionals will tell you that anything is better than nothing. There is much research showing the benefits of movement during the day as being beneficial to overall health. I’ve even had clients who were so challenged with time on particular days that they went to the gym and changed clothes even though there wasn’t enough time in the day to do anything beyond walking in! This keeps the routine strong.
Myth 4. All certified personal trainers have the same knowledge and if they look fit they must be knowledgeable. As with most professions, certified personal trainers (cPT) come with a variety of expertise and knowledge. Some have extensive knowledge of exercise physiology, kinesiology, and body mechanics for healthy people and people with diseases. Some have taken a weekend course, at best, to expand their knowledge from working out through some period of their life! When you are paying for services, you want to get true value. Look for credentials- the National Commission on Credentialing Agencies was created to help “ensure the health, welfare, and safety of the public through the accreditation of a variety of certification programs/organizations that assess professional competence.” The process is highly regarded by professionals in various industries. To see if your fitness professional has an accredited certification, check out their website. The certified Personal Trainers with high credentials don’t necessarily charge much more for services.
Myth 5. Yoga Is a Completely Safe and Gentle Exercise. Yoga is an excellent activity for building strength, endurance, flexibility and overall fitness. Some styles are more meditative and gentle, however some styles are rigorous and demanding both physically and mentally. As with any type of exercise, qualified, careful instruction is necessary for a safe, effective workout.
Myth 6. When You Exercise Long and Hard Enough, You Will Always Get the Results You Want. In some respects this is true, when you look! People begin to notice decreased stress, better energy, improved sleep, clothes loser, every health parameter improved and much more. But, if they don’t put exercise and these benefits together and only focus on the scale, then they create a wedge for long term success. Further, the reality is that genetics plays an important role in how people respond to exercise. Numerous studies over the years have shown a wide variation in how different exercisers respond to the same training program.
Myth 7. To Lose Weight, Stay Away From Weights & Resistance Training Because You Gain Muscle and Bulk Up. Fitness and weight management experts agree that cardiovascular exercise and strength training are both valuable for achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. Strength training helps maintain muscle mass and decrease body fat percentage. Another resistant training benefit is toning so that when an individual does lose fat, the muscles under aren’t flabby. To bulk up or add much mass, a person needs to follow a rigorous routine above what the vast majority of weight losers are willing to do. Genetics, gender, hormones, nutrition and a host of other factors influence a persons ability to gain excess muscle mass.
Myth 8. The Health and Fitness Benefits of Mind-Body Exercise Such as Tai Chi and Yoga Are Questionable. Research showing the benefits of these exercises continues to grow. Yoga has been shown to help treat low-back pain and fibromyalgia. Improved flexibility, balance, coordination, posture, strength, weight management, diabetes control without medication and stress management are just some of the evidence based benefits of mind-body exercise. And, when you become skilled at listening to your body, you tend to fuel it with premium grade fuel!
Myth 9. If you want to build muscle and lose weight, consume lots of protein and avoid carbs. Although adequate protein is important, carbs in the form of whole grains (barley, wheat, rye, oats, corn, quinoa, ..), fruits, vegetables and low fat dairy (including soy) fuel your exercise and provide protein to meet your needs beyond your “protein foods”. The ideal post workout replenisher (yes replenish so you have energy to work out tomorrow) is 8 ounces of low fat chocolate milk, or 6 oz. yogurt and fruit, or nut butter and fruit or whole grain crackers, or ... You get the ideal, small amount of protein, more healthy carbs. Think about it. We’ve been on an anti-carb trend for over 15 years, how are Americans faring with this approach? Are they craving carbs more by cutting them out and then diving into sweets, deserts, chips, sugary drinks, etc to feed the crave while avoiding healthy carbs because of the “evil” sugar?
Myth 10. Going to a Gym Is the Best Way to Get Fit. This is true if you enjoy the gym and can afford the gym you enjoy! Research has shown that some people find it easier to follow a fitness program either at home, or outside- such as walking or jogging. In spite of all the hype on trendy exercise classes, programs and facilities, the “best” fitness program for you is the one you will participate in consistently.