You have made sure that you are fully informed on the truths about nutrition. You are eating your carbs, shying away from the ‘diet’ food, balancing your diet and eating sensibly. So it is now a good time to look at the other half of the health equation and deal with the myths that surround exercise.
Some worryingly inaccurate myths circulate regarding exercise, in the same way as they do for diet. In a country where everyone is educated, and everyone has studied some science, it is really quite frightening that anyone believes some of the strange ideas that are passed around. A lot of these stories are very demotivating, and can do actual harm - so make sure that you have the facts. Here are just some of the fallacies that you might hear, and the explanations why they are nonsense.
MYTH –“a small amount of exercise is a waste of time”. Happily for those feeling overwhelmed, this is definitely not true. All movement is exercise, all movement burns calories, and all movement keeps your body working and healthy. So any time you are off the couch, you are doing good things for your body. With normal eating, you only need about half an hour of exercise a day to keep your weight stable. That half an hour can be a walk, a cycle ride, a swim or even some vigorous housework or gardening. Remember that most people need around 2000 calories a day just to keep breathing, digesting and living, so even a little bit more exercise will help to keep your weight under control.
MYTH – “gyms are only for very fit people”. Nonsense! Gyms are always happy to see new customers, and there is now such a wide range of exercise programmes and fitness classes that there will be something to suit everyone. Have a look around the websites, and choose a gym near to you that offers something that interests you. The staff will be happy to advise if you are not sure which class would be suitable.
MYTH – “no pain, no gain”. Yes, you do need to work that body, and you do need to make some effort. You can expect to be a bit out of breath, and maybe to ache a little the next day. However you do not want to be so stiff that you can’t move on the next day, and you certainly don’t want to strain joints and ligaments. If it hurts, stop; especially if the pain is in joints. If you are exercising in a class, take note of the advice given on how to do moves and don’t hesitate to ask if something isn’t clear. Some stretches and exercises can be damaging if performed incorrectly.
MYTH – “exercise makes you bulky” If it were that easy, we could all enter bodybuilding competitions after a few hours at the gym. Making muscles work strengthens them, adds definition and shape and makes you look better as well as being fitter. To get Schwarzenegger muscles takes hours of heavy training each day, and it is not going to happen by accident! So don’t be afraid of those repetitions and lifts.
MYTH – “it is too late for me to start exercising at my age”. Even very elderly people can benefit from gentle exercise, so there is absolutely no reason for those under pension age to think they have missed the boat. While your chance at football and Olympic-level sprinting may have gone, there are very few other sports that cannot be taken up later in life. People in their seventies have taken up walking, dinghy sailing, swimming and many other sports from scratch, and many of those people are still fit and active years later.
MYTH – “exercise turns fat to muscle, and lack of exercise turns it back again”. Muscle and fat are two completely different things. As you get fitter, you will probably lose some fat and your muscles will get more defined, but the one is not turning into the other. Stopping exercise for a long time will mean you put on weight if you continue to eat the same amount, and your muscles will probably shrink – but again, they are two different types of tissue.
MYTH – “you must stretch before exercise”. Stretching cold muscles can actually harm them, which is why workouts include the stretches at the end. What you must do before exercise is warm up, by starting gently – this is particularly important if you are outside in cold conditions. Cold muscles and joints are more vulnerable to injury.
MYTH – “exercise is no fun”. This is the most damaging myth of all – and the one that is easiest to solve. As we said at the start of this article, all movement is exercise, so now that you are not at school and can choose what you do, all you have to do is pick whatever is fun. That could be a brisk walk, a jog, a cycle ride, a fun workout or fitness class at the gym or one of dozens of other options.
So with all the myths deservedly debunked, there’s nothing to stop you getting some exercise – and having some fun while you do it!
by Jessica Ward
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