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Debunking Fitness Myths

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The next time you see a new theory on fitness or some new gimmick, consider this'#166;if it seems too good to be true, it probably is! Let's face it: most of us have been confused at one time or another about what we need to do to live a healthy, activ.

The next time you see a new theory on fitness or some new gimmick, consider this…if it seems too good to be true, it probably is! Let's face it: most of us have been confused at one time or another about what we need to do to live a healthy, active lifestyle. It seems that every time we start something new, we hear about a much more effective way to exercise. Frankly, this can be both confusing and frustrating. It can also leave us a little skeptical about the latest ideas in the fitness world.

As a health professional, I hear about many new fads and theories that claim to meet everyone's needs. I also speak with a lot of people who have been misinformed or misled by the latest marketing gimmick. Here is a breakdown of three common fitness myths that will help eliminate some of that confusion.

Myth #1: "Abdominal exercises will reduce my waistline."

Strengthening your abdominal muscles is something I highly recommend. The truth is, however, if you want to reduce your waistline, then you need to reduce your percentage of body fat and resistance training alone will not help you attain your goals. When you strengthen abdominal muscles through resistance exercises, you increase muscle mass, but you will not directly reduce fat in your abdominal region. The same may be said for women who want to firm up the backs of their arms and are looking for that magic exercise to take the flab away.

If you want to reduce fat in specific areas, you need to reduce your overall percentage of body fat. Regardless of whichever new theory is out there, the greatest method of burning fat is still aerobic exercise. To enter the aerobic zone, which is optimal for burning fat, get your heart rate going for at least 20 minutes doing activities such as running, jogging, hiking even gardening. Yes, you still want to participate in resistance training, such as lifting weights or doing sit-ups, but this should be performed in conjunction with aerobic activities.

In addition, if you're looking for a quick fix or quick results with the latest topical fitness device, I have some bad news for you. There is no scientific support for devices that manufacturers claim can be placed on fatty areas of your body to reduce fat. All these devices do is increase blood flow in that area. This may be a good tool if you are rehabilitating an injury or suffering from joint pain, but if you are trying to reduce fat, then you need to consider other choices. Decreasing your percentage of body fat or increasing muscle mass can only be attained the old fashioned way, and that's through exercise and a healthy, balanced diet.

Myth #2: "I do not have time to get in shape."

Yes, you do. Research indicates that you will enjoy all the health benefits of exercise by simply walking for 40 minutes a day, four days a week. That equates to a little more than two and a half hours weekly the equivalent of watching one movie, or maybe your daily commute to work.

Regardless, you can't afford not to make time for this. By walking four days a week, you will reduce your risk of health concerns, feel more energized, increase strength and endurance, and potentially reduce your percentage of body fat. However, enjoying the health benefits of exercise and changing your body's composition are two different things. Unfortunately, you are not going to look like a finely chiseled athlete through walking. If you are looking to increase your lean muscle mass, you also need to incorporate resistance training into your routine.

Myth #3: "I have a physical job, so I am in good shape."

Just because your job is physically demanding does not mean you are fit and healthy. I have worked with many patients who've made this claim. They have jobs that require a lot of movement and lifting, but they are often the very people who require physiotherapy the most.

Repetition and overuse do not equate to a balanced approach to fitness. Physical jobs often wear our bodies down. If you are doing a lot of lifting at work, you may be increasing upper body strength, but have you considered abdominal and lower back muscles? What about flexibility and cardiovascular fitness? Some of my patients have tremendous upper body strength, but cannot get out of bed because of lower back pain. Remember, if you are doing a lot of lifting without stretching, then your muscles are becoming more and more rigid. This can lead to a decrease in mobility, which will lead to poor mechanics and, ultimately, injury. Therefore, if your activity at work is limited, you need to consider consulting a professional to assist you in a more balanced approach.

The next time you hear someone talking about a new theory on fitness or some new gimmick, consider what we have discussed. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. If it does not require movement on your part, be leery. And if it does not involve a balanced approach to heath and fitness, consult a professional for an opinion. There really is no great mystery on how to stay fit. The only mystery is why we continually allow ourselves to buy into new methods to avoid the work.

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