By Cindy Boggs
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — If you are reading this column, health is probably a priority for you and your family. You exercise regularly but lately you’ve been on autopilot — going through the motions with little progress.
If your training hasn’t seen many changes over the years, you may have fallen victim to a few fitness fallacies that evade minds and sabotage results.
Redesigning your workout can be simple if all you need to do is replace fiction with fact.
Fiction is a huge problem in the world of health and wellness, and unfortunately has great sticking power. It’s a disservice to those seeking health because it wastes precious time and prevents us from reaching meaningful goals. For this reason, let these facts help you formulate a new and improved plan for health.
Fiction: Exercise must be strenuous.
Fit fact: All intensities of exercise are beneficial. Generally, your intensity should be based on your current fitness level and progress from there. Exercise that is too strenuous is the main reason people quit.
Fiction: Exercise must be one continuous effort.
Fit fact: Exercise can be cumulative. You should aim for 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity most days of the week; however, this can be accomplished each day with 15 minutes in the morning, 20 minutes in the afternoon and 25 minutes at night. Appreciate the fact that performing frequent bouts of activity, even minimal efforts, add up and make the difference.
Fiction: You must belong to a health club to be fit.
Fit fact: Research has shown that matching your personality to the type of exercise you choose is the determining factor whether you stick with an activity. While health clubs offer a wide array of activities to move your body, they are not for everyone. Some prefer outdoor activities such as hiking, jogging and cycling; some people enjoy a more competitive arena and pursue sports; some choose a social path to fitness such as dancing or walking with friends; many strength-train at home and others prefer a quieter more personal home workout such as yoga, Pilates or tai chi. The best environment is the one that keeps you coming back for more.
Fiction: You must “feel the burn” in order to improve your fitness level.
Fit fact: While some muscle soreness is inevitable when starting a new or more intense form of exercise, physical activity in general should never be a source of pain. If you experience pain — stop! Overtraining will not result in the kind of body you desire.
Fiction: Aerobic exercise is all I need to make me fit and healthy.
Fit fact: A healthy body is a result of a well-balanced physical training regimen. It includes aerobic work for the heart and lungs, strength training for muscles and joints, flexibility work for maintaining range of motion and joint health, and relaxation and breathing exercise for stress management. Runners need to hit the weights and weightlifters need to condition their heart and lungs.
Fiction: Women who strength-train with heavy weights will build bulky muscles.
Fitness fact: As women don’t have the testosterone levels that men possess, bulky muscles cannot be connected to the amount of weight a woman lifts. If she has bulky muscles, she needs to examine and improve her diet.
Fiction: My child is not overweight; he will lose that excess fat as he grows.
Fit fact: If your child is active and eating a healthy diet, you have little reason to be alarmed. However, if they are not active and consistently eating more calories than they are expending, you should see a pediatrician for advice. They will not lose excess fat as they grow if diet and lifestyle remain the same.
Fiction: To get a flat stomach and six-pack abs, I need to concentrate on doing lots of targeted abdominal exercises.
Fit fact: Flat stomachs and six-pack abs are built in the kitchen, not the gym. It is impossible to reduce a specific area of the body by targeting that area with exercise. If you are doing abdominal exercise such as crunches, you will strengthen those muscles. But excess body fat must be shed before you will flatten the stomach and see the six-pack.
Fiction: To lose weight, I must do cardio.
Fit fact: The quickest way reduce body weight/fat is to combine resistance training to your workouts. Steady-state aerobics may help you shed a few pounds and fit into smaller jeans, but without muscle-strengthening exercise, it won’t be pretty. While you are losing pounds, you need to build muscle, which will help manage your weight by burning calories when you are at rest.
Fiction: To burn more calories, set the cardio machine on fat-burning mode.
Fit fact: This is absolutely not true. The higher the intensity, the more calories you will burn. Intervals are the most efficient way to burn calories, and you’ll have time left over to hit the weights.
Life is far too busy to rely on antiquated strategies and fictitious beliefs. Create a new training regimen with facts, clear goals and a steady commitment that will reward you with a strong body and good health.
Cindy Boggs is an ACE-certified healthy-living expert and wellness writer. She is the author of the award-winning fitness advice book, “CindySays … You Can Find Health in Your Hectic World.” Send your questions about fitness, training and health to firstname.lastname@example.org.