When you make a renewed commitment to improving fitness, it’s sometimes difficult to find the best place to start. Researching possibilities is often confusing, because there’s so much conflicting and misleading information out there Reader’s Digest recently posted an article that might be helpful in beginning to sort it all out. If nothing else, it provides a nice opportunity for us to report “from the field”, based on our own experiences. So let’s get to it.
Reader’s Digest’s Five Fitness Myths You Need to Forget
Myth 1. Walking is not as effective as running.
RD says that a runner and walker covering the same distance will burn the same amount of calories. One just takes longer than the other. But for effectiveness, there are studies indicating that how long you exercise is more important than how hard you exercise. This may be true, but if I’ve got a limited amount of time, I usually opt for a shorter period of more strenuous exercise.
The bottom line for those of us just getting started is that we get up and MOVE. We shouldn’t feel intimidated or “less than” because we’re not out running marathons. There’s plenty of time for that in the future. Or not.
Myth 2. Exercise increases hunger
RD says that for most of us (exercising less than two hours per day), exercise doesn’t affect our food needs and that exercise can often suppress hunger. My personal experience is that this is sometimes true, sometimes not. A long walk or bike ride does seem to squash the munchies, but on strength training days? Well, I wouldn’t block my way to the fridge, if I were you. It could get ugly. That said, I’m not sure if I’m hungrier overall, or if it’s not just a case of when my hunger appears. I should look at that. Someday.
Myth 3. It doesn’t matter where your calories come from
Calories: Can’t lose with them, can’t lose without them. It’s enough to drive a person headfirst into a crockpot full of cheese dip. The RD article (linked above) contains details, but the nitty gritty is that learning how our bodies respond to different types of foods (carbs, fats, proteins) is a key element in determining what we need in order to function well and how we need to manage those calories in order to lose weight effectively. Or simply to not gain weight.
A few years ago, in the early stages of this tippy toe approach, I did include the processed 100-calories snacks, the dessert yogurts, and a smattering of other “diet” products. AND I lived to tell about it. Over time, though, as my exercise increased and I grew more in tune with what my body needed to support that exercise, I simply didn’t have room for those types of products in my repertoire. (Note: I’ve still been known to pack a few 100-cal packs of cookies in among the almonds and string cheese for a long road trip.) My philosophy is that we’re much better off without them, but for some of us, they can serve as a good “transitional” food, if used in moderation, until we’re prepared to make more lasting (and healthier) changes.
It should also be mentioned that it is entirely possible to have too many calories for weight loss or maintenance eating nothing but whole, healthy foods. Portions, portions, portions….
Myth 4. Diet alone is enough for sustained weight loss
According to RD’s experts, calorie cutting is good for weight loss, but exercise is critical for lasting weight loss. Not only does muscle take up less space than fat, but it burns more calories, too. Translation: a few more healthy calories available for our dining pleasure. I appreciate the increased strength and stamina I have from regular exercise, but I really, really appreciate that I can maintain my weight loss without eating 1200 calories a day for life. (At my current level of exercise, I average around 2000 calories a day with about 90-95% of those calories coming from truly healthy foods. I’ll take The Fifth on the other 5%.)
Myth 5. There is no best time for exercise
Sometimes true, sometimes not, says RD. For many of us, time of day doesn’t matter as much as making ANY time to fit in exercise. But, they say, for athletes in search of a high-quality workout, late afternoon is best because, among other things, body temperature is the highest, muscles are all warmed up, and strength is at it’s peak. “If you push yourself harder as a result, you will burn more calories.”
I’ve never heard that before, and I have no idea if it’s true. I will say that for my first two years on Planet Fitness, my daily exercise time was 5 p.m., immediately after work, and I loved it. Great post-work stress buster and a really positive way to end the day. Workout, shower, meal, relax, bedtime. For the past year or so, I’ve been exercising early to mid-morning. My sole reason for that is gym congestion. It’s less crowded during those hours. The only difference I’ve noticed (or think I’ve noticed) is that I feel more “snacky” when I work out early. My thinking (non-scientific, of course) is that when I exercise earlier in the day, I’ve got a long time of extra calories being burned throughout the day. With late day exercise, I sleep through most of that. But that could just be a result of too much time and imagination on hand.
And there you have it. Reader’s Digest’s thoughts on fitness myths as interpreted by yours truly. Your thoughts, opinions, experiences welcome.
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