Everyone wants to be healthy but most people are not because their reasons for why they can’t exercise are always more than why they should. Since the myths around exercising are as many as those around fad diets, here’s a look at how popular excuses for not exercising stack up against scientific fact.
Weight-training makes you bulky
It takes professional months, often years, of hard training with very heavy weights and prescription supplements to bulk up. Moderate weights and many repetitions help tone and strengthen muscles without making you look like the Incredible Hulk.
I have high blood pressure
As long as you don’t plan to overdo it, you don’t need a medical certificate to start exercising. If anything, exercise helps to lower blood-pressure and help control diabetes better. Everyone over 35 years, however, should get a medical exam done that includes a treadmill stress test to measure heart fitness.
I have a busy morning
Most people believe exercise gives an energy boost in the morning and must be shunned at night because it interferes with sleep. Fortunately, there is no best time to exercise and you can choose a schedule that fits your day. Just make sure you workout is at least two hours after eating and one hour before bedtime. Exercising a couple of hours before bedtime will help you sleep better.
Spot-reduction weight-loss works
Your trainer may say spot-reduction is possible, but science says it’s not. If you exercise enough, you will lose weight from all the parts of your body, but you cannot selectively take off inches from your waist, thighs or hips. Fat from the area where you put on weight first is the last to go.
Running wrecks the knees
Is running bad for the knee joints? No, it actually protects your knees from damage and pain by conditioning the joints, tendons, ligaments and muscles to withstand the stresses of wear-and-tear associated with ageing. Studies have shown that regular runners have 25% less musculoskeletal pain and arthritis than non-runners when they get older.
Too old to start weight-training
We all lose some muscle with age, but weight-training helps slow the decline. Muscles support bones and improve balance, prevent falls while exercising improves alertness and immunity while lowering depression. Even the very old and frail benefit from resistance training, with studies showing that using free weights (barbells and dumbbells) and machines with adjustable tensions for 45 minutes three times a week raises muscle mass slightly and muscle strength substantially even in people in their 80s and 90s.
Yoga will keep me fit
Yoga is great for flexibility and toning muscles, but does little for cardiovascular fitness. For you to get heart benefits, you need activity that leaves you slightly breathless for 40 minutes to an hour, and never for less than 30 minutes. Ideally, your heart rate should stay elevated for 20 minutes for you to begin getting health benefits. Beginners should start with 40 minutes of moderate activity (walking at 5 km/hour) three times a week and gradually raise it to 40 minutes of more intense activity (walking at 6.5-7 km/hour) at least five times a week. You must target to walk at a speed that leaves you breathless but not so much that you have trouble speaking out loud. Slow down if you find you cannot complete a sentence.
More intense workouts burn more
Not necessarily. It’s best to go by your target heart rate, which is 70 to 85% of your maximum heart rate, calculated by subtracting your age from 220. If you exercise too hard, you may end up burning fewer calories than in less intense workouts because your body cannot get enough oxygen to burn fat effectively.
Do sit-ups and crunches for flat abs
Sit-ups and crunches strengthen abdominal muscles but don’t get rid of all the fat. To flatten your belly, you need to get rid of the fat first by burning calories. Only after you get rid of the stomach fat will your abs show.
It’s too polluted to exercise
The benefits of exercise outweigh the many ways in which polluted air hurts your body and mind, but it’s best to take some precautions. Don’t walk, cycle, run or play outdoors when pollution levels are high, which is usually in the morning or late evening. Instead, walk indoors in a shopping mall or head for a gym. Cover your mouth and nostrils with a facemask (N95 and N99 respirators are the best) if you’re out exercising near a busy road.