Health and exercise myth busters – fact or fiction?

There’s so much information out there that making informed decisions about keeping yourself fit and healthy can sometimes feel like an impossible task. Can you spot the difference between Fitness Fact and Fiction?

1. ‘Drinking water will help me to lose weight’
Sadly, drinking water doesn’t, in itself, make you lose weight (cue big sigh of relief from the diet industry). Simply put, losing weight happens when you burn more calories than you consume and however much water you drink, if you don’t create that deficit, the number on the scales is not going down. However, drinking water can play an important part in digestive function and in controlling appetite. It is very easy to confuse thirst with hunger and ensuring you stay properly hydrated can help control the urge to snack caused by thirst signals misinterpreted as hunger. Water also plays an important part in fuelling our muscles, helping them to perform during physical exercise and therefore enabling us to become more active.

2. ‘It’s best to work out first thing in the morning’
Many people claim that an early session at the gym or a run before breakfast kickstarts the metabolism, helping you to burn more calories throughout the day. While studies have confirmed this, others prove the opposite! Truth is, we are all individuals with our own exercise preferences; what’s really important is to get out there and get active. Lark or owl, pick the time that suits you best and go for it!

3. ‘I can’t run because it will hurt my knees’
Like many things, this one is a question of balance. Researchers have found that the knees of older runners are no less healthy than those of older people who do not regularly exercise. However, as with any discipline, too much of one type of training is rarely a positive thing. If you want to keep on running, make sure you include a couple of strength sessions in your weekly programme to build up the muscles that support your knees and that way you should remain free of those pesky ACL injuries that can plague runners.

4. ‘Nice girls don’t lift weights’
The weights room is strictly a boys-only zone. It’s just not what the female body was designed for, right? Wrong! This myth is one that absolutely needs to be busted. Lifting weights can change the body composition of anyone for the better. It improves insulin sensitivity and cardiovascular function, it strengthens your core, improving balance, speeds up your cognitive function and helps regulate hormones. And don’t worry, a female who includes some weight training in her programme won’t bulk up like Arnie; gaining ‘bulk’ comes from a combination of testosterone, increasing calorie consumption and very regular weight training of targeted muscle groups. For most women, weight training, even with heavy weights will make them leaner not bigger. It might just help protect against age-related conditions such as osteoporosis too so what are you weighting, sorry, waiting for?

5. ‘Yoga is a nice, gentle activity best suited to the older exerciser’
This is the kind of statement that could only be made by someone who hasn’t tried yoga! Given that yoga has been practised for over 5,000 years and there are more than 100 different forms, it would be fair to assume that it has one or two benefits? Yoga can help improve balance, flexibility, strength, mobility, the symptoms of various physical and mental health conditions, energy and stress levels and much more. It’s a complete mind-body workout and will help you get a great night’s sleep.

6. ‘It takes hours to burn off the sweet treat you have with your coffee’
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but this one is probably true. With a regular latte weighing in at around 145 calories in most coffee chains and muffins at around 400 each, you are looking at a minimum of 2 hours of brisk walking to burn the equivalent calories. And don’t get us started on alcohol – with many beers running at close to 200 calories a pint, a quiet night down the pub can quickly put a serious dent in what you’ve achieved in a good week at the gym. Now, I’m not in the business of telling you what you can and can’t eat and drink; life’s too short to not have the occasional treat, but knowledge is power, right? Don’t sabotage the great work you’re doing in the gym by making uninformed choices.

7. ‘It’s bad to work out every day’
Guidelines recommend 3 to 4 sessions of vigorous exercise each week. But does this mean that it is counterproductive to train every day? It isn’t bad to train daily but you should not repeat the same activity day in day out. Alternate muscle groups to allow recovery and avoid injury and listen to your body; you’ll know when you need a rest day. This approach will also help you to stay interested and motivated.

8. ‘Gyms are just for fit people’

If that’s the vibe you get when you walk in the door, I’d recommend you turn right around and walk back out. Gyms these days come in all shapes and sizes and if wall-to-wall mirrors are not your thing, don’t let yourself become part of the 11% of UK gym members who never use their subscription. Look elsewhere; you’ll find your team. Listen to friends’ recommendations and take advantage of free trials or ‘pay as you play’ options until you hit upon the place that’s the perfect fit.

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