Myth #1: “If I exercise, I can eat whatever I want.”
That’s what lots of people believe. But the truth is that exercise is not a licence to indulge. People have a tendency to overestimate the intensity of the exercise they do and the number of calories they burn, and to underestimate portion sizes and calories consumed. Eating more than your body uses throughout the day is a formula for weight gain.
Myth #2: “I can change my body shape.” Instead of trying to change your natural body shape and feeling disappointed, embrace it and work on what you can change. A slim man with narrow shoulders can bulk up, but may never be able to attain the broad shoulders like some bigger fellows. A woman who dislikes her pear-shaped body may be genetically designed that way.
But you can change many other things that are more important, such as your weight, body composition, strength, health, mood, and risks for illness.
Myth #3: “I have pain, so I can’t exercise.”
Sitting around doing nothing isn’t going to improve your painful condition, and you’ll lose out on all the health benefits of exercise.
In fact, exercise has been shown to provide pain relief and improve joint function. The key is to engage in exercises that are suitable for your condition and to use correct form. High-impact movements can exacerbate joint pain. However, gentle, modified strength-training exercises or water-based exercises can improve circulation and flexibility and strengthen surrounding tendons and ligaments.
Myth #4: “Poor posture is part of the natural aging process.”
Bone density and muscle mass decline with age. However, a healthy diet coupled with weight-bearing exercise prevents bone loss and builds muscle. Staying active and strong can prevent you from hunching over. You should regularly perform exercises to strengthen your many back muscles.
Reminding yourself to stand tall with chest out and shoulders back is also helpful. Avoid or minimize time spent with your head jutted forward, such as when looking down at cell phones. Poor posture, weakness, and loss of balance are associated with age, but are actually symptoms of inactivity.
Myth #5: “I really don’t have time to exercise.”
Everyone is busy. Some people are busier than others. Yet, you find time to do things that you feel are high priority or essential. When you put your personal health at the bottom of the list, you won’t find time for exercise.
More than 2,000 years ago, Rabbi Hillel said, “If not now, when?” I say now is the time to make your health a priority. There will never be a perfect time. Don’t look back years from now with regret when you are unwell. Instead, organize your life so you can fit in some exercise.
Myth #6: “No pain, no gain.”
High-impact or high-intensity exercise that pushes you well past your fitness abilities can be unsafe, even life-threatening. Recent news reports have highlighted the risk of rhabdomyloysis, the rapid release of proteins into the blood due to skeletal muscle damage. This condition, which can lead to kidney failure, is associated with exercise environments that pressure participants into extreme exertion, such as military-style training.
The health benefits of higher-intensity exercises over moderate-intensity exercises are well known. However, extreme exercise that causes pain or makes you feel nauseous or faint is unwise and risky. Ignoring pain, getting dehydrated and giving in to peer pressure can have dangerous consequences.
Myth #7: “More is better.” I’ve heard people talking about the so-called “30-day squat challenge” that’s been circulating on the Internet. It basically involves doing 50 squats on the first day, then increasing the number of squats each day over the course of a month until you reach hundreds. A few rest days are built into the schedule. The idea is that you’ll develop a strong and sexy derrière at the end of 30 days.
The whole truth is that to develop a lean and healthy body, you need to eat properly, exercise your entire body and burn more calories than you consume.
Thirty days is hardly enough time to change your body significantly. Doing such high numbers of squats is difficult for anyone, especially beginners, and you risk injuring your knees if you use incorrect form. Instead of following this program, do a few sets of properly executed squats as part of a balanced exercise program.
Gloria Schwartz is a personal trainer at the Soloway JCC.