Friday, September 26, 2008

Article in Local Paper

To get fit, determine what’s fact and what’s fiction about exercise

by Diane Sagers

In the early ‘60s a cartoon family showed the world what a Utopian life of the future might be like. The Jetsons, in a prime-time animated television series produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions, lived an idyllic life with robot housekeepers, moving sidewalks and chairs, and food that cooked itself and came to them. What a life! Or so it would seem.As time has passed, we have learned much about the wisdom of exercise. It seems that the effortless lives of George and Jane and the gang is not the ideal for real people — not if they want to be healthy.

We live in an age of continual reminders to get fit and stay fit. If you haven’t been reminded today, you probably haven’t had contact with the outside world.However, that very clarion call has motivated research into physical fitness and how people achieve it. Americans do need to get off the sofa and do something, but the questions of how often and how much to exercise, hover in our minds with the various answers a blur. During the past 16 years, some of our old thoughts about physical activities have gone by the wayside. Some of our pet theories have turned out to be myths. Certainly the gurus don’t know it all even yet, but they have uncovered some myths.

Myth 1: The only way for the heart or lungs to benefit is to do something rapid for at least 30 uninterrupted minutes three times per week.In reality, that 30 minute exercise period is just as effective if it is broken into three 10-minutes bouts three times. Three times a week is good, but daily is even better. This is great news for those who cannot clear an entire half hour for lunch much less an exercise session.

Myth 2: No pain no gain.The no pain no gain concept should be out the window for everyone, research says. It is important to work at a level you are comfortable with. Ideally the workout should increase breathing and the heart rate but not to the point of complete exhaustion or hyperventilating. Best of all, the studies found that people get the same benefit with five days of 30 minutes moderate activity as of three days of 30 minutes of strenuous activity.

Myth 3: Carrying weights or strapping light weights on your arms or legs can boost your exercise benefit.Exercise physiologists say that the weights slow you down and so you get less benefit from aerobic exercise. If muscle building is your goal lift weights that are heavy enough that you cannot lift more than a dozen times in a row and increase the weight is it gets easier. But don’t waste the energy adding weights to your aerobic exercise.

Myth 4: Exercise burns lots of calories.Unfortunately, exercise is only part of the weight solution. Walking or running a mile burns about 100 calories, and sitting still burns about 50 or 60 calories. However there is benefit to exercise in weight control. As you exercise, you become more fit. As you become more fit you will be comfortable exercising more. As a result you will exercise more and burn more calories. Also, as you become more fit, your muscles use more of an enzyme that burns fat for energy (rather than carbohydrates).

Myth 5: With the right exercise, you can get rid of trouble spots.Oh that it were so. Exercising certain muscles does not remove fat from that area; however it does strengthen and tone those muscles. The muscles are under the fat and unless the fat is burned in place of new food calories, it continues there. The same genetics that determines where you store fat also determines where you lose it. It is generally easier to lose weight around the waist than the hips, according to the experts.Eating less may mean you lose muscle mass, but if you’re exercising and building muscle mass, the weight loss must come from fat. Continuing exercise after weight loss is the best predictor of keeping it off.

Myth 6: Strength training will make women too muscular.The bulky muscles women fear from strength training are highly unlikely. Men’s muscles bulk up due to testosterone. Women’s muscles do not. More importantly, women are far more prone to osteoporosis as they get older and muscle loss through aging increases that risk. Weight bearing exercise builds muscles and reduces the danger of this serious bone deterioration.

Myth 7: Fat people are not fit.Even if exercise doesn’t give you a svelte figure, toning your muscles will benefit you. Body size is less associated with high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes than low muscle tone. Slender folks with untoned muscles are just as likely to suffer from these maladies as their larger untoned counterparts.

Myth 8: Everyone gains weight with age.While many Americans do, they don’t have to. The couch potato syndrome and the attendant loss of lean body mass (muscle) lower the basal metabolic rate. If you slow down in your activity, but not in your food consumption, you will gain weight. Exercise, and you strengthen your muscles, which in turn burns more calories. Studies show that women begin losing 6 to 8 percent of their muscle mass each decade at age 40 while men start the process at age 60. However with two months of moderate sessions of strength training, women can recover 10 years of muscle tone loss and men can recover 20 years.

Myth 9: If you don’t lose weight, there’s no point in exercising.Weight is not the right motivation to work out — getting in shape is. Exercise may not take off the weight you want, but it carries a good many other benefits.Exercise improves the ability of insulin to enter cells lowering the risk of diabetes. It improves blood clotting mechanisms, lowers triglycerides and raises HDL (good) cholesterol. People who exercise tend to sleep better at night. Exercise helps relieve depression and anxiety.

Myth 10: Exercise must be regular to matter.Although you must exercise regularly to become fit, anything and everything helps in some way. Get at least 30 minutes of exercise most days. But if you can’t, you are still better off to do something.

Myth 11: I’m too old to start now.Even elderly patients in nursing homes can benefit from some exercise. However, if you are ordinarily inactive or have a problem health history, talk your exercise plans over with your doctor to avoid aggravating or creating a crisis situation.

Myth 12: I don’t have time to exercise. Maybe not, but if you develop the health problems that come through inactivity, you will spend much more time and effort to overcome the problems than you would have spent getting in shape and avoiding them.

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