Fitness Myths, Explored

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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15 thoughts on “Fitness Myths, Explored

  1. Great post! I have been thinking a lot about that calorie part lately. Many people argue that a calorie is a calorie when it comes to losing weight – they all add up the same. But I definitely feel better when most of mine are from “good” foods and less are from stuff like junk, even if the calories add up to the same. And on days when I do not exercise in the morning, for some reason, I feel like I eat more!

  2. Thank you for relaying the info. I thought Myth #1 was interesting (and reassuring). I mostly walk because I think I am too heavy to “run,” although I did go through the C25K program with “slogging” more than running. I noticed different muscles were being used, and calf muscles toned up more. Jogging also gave more of a cardio workout and upped the sweat-factor.

  3. I love these myth busters, especially #1 & #3–so true, in my experience. Thanks for sharing these with us.

  4. Interesting information and I love that you have put your personal touch to it.

    Afternoon exercise just doesn’t work well for me but then I’m not an aspiring athlete and never have been. I’m almost always far to fatigued to do much in the afternon. I love the first thing in the morning but it can take 20 minutes r so to warm up and get things moving well. Getting strated, no matter what time of day is always the hard part *smile*.

  5. Interesting. I have found that my really long bike rides (40+ miles) and my appetite is suppressed. If I run for 3 or 4 miles – I am like a bottomless pit. And 6 miles? Forget it – I am totally gnawing my arm off, even if I had a pre run snack.

    I also find that on my rest days I am the hungriest.

    I have converted to a morning workout person. I used to hate doing it in the morning and then somehow it became a habit and that is my preferred time. Not sure how that happened LOL

  6. Very interesting info! I too have switched my workouts to mid morning at my new gym and love that time of day. I’ve also heard that if you work out first thing in the a.m. Before eating you will burn fat reserves…. Dont know how true that is, but I cannot eat an hour or more before or after exercise as I feel sick if I do.

  7. So… about that #5 – time of day thing – doesn’t it seem like there are so many opinions on this one? Drives me a bit crazy, really. Just move when it works best for you, IMHO.

  8. I can attest to #4. Exercise has always been my hang up. If people could do it with diet alone, I wouldn’t weigh what I do today.

  9. “Well, I wouldn’t block my way to the fridge, if I were you. It could get ugly.” You can be so serious, then throw in a line like that. Really makes me chuckle.

    Too tired to bust myths tonight. Maybe tomorrow.

  10. I know its a myth but I still FEEL :) as tho I am waywayway more hungry when I run.

    after I run.

    (your subway card should be shipped today!)

  11. Well said on Myth #4 especially! Exercise packs a one-two punch. It ups stamina, endurance, strength, energy, etc. AND provides the nutritional/calorie wiggle room we all need to maintain a realistic lifestyle. I just can’t imagine a life where I’m eating 1200 calories a day and still maintain a healthy weight.

  12. Very informative! Personally I think I’m going to be trying something new- just focusing on healthy eating for the next 2 months before putting heavy emphasis on exercise- I’ll be sharing more about this in my next few posts.

    Thanks for all the good info!

  13. Cammy, I am so with you on most of this! As for walking/running & cardio in general, as I aged, I found that intervals & HIIT were the best things along with my weights to keep age related weight off. When I added this in, I had better results with the hormone related weights.. of course food is crucial! :-)

    As for where your calories come from, I am with you. I actually think it makes a difference I saw that my body looked different when I changed the types of food but kept calories similar.

    I am so with you on #4! I do more so I don’t have to limit my calories to 1200 a day!

    AS for #5.. the best time is the time you will do it! :-)

  14. For me #5 is a biggie. I have to exercise early in the morning to really do a good job. If I wait til the evening, I’m already tired, I halfway put forth an effort and I usually don’t do a “full” workout.

  15. Hey, Cammy. I agree with all but #4. As a person with several physical challenges, I am not able to exercise the way I used to. However, by watching my diet closely, I’m still maintaining my 170-pound lost. Haven’t gained a thing throughout my last surgery and recovery. It’s crucial to be as active as you can, but if diet alone could not keep people at a manageable weight, wouldn’t all disabled people who could not exercise be obese? Clearly that isn’t the case. (FYI, I’m just feeling ultra-sensitive these days to that particular “myth”, so please forgive if I seem a bit defensive. It’s not you. It’s not RD. It’s me…LOL)

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