15 Health & Fitness Myths

Guest post by John Fike

An important aspect of effective life coaching is helping clients separate fact from fiction. Here are 15 all too common health & fitness myths that affect your health, could cause injury or may even kill you.

1. You can’t exercise too much

Actually, it’s called overtraining and it can be very detrimental to your health and fitness.

Overtraining occurs when the volume and intensity of your training exceeds your body’s ability to recover. Overtraining drains the body’s energy reserves and when a big enough energy debt is accumulated, it hampers the immune system and other regulatory functions in your body.

If you literally have to ‘drag’ yourself to the gym, you are probably overtrained and need to take extra time off. Sufficient sleep (which is when most recovery occurs) and a week off every six to eight weeks is essential for avoiding overtraining.

2. Stress is a normal part of life and doesn’t affect health

Stress can kill. Physically speaking, stress has an impact on the body that is similar to exercise. Without opportunity to recover from stress and grow, you essentially enter a state of overtraining.

As with exercise-induced overtraining, stress-based overtraining weakens the immune system, impacts mental faculties and decreases all areas of performance. Allowed to go on too long, it results in injury in the form of heart attacks, strokes and other systemic malfunctions.

3. Stretch before you exercise

Before exercising vigorously, your muscles and joints should be warm and limber. However, light exercise does this more efficiently than deep stretching and is less likely to result in injury. Stretching before exercise may actually increase the risk of injury.

4. You need to burn before you can tan

Burning does not trigger tanning. Extended exposure to sun triggers tanning, which is the rising of melanin pigment to the surface of the skin to protect against absorption of too much solar radiation.

However, if you expose your skin to too much sun before the melatonin comes out, the result is damage to your skin. Saying that you have to burn in order to tan is like saying you have to be contaminated with radioactive isotopes before you can put on protective gear.

Sun burns and over-exposure to the sun have been linked to skin cancer, which can be fatal, and other skin problems.

5. No pain, no gain

This is a trite saying developed by bodybuilders and performance athletes that reflects the need to push comfort levels during training in order to improve performance.

In other words, if you stop while you’re still comfortable, you’re not going to improve much.

However, to take this saying literally and push your exercise to the point of injury is foolishness. Fatigue and exhaustion are one thing, but pain associated with an injury (often marked by sharp or persistent pain) will inhibit the progress of your training.

6. Don’t drink water while exercising

This is old-fashioned training methodology. You need to replace water that is lost during training. There are too many benefits to being well hydrated to list here; just drink your water. But don’t drink so much that it impedes your workout performance or causes you to vomit.

7. All “natural” supplements & health products are safe and effective

These products are not regulated and most do not have clinical studies to back up their various claims of health and longevity. Some may even be toxic under certain conditions.

Ephedra, for example was marketed as a safe fat-loss supplement for years before the number of ephedra-induced heart attacks prompted the U.S. government to ban it.

Most supplements are a waste of money. If you’re involved in a competitive sport, some supplements like protein, glutamine and, creatine may be useful, but for recreational exercise they will have little benefit.

When it comes to health and longevity, there are more conclusive studies about the benefits of happiness, regular exercise, and an enjoyable life than there are about herbal and natural supplements.

8. You can tell if you have high blood pressure

It’s called the ‘silent killer’. There is no way to detect high blood pressure without medical instruments.

Of course, you may suspect high blood pressure if you experience a heart attack or stroke, but you still can’t confirm it without medical equipment.

9. High blood pressure is not that bad

According to the American Heart Association, uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to stroke, heart attack, heart failure or kidney failure. People with this condition are three times more likely to develop heart disease and six times more likely to develop congestive heart failure, and high blood pressure is the number one risk factor for stroke that can be modified through lifestyle changes and medical intervention, says the AHA.

10. You have to drink 8 glasses of water each day

Doctors and scientists are now saying that the required water intake is obtained partially from food (about 20% most sources say) and that beverages other than plain water count toward your daily water intake.

Even caffeinated beverages no longer have the bad reputation that they used to. Caffeine is a diuretic, meaning it draws water out of your body, but some sources are saying its not a very strong diuretic and others say the body adjusts to caffeine over time if you’re a chronic consumer.

Bottom line, the best way to tell if you’re getting enough water is to note the color of your urine. If it’s clear, or has very little color, you’re probably hydrated enough. But if your urine is dark or straw-colored, then pop open an Evian.

11. You have to wait 30-minutes after eating before going swimming or you can drown

Undigested food in your stomach will not suck water into your lungs and cause you to drown. However, vigorous exercise, including playing in water as most kids do in a pool, does draw blood away from the stomach to fuel muscular activity.

In extreme cases, this can cause cramping and may make swimming or treading water more difficult when it is essential.

12. Sweating a lot means you are out of shape

Sweating is a natural response to exercise; it is one way your body regulates temperature. Different people sweat more than others under similar levels of exercise and people who sweat less are at higher risk for heat exhaustion and heat stroke and, therefore, less physically fit. If you’re not prone to sweating, use a damp towel to cool off during exercise. In any case, drink plenty of water.

13. I’m too old to start exercising

That’s like saying you’re too old to be healthy; it’s nonsense.

Exercise increases strength, strengthens bones, and stimulates the nervous system and immune system. Moderate cardiovascular exercise and strength training has shown to have numerous health benefits for senior citizens.

You may be too old to compete in powerlifting (though there are many seniors that do), but you can definitely benefit from exercise.

In fact, no matter what age you are, you’re probably too old to NOT exercise 🙂

14. Gaining weight is a natural part of getting older

Gaining weight is always a result of eating more calories than you burn through activity. As we get older that doesn’t change. What does change is that we are more prone to sedentary activity, which means we burn fewer calories.

Even a small number of excess calories each day can lead to some serious weight gain over 10, 15, or 20 years. Continuing to gain weight can lead to numerous health problems, including heart disease and organ failure.

15. Resistance training makes women “too muscular”

So, you think it’s easy to build big, bulky muscles?

Is that why professional bodybuilders rely extreme training routines, and some on anabolic steroids, to put on a half-inch of muscle per year?

If becoming “too muscular” were easy, every guy in America would look like Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Resistance training develops muscle tone first, which is a nervous system response. High-intensity training to failure (to the point where your muscle can’t do another repetition) is what enlarges muscles.

Want to be toned and strong without bulky muscles? Use lighter resistances for more repetitions and never train to failure.


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