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  • Writer's picturePat Birnie

What's true (or false) about exercise?

Run or walk, light or heavy weights, stretch before or after exercise, what's true & what isn't?

?? Sit ups will help you lose fat around your stomach ( False: You can strengthen the muscles but it doesn't do anything for the little love handles)

?? It's best to exercise in the morning ( False: Whenever it works for you is the best time - and evening walk is better than no walk at all)

?? You burn more calories if you exercise before eating (whaaat?? I don't understand the science behind this, but one source claims that in some cases it's true. ( Not for me though - I learned the hard way that a run on a full stomach can have a nasty outcome)

?? Lifting weights will make you muscle-bound (False: It's actually REALLY hard work to build bulky muscles; a moderate workout won't do that!)

(more myths & full responses here)

The headline "Just Don't Do It: 10 Exercise Myths" grabbed my attention. Reading through it, I had so many thoughts about the topic! Some things I agree with, some I feel really strongly about, and to some I am indifferent.

This article kept circling through my brain ultimately leading me here. I have so much to say!! My goal as always is to inspire you to action, perhaps reassure you that what you are doing is improving your probability of a healthy active future and motivate you to get up and

In today's world it is so easy to spread misinformation. So called "facts" are coming at us at lightning speed from every direction. What to believe??

For starters, here's a link to the article. It would be interesting to have you read it first and think about your reactions to each of the 'myths'. Consider that the author is Daniel E Lieberman, professor of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard - a pretty credible source! I am just giving my own opinions here, garnered from experience, reading and my own research. And by the way I'm not going in order.

1. It's a myth that "sitting is the new smoking". Lieberman adds a lot of qualifiers about getting up, fidgeting etc. The problem really begins when sitting all day in front of a computer, just leads to the same position on the couch for the evening, which in turn can lead to so many long term issues. If your work is sedentary, get up frequently for a stretch, a drink of water and to clear your head. This may even improve productivity! In my opinion, a completely sedentary lifestyle is as dangerous as smoking.

2. "Running wrecks your knees". No it does not! As a long time runner I feel pretty strongly about educating folks that this is a myth. There have been long term studies on runners versus non-runners and in the long-term, non-runners had more knee issues. There is a saying "motion is lotion" - it's true that moving our joints keeps them supple and lubricated. If running is what you enjoy and it doesn't hurt, then go for it. Obviously though, not everyone loves or is meant to run, so...

3. Myth: "You can't lose weight by walking". There has never been a dumber statement! Now if you walk to to Starbucks to pick up a Mocha Frappuchino, choose a Starbucks that's 5 miles away so you can offset the 500 calories. Seriously though, walking is fantastic exercise: it's free, you only need a good pair of shoes, and it's pretty available to all of us. The vast benefits of walking definitely can include weight loss, although in most cases you'll need to make some dietary changes to see significant results.

4. Myth: "Our ancestors were hard-working, strong and fast". hmm...Lieberman says this is a myth, but don't you think the concept of heading to the gym is modern day? I'm certain that my paternal grandmother who raised a large family while running a farm (her husband passed away during the Spanish Flu pandemic) didn't need extra steps! She had 10 children, including a newborn and my father, 2 years old. 100 years ago life was so physically demanding that 10,000 steps likely happened before noon. It is a fact that today's lifestyle requires a concentrated effort to move our body, our muscles and get our heart pumping.

5. Finally my favourite myth! "It’s normal to be less active as we age". Wow - no! It may be harder some days to get up and get going but it's paramount to continue to be active as the years and decades pass. When we are done chasing kids, done with the jobs that may have kept us moving, we need to find ways to keep moving. As Lieberman says, "staying physically active as we age stimulates myriad repair and maintenance processes that keep our bodies humming". Now is the time to embrace what our bodies can still do! You have the time and hopefully the financial resources to try new things - dance lessons, cycling, pickle ball (it's huge now and apparently really fun) golf, build hikes into your travel, take your grandkids exploring. (Those are my favourite excursions with the grandchildren - adventuring as they call it; just hiking the woods, having imaginary battles, enjoying their childhood). The bottom line is that this is not the time to stop moving, or you may find that when you want to do something the body doesn't cooperate.

I can't finish this without mentioning the old "muscle turns to fat" adage. Folks - I used to believe this!! Once I realized that they are two types of tissue it became clear that it was impossible.

Ultimately, the message I want to convey is - keep it simple and keep moving. Do things you enjoy, if you really don't enjoy much about moving around grab your partner or a buddy and insist that they move with you because you want them to stick around for many years. An hour is better than 30 minutes which is better than 10 minutes, which is, of course not ideal, but better than nothing.

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