Fitness And Exercise: Myth Vs. Fact

Fitness And Exercise: Myth Vs. Fact


There exists an abundance of "myths" concerning exercise and fitness. For quick reference, Fitness Facts has identified a few of the more prominent misconceptions:

MYTH: Exercise must be very vigorous to achieve weight loss.
FACT: Any exercise, regardless of how vigorous it is, can increase your daily caloric expenditure. Combined with a sensible eating plan, even moderate exercise like walking may help weight loss or weight control, if done on a consistent basis.

MYTH: All types of exercise increase your appetite.
FACT: Research has shown that appetite is actually more manageable after some types of exercise. Moderate activity that lasts less than an hour may reduce your appetite for an additional hour or two. Still, intense exercise that lasts an hour or more can increase appetite.

MYTH: If you exercise, you can eat all you want and still lose weight.
FACT: This is not necessarily true. If you are consis- tently taking in more calories than you expend, you will not lose weight. Individual metabolic rate, activity level, heredity and type of diet can all be important variables in the matter of weight control.

MYTH: The best way to improve your fitness level is to exercise vigorously every day.
FACT: More is not always better. Your body needs time to recover between intense exercise sessions. If you do not allow the muscles adequate time to recover, you risk overtraining and possible injury.

MYTH: Abdominal exercises like trunk curls and sit-ups will trim the fat off your stomach.
FACT: Spot reduction, or burning fat off just selected body parts, is not possible. Thousands of people spend wasted hours performing countless sit- ups and twists in an effort to rid their tummy of its fat stores. Fat cannot be stretched out, or burned off in a specific area. These exercises serve only to work the muscles that are underneath the fat. Fat is burned off from the entire body at the same rate. Thus, if you are losing body fat through exercise and sensible eating habits, stored fat comes off equally from every area of your body, not one specific part like your stomach. Of course, the areas which hold the most body fat will lose the most in the end.

MYTH: If you stop exercising your muscle turns to fat.
FACT: Muscle will never turn into fat. Muscle is muscle and fat is fat. They are two separate types of specialized tissue that serve totally different functions. Muscle turning to fat would be similar to wood turning to metal. Training and exercise can increase the size or tone of muscles while de- training may reduce their size and tone. Fat cells can shrink when your body burns more calories than you take in, and grow when they store more fat, which is often due to a greater caloric intake than expenditure.

MYTH: Once you get older, exercise has no benefit.
FACT: Seniors can derive great health and fitness benefits from regular activity and exercise. In fact, their quality of life can be greatly improved as a result of such consistent activity. Increased flexibility and stronger muscles and bones help seniors get around more easily. Regular car- diopulmonary activity also helps keep the heart and lungs strong. In addition, increased activity levels help compensate for the natural slowing of metabolism with age and can help control weight.

MYTH: You can get fit in only 5-10 minutes a week.
FACT: Unfortunately, this is just not so. To achieve a moderate level of fitness, one should be pre­ pared to devote at least 2-3 days a week, 15-20 minutes each session. However, even smaller amounts of activity will have a positive effect on your caloric expenditure levels. In this manner, some will always be better than none.

MYTH: If you have achieved a high level of fitness, you will stay fit even after a long layoff from exercise.
FACT: Due to the principles of adaptation and de- training, a layoff from your exercise program can have a definite effect on your fitness state. For example, suppose you were previously able to run two miles in just under 13 minutes. You then took a 3 week break from your running program. Upon returning to your program, chances are you would no longer be able to handle that same two mile run as easily as you used to. Because of the reversability syndrome, if you stop training your muscles and cardiop- ulmonary system they quickly lose their ability to use oxygen as efficiently as before.

MYTH: The more you sweat during exercise, the faster you will lose body fat.
FACT: Most of the weight lost through sweat is water weight. Excessive sweating can have dangerous side effects, including, but not limited to, dehy­ dration. For this reason, Fitness Facts recom­ mends that proper hydration guidelines are followed in conjunction with exercise. It is also wise to avoid the use of rubberized "sauna suits" for weight loss.

MYTH: Drinking water or other fluids during activity will cause stomach cramps.
FACT: This is untrue. In fact, if you do not drink water during intense activity, you actually risk cramp- ing up, as well as serious injury from dehydra- tion. Cold water is recommended over warm water, due to its faster rate of gastric emptying. Refer to the "Eating and Exercise" chapter of the guide for more information concerning proper guidelines for hydration.

MYTH: No pain, no gain.
FACT: This philosophy can eventually lead you to injury and overtraining, neither of which are very conducive to fitness gains. High-intensity, advanced training may stress your system to the point of temporary unpleasantness, but it should never cause you pain. Pain is not, and should not be, a normal part of exercise or training. If you experience pain during or after your exercise training, cease all activity for the day and maybe even the next day. If the pain persists, seek medical attention. Perhaps a better saying would be: "Less pain and strain, more gain!"

MYTH: Lactic acid causes post-exercise muscle soreness.
FACT: Lactic acid does not cause delayed muscular onset soreness. Lactic acid is a by-product of ATP activation during the process of muscle contrac- tion (see Introduction to Exercise Physiology). The increased amounts of lactic acid are nor­ mally associated with the burning sensation felt in muscles during high-repetition contractions. Lactic acid clears your system about an hour following a training session, while muscular soreness normally occurs approximately 24 hours later. This soreness is often the result of trauma to the muscle and connective tissue from unfamiliar levels of stress associated with new stimulus.

MYTH: If your muscles are not sore after exercise, you didn't work hard enough.
FACT: As with "no pain, no gain", the person who came up with this statement was probably working toward a major injury of his or her own. As stated above, soreness results from unfamiliar exertion or with training following a long layoff from exercise. With proper recovery from this stimulus, you will experience less soreness with each successive exposure. It is not necessary to be sore after every exercise session to improve one's fitness levels. Pain and injury should not be normal goals or results of exercise.

MYTH: Hard-training exercisers need a high-protein diet.
FACT: As stated in the sports nutrition section, the optimal diet for a hard-training athlete should consist mostly of carbohydrates. High protein diets can cause negative effects for the human body, including kidney problems. The amount of protein gained from the average American diet is usually more than sufficient for intense-training athletes.

MYTH: You do not have to stretch if you are fit.
FACT: Exercise sessions often result in shortened muscles, which can make them prone to muscular strain injuries. The more physical activity you engage in, the more time you should devote to flexibility work. For more information on the fitness benefits of stretching, refer to the intro- duction to the "Flexibility/Stretching Activities" section in this guide.

MYTH: Vitamin supplements improve fitness and performance.
FACT: There is no secret panacea for improved physical fitness. Except in special cases, large amounts of these supplements are not necessary. The massive doses of vitamins consumed by some athletes and fitness buffs could even prove dan- gerous. An overdose of any substance may have a negative effect on the human body.

MYTH: B-12 injections have an energy-boosting effect on the human body.
FACT: This belief may have grown out of the fact that some vegetarians have reported benefits from B- 12 injections. Yet, there is no medical proof that such injections help to cure an athlete's chronic fatigue levels. For more information on vitamins and supplementation, refer to the Nutrition Guide.

MYTH: You should take salt tablets when you are sweating a lot.
FACT: When you sweat, you lose more water than salt. The average American takes in too much salt in the first place. Consuming salt tablets will simply raise the sodium levels in your blood and may even increase the chance of heatstroke and blood clotting which could cause kidney failure, blindness, heart attack, and stroke. Only take salt tablets under a doctor's supervision. For more information on the correct adjustements to make in your exercise program in relation to hot and cold weather, refer to the Environmental Considerations chapter later in this section.

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