The relationships we have with our health care providers are based on trust. We trust that they possess sound knowledge and that they continue to learn and stay abreast of the latest studies. The same should hold true with your fitness professionals. Many people enjoy taking classes because they don’t have to think about what to do; they simply follow the instructor and rely on his expertise. But, just as medicine evolves, so does the field of fitness. What may have been considered best practices a few years ago may no longer be the case.
Some exercises that used to be regarded as the gold standard are no longer deemed effective or even safe for all populations. Yet, some fitness instructors and trainers continue to encourage these outdated practices. Online exercise videos and other Internet resources may come from questionable sources or may be long out of date.
Sit-ups are an old-school exercise that strengthens your abdominal muscles, if done correctly. However, if done incorrectly or overused, sit-ups can cause back strain and pain. Sit-ups that involve twisting motions, such as the Russian Twist, can be especially risky, if you already have back issues. I recently attended a class in which the instructor had participants of all ages perform this exercise without checking and correcting their form and she didn’t offer an alternative.
So-called weight-loss programs circulating on social media involve large numbers of daily repetitions of one exercise or another. Welcome to the world of alternative facts. The truth is that being overzealous and doing 100 sit-ups per day will not transform a big belly into toned abs. The term “toned” is neither here nor there. Sit-ups don’t burn a lot of calories and therefore will not get rid of belly fat to reveal your glorious abs. If you have a lot of belly fat, you may not even be able to do sit-ups. A better exercise for your abdominal muscles is the plank. This static exercise engages multiple abdominal muscles as well as your back, glutes and hips without putting stress on your spine.
A popular misconception is that running is bad for your knees, that it causes the cartilage in the knee caps to degenerate. We’ve heard that for years. But now we know it’s not true. Taking up running may put you at risk for knee injuries if your hip stabilizers, quads, hamstrings and core are weak or imbalanced. A sound strengthening program that includes these muscles will minimize the risk. A longitudinal study by Stanford University that looked at knee health of older runners versus older non-runners found that non-runners had significantly more osteoarthritis of the knees than regular runners. Running strengthens the connective tissues that stabilize the knee joint and may shield against osteoarthritis. http://tinyurl.com/h6grpry
Another outdated notion is that stretching before you exercise will prevent injury. What we now know is that pre-exercise stretching diminishes your athletic performance and does not prevent injury. A better strategy is to do a dynamic warm up or at least five minutes of light cardio exercise to warm up the muscles.
For a long time, we were told that stretching after exercise reduces delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) felt 24 to 72 hours after exercise. Science has shown that this is not true. Post-workout stretching helps you relax and increase flexibility; therefore, I highly recommend it. But it won’t reduce DOMS associated with unaccustomed or strenuous exercise.
Benjamin Franklin wrote, “There are no gains without pains,” in 1878, but it was actress-turned-fitness-guru Jane Fonda who popularized the motto, “No pain, no gain” in her 1980’s best-selling exercise videos. This factoid needs to be outed once and for all. Pain during or after exercise, such as aching joints or acute pain, indicates something’s wrong such as an injury. If you experience pain during an exercise, don’t do it. Unlike pain, muscle soreness or discomfort following exercise is normal.
Whether we call them alternative facts, deliberate lies, myths, misinformation or simply outdated notions, following the wrong fitness information can be a waste of your time or even have potential harmful effects. If you’re unsure whether an exercise is safe or right for you based on your individual level of fitness, physical limitations or health, don’t be afraid to ask a fitness professional or get a second opinion. You only get one body, so make sure you take care of it based on the best information available. And remember, everything is subject to change.