Myths Die Hard!
Everybody’s an expert. We all have Google, right? Simply googling ‘best exercises for abs’ gives over 21,000,000 results. It’s safe to bet not all of them are reputable.
We all love our mythology, and letting go of ideas that have seemingly been etched in our brains is hard to do. Alas, in a month of fools and follies – celebrating April Fools, health, and nutrition – I can’t not do a post about exercise myths that just keep on keepin’ on.
- “No pain, no gain.” We’re a nation of people who’ve forgotten the importance of listening to our bodies. Super-sizing, “finishing everything on our plates”, and portion distortion aren’t the only guilty ones here. “No pain, no gain,” has been an exercise mantra for years now. And it’s completely false. It can be not only unsafe for your body but completely demoralizing. Remember, soreness ≠ pain. Discomfort is normal, pain is not. Pain is the body’s way to tell you something is wrong. So pushing yourself to exercise to the point of pain opens you up for injury and can turn you off from exercise all together!
- It only matters if I exercise the right amount. Certainly, doctors recommend 150 minutes of aerobic exercise each week for adults, and 300 minutes of exercise each week for kids. That said, any amount of exercise is better than no amount of exercise. Every step counts. So find ways to make movement part of your life. The more you move, the more you’ll want to move.
- Overweight people don’t exercise. (Or, the opposite: Thin people are in the best shape.) This is absolutely not true. There’s no one-size-fits-all body type even though that idea is being crammed down our throats by every TV ad, Hollywood movie, and magazine we pick up. Not every healthy body has six-pack abs. In fact, most don’t. Health isn’t a size. Health isn’t a number. Health is a lifetime of good eating and exercise habits.
- Lean over. Grab your ankles. Hold it. Repeat. Oh dear. *Exhale*. Stretching myths abound. Stretching doesn’t replace a warm up. Stretch only after the muscles are warm (10 – 15 minutes) or after exercising. Stretching should never be painful. Stretch for a purpose, and be consistent. Finally, try dynamic stretching: walking lunges, high knee jobs, swinging arms – focusing on movement instead of a static lengthening of muscle (which can often cause injury when done with cold muscles).
- Seniors shouldn’t exercise. They’ll break a hip! Some of my favorite clients are seniors! The four pillars of a successful senior fitness program include cardio, strength, flexibility, and balance. The more active you are as a person, regardless of age, the more likely you’ll have better balance (avoiding those broken hips), better range of motion (critical for driving and reaching those top cabinets, helping with arthritis and joints) and remain independent. Moreover, studies show seniors who exercise enjoy better mental health, experience less depression and anxiety, and have better memory.
- Exercise to lose weight. This one breaks my heart. For any of you who have followed my blog, you’ll know that the only reason we should exercise is quality of life. Movement is critical for mental health. Exercise gives us more energy to enjoy life and do the things that matter, like play with our kids, travel, go out dancing with friends and more. Exercise helps prevent cancer, depression, chronic disease and more. All of this improves everyone’s quality of life.
There are more myths. But these six are ones I tackle on a daily basis, re-educating clients and people in my life. What exercise myths have you encountered? I’d love to hear from you!