Most of us know that regular exercise can have a positive impact on just about every aspect of our health.
But there’s also a lot of bad information out there which can push us in the wrong direction when it comes to our health.
Here are some of the most common exercise myths I come across in my practice, and some healthy alternatives to help you live your best life.
Myth #1: Enough Exercise will Cancel Out a Bad Diet
Some people believe that you can eat “whatever you want,” including tons of junk food or fatty foods, and just “exercise it away” to stay healthy.
But not all calories are made equally. Sugar is processed in a different way than fat, and has completely different effects on our bodies.
Eating too many unhealthy fats can contribute to heart disease and stroke, and eating too much sugar can contribute to diabetes.
Exercise won’t just “erase” these effects. Our “typical” American diet tends to lack nutrients, and can even contribute to chronic pain.
Just don’t try to justify that cheeseburger because you’re going to spend 30 minutes on the elliptical later that week. It just doesn’t work that way.
Instead, choose to eat healthy, whole foods that you enjoy, and focus on nutrient value over calories.
And take the stairs instead of the elevator.
Myth #2: You Need to Get Your Heartrate Up to See Results
It’s a common line of thought that boosting our heart rate for a sustained period of time is the only way to exercise.
This is one of the biggest exercise myths because truthfully, any kind of movement is good.
You don’t need to go to the gym or hit the treadmill to get in beneficial exercise. We can, for instance, do several smaller or gentler workouts throughout the day and get the same results.
Parking the car further away at the grocery store or taking an afternoon stroll in the park still counts!
Myth # 3: Going to the Gym is the Most Effective Way to Work Out
In today’s Fitbit-obsessed world, and with more health information available than ever before, people are focussed on “metrics” — how many steps we take, gearing up for a 10k run, or tracking calorie burn on the treadmill.
But being in the gym and counting everything isn’t the only way to do it.
In fact, A recent study showed that running outside actually had a greater reduction of stress hormones versus indoors.
Research shows that exercising outdoors is more effective for relieving feelings such as anger and depression.
Myth # 4: You have to Exercise Intensely for it to Count
Many of us think that we need intense exercise to be healthy. But exercising intensely can actually deplete our energy and even negatively affect our immune system, leaving us vulnerable to colds and viruses.
Existing injuries, chronic pain, and certain health conditions can make intense or even moderate exercise a bad idea as well.
Do some errands on foot, or bicycle to work in some extra movement to your day.
Myth #5: You Need to Do Exercise You Don’t Like to Stay Healthy
“Just do it,” or so goes the famous Nike slogan, which encourages you to push yourself and go for the gold. But this idea that you have to push yourself is one of the biggest exercise myths.
Exercise should be fun, and the more fun you are having, the more likely you are to just do it.
You may not be able to find something joyful every single day, but incorporating at least one session of “fun” exercise a week will help you stay motivated.
Myth #6: You can Go from Sedentary to Fit in Weeks
I cycle five days a week, 100 to 130 miles a week during peak season. I know this is great for me, I think it’s important to keep in mind that it takes careful training to get to five days a week of intense workouts.
What doesn’t work —but what I see all too often — are people committing to a fitness program and then trying to go from virtually no exercise to five days a week without a training plan.
This is probably the biggest exercise myth that leads to illness, injuries, and burnout.
It can actually take several months to form lasting habits. This falls in line with the wellness conversation I have with my patients: slow, sustainable changes incorporating moderate movement, and dietary changes incorporating more whole food.
Changing your lifestyle takes a while, and you shouldn’t put yourself in jeopardy by pushing too hard. Slow and steady is the best way to go!
If you’re facing chronic pain, stress, anxiety or other health issues, we can help. Call us today or book a free consultation.
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This article was originally published March 17, 2016, and has since been updated.