We all feel better when we look our best. That’s why many of us try to exercise regularly. But are we getting the right information? We’re bombarded with conflicting advice about how to get the most out of our workouts. Should we jump on the treadmill first in the morning? Should we run to lose weight faster? To help you make sense of all this, let’s go over 10 common tips to get fit and lose weight and find out which ones are based on facts — and which ones are simply myths.
Advice: The best time to exercise is in the morning, because you jumpstart your metabolism.Myth: While many people are energized by exercising in the morning, it’s best to pick a time that works best with your body’s daily rhythms. Aim for hours of “down time” during your day. If you have time to exercise in the evening, do it then. Don’t avoid exercise because you can’t do in the morning. There is a temporary, short-term increase in metabolic rate with exercise, but it lasts only a few hours. That’s not a reason to exercise in the morning, if this time is not “you.” The best time is when you can fit it into your day.
Advice: If you don’t work out, your muscle will turn into fat.Myth: Muscle and fat do not turn into each other. When you exercise less often, your muscles atrophy (get smaller). You will also probably gain weight, because you are eating the same amount of food as when you were exercising. But it will appear as though your former muscle has turned into fat. When you start working out and lose weight, your muscle mass will increase and you will burn fat. So it will look as though your fat has turned into muscle.Advice: Running a mile burns more calories than walking a mile.Myth: Distance is what matters. Covering a distance of one mile burns about 100 calories, whether you walk it, or run it. You will give your heart a better workout — a bigger increase in heart rate — if you run. But if you haven’t been running, check with your doctor. (Ten thousand or more steps a day are recommend to maintain good heart health. There are about 2,500 steps in a mile or about 100 calories burned.)
Advice: Exercising continuously (for about 30 to 40 minutes) is only way to benefit for your heart.Myth: Recent studies show that short bouts of activity — even five minutes at a time — during the day can promote heart health. However, continuous activity gives your heart a better workout. Remember it’s important to include physical activity in your day, even if it’s just for a few minutes. So park far away from your destination and walk.
Advice: Lifting weight is good for muscle strength and strong bones.Fact: There are many benefits to strength training, including healthy joints, a sense of well being, increased muscle mass, and increased bone density. Make sure you have a good diet with adequate protein (for muscles),and enough calcium and vitamin D (for bones). However, strength training cannot replace aerobic exercise. Combine both for the best cardiovascular benefits.
Advice: Sweating means that you’re losing weight.Myth: While we sweat, we’re losing body water. Which is why we notice that we lose weight after a strenuous workout. However, our body is like a sponge. When we sweat we temporarily lose water weight, but as soon as we’re re-hydrated, we’ll gain back that weight. Re-hydration is key to maintaining the body’s salt and water balance. So remember that this is water loss, and not weight loss. Of course, it’s always nice to see a lower number on the scale after a strenuous workout.Advice: It’s OK to workout when you’re injured.Fact: Conventional wisdom says you should rest, but new research shows that it is usually good to keep moving. Use common sense. If you can’t walk without pain, then don’t run. Often you can continue the same activity, but with shorter duration and less intensity. Cross-training is often another option. If you can’t run, bike. If you can’t bike, row. If you can’t run, walk. Sports medicine experts often recommend taking an anti-inflammatory medication (like aspirin) before your workout, and pursuing the activity as long as there is not significant pain. Check with your doctor, if you have significant pain to rule a serious injury that may need medical attention.
Advice: Slugging through exercise, like it or not, is the road to success.Myth: You need to mix up your activity, to stay motivated and enjoy the activity. If you enjoy working out, you’ll stay with it for the long term. You may like to go the gym, play a sport, or engage in some other physical activity. There is no “best” activity. The best workout is one you enjoy.Dr. Fernstrom’s Bottom Line: All of us are bombarded by various exercise tips, but the most important advice is for us to simply include physical activity in our daily lives. And we should create a workout plan that works for us. Because if we don’t enjoy exercising, then it’s likely that we’ll find excuses to skip it.
Madelyn Fernstrom, Ph.D., CNS,is the founder and director of the An associate professor of psychiatry, epidemiology, and surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Fernstrom is also a board-certified nutrition specialist from theAmerican College of Nutrition.
PLEASE NOTE: The information in this column should not be construed as providing specific medical advice, but rather to offer readers information to better understand their lives and health. It is not intended to provide an alternative to professional treatment or to replace the services of a physician.