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Fact & Fiction

Many popular myths about exercise do not stack up against scientific fact. Here’s a list of some facts you got wrong.

health and fitness Updated: Sep 11, 2010 23:18 IST
Sanchita Sharma

Gymming six days a week to get chiselled pecs and washboard abs is clearly not for everyone, which is why there are so many people moaning about their physical imperfections. It's also the reason why the list of reasons why people cannot or should not exercise is longer than why they should.

Then there's the other set that works out for all the wrong reasons. Since the myths around exercise are as many as those around fad diets, HT Sunday examines how ten most popular misconceptions about working out stack up against scientific fact:

I want to spot-reduce fat from one part of the body
Your trainer and friends may tell you it's possible, but scientific evidence shows it's not. If you exercise enough, you will lose weight from all parts of your body, and not selectively from your waist, thighs or hips. Fat from the area where you put on weight first is the last to go. For most men, that is the belly, and for women, it's hips and thighs.

I'm a night owl, I can't exercise in the morning
Most people believe that you get an energy boost from morning exercise, but working out at night interferes with sleep. Fortunately, there is no one best time to exercise. What's important is fitting a fitness schedule into your day. Just make sure to always work-out two hours after eating and one hour before bedtime. Exercising a couple of hours before bedtime will, in fact, probably help you sleep better.

Yoga's all I need to be fit
Yoga is great for flexibility and toning muscles, but does little for cardiovascular fitness.
For that, you need to do aerobic exercises for 40 minutes to an hour, never for less than 30 minutes. You start getting cardiovascular benefits only if the heart rate stays elevated for 20 minutes. Beginners should start with 40 minutes of low-impact aerobics (walking, running) benefits three times a week and gradually increase it to 40 minutes of moderate activity five times a week.

I'm physically active, I don't need exercise
As little as 40 minutes of activity such as housework is enough to keep you healthy, recommends the World Health Organisation. Not quite.
While this is the bare minimum you need to do to ensure people don't mistake you for a vegetable, you need to sweat it a little if you really want to shape up. There is no excuse for being inactive. If you don't like gyms, you can walk, spot jog, do push-ups or rearrange your room.

More intense the workout, the more fat you burn
Not necessarily. It's best to go by your target heart rate. If you exercise too hard and fast, you may be burning fewer calories than in less intense workouts because your body cannot get enough oxygen to burn the fat effectively.

Sit-ups and crucnches give you flat abs
Sit-ups and crunches strengthen abdominal muscles but cannot get rid of all the fat. To flatten your belly, you need to get rid of the fat fiest by burning more calories. Only after you get rid of the stomach fat that your abs will show.

I'm too old to start weight training
Everyone loses some muscle with age, but weight training helps slow the decline. Even the very old and frail — deconditioned 72 to 98-year-olds — benefited from a 10-week programme of weight-training, confirmed a st udy in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Using free weights (barbells and dumbbells) and machines with adjustable tensions led to slight increase in muscle mass but a substantial increase in muscle strength. This meant better balance, fewer falls, improved mental alertness, increased immunity and less depression.

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 without making you look like the Incredible Hulk.

I can't run, I have high blood pressure
As long as you don't overdo it, you don't need a medical certificate to start exercising. Everyone over 35 years, however, should have a medical exam that includes a treadmill stress test to measure cardiovascular fitness. If anything, exercise helps to lower blood-pressure and help control diabetes better.

Running is bad for my knees
No, it actually protects your knees from damage and pain. Regular runners have 25 per cent less musculoskeletal pain and arthritis than non-runners when they get older, reported Researchers from Stanford University in southern California in Arthritis Research and Therapy.
The joints, tendons, ligaments and muscles of runners get conditioned to the habitual pounding and help their joints withstand the stresses of ageing.