It must be stated before I start laying waste to myths about exercise – I’m not a doctor. I don’t recommend someone trying to run a marathon right off of the couch, though I’m sure that’s been done before by someone a whole lot crazier (or more dedicated) than me.
Let’s, for fun, explore a few myths associated with exercise. Nothing gets me fired up more than someone trying to convince me that I’m “lucky” that I’m trim and that they lack the ability to so much as go for a bike ride for one reason or another. As I’ve said before, I did decide to get fat a while back – I just changed my mind twelve hours later and bought some running shoes. In fact, there’s a guy in our running club who, at 250 pounds, is literally half the man he used to be… How does the saying go? If he can do it…
So, let’s get cracking:
1. Fit people are “lucky” to be that way.
The reality is, for men, after attaining 30 years of age (maybe 33 on the late end), there is no such thing as luck except in rare instances where good genes help. For women, it’s even sooner… For the rest of us, and to an extent, even the genetically lucky, the key is getting off the couch. My fabulously taught buttocks is bought and paid for with miles – lots and lots of them.
2. Running is bad for the knees and joints.
No it isn’t. And I’ve used that one myself, so don’t mess with me. In fact, when my wife reads this, she’ll probably tuck the “I told you so” arrow in her quiver for when I get home. “Joints are, in fact, strengthened and modified by exercise“. According to that first link, the exact opposite is true… Only 20% of runners developed arthritic knees while 32% of the control group did over the long haul. In fact, the impact of running is necessary for maintaining bone health, which leads to myth #3…
3. Low impact exercise is better than running or “high” impact exercise.
That isn’t true either, though I’ve used that one too. Cycling, one of the lowest impact sports, is notorious for riders losing bone mass density because there is no load on the bones which signals the body to create more mass in them (swimmers too). Running and cycling, give you the best of both worlds. We call that cross training, and it is awesome.
4. “I don’t exercise because it’s too painful”.
I don’t buy that for a dollar: Countless studies show that it’s the lack of activity that causes the pain. Regular exercise can alleviate pain and it improves health. Joints, muscles and bones require that we move to stay healthy. In fact, even for those who already have arthritis, regular (though moderate) exercise is recommended to reduce the pain.
5. Diet is more important than exercise.
This one is actually true, but depending on what somebody is selling it gets overrated (or under). Technically, if you read through the baloney, exercise helps a good diet. In the end, the idea is to burn more calories than one consumes.
To illustrate, here’s a story problem: Bob and Larry are fat, both at 6′ tall and 240 lbs. Bob and Larry decide it’s time to lose weight, so Bob decides that diet is three times more important than exercise and that running is bad for the knees so he’s going to lose weight with diet alone. He consumes, on a normal day, 4,000 calories but his sedentary body only burns 3,000, so he sets out to cut 1,400 calories from his diet to burn 400 calories a day. Larry on the other hand, decides to go the diet and exercise route. He buys a bike and some jogging shoes and cuts 1,000 calories a day from his diet but he works up to riding 15 miles 3 days a week (that’s 700 calories a day x 3) and jogs 3 miles, twice a week (another 546 each [75% of body weight per mile). Who will do better is not rocket science. You have to burn 3,500 calories to equal a pound. I will guarantee you, after gorging on 4,000 calories a day and cutting out 1,000, they’ll both feel like they’re starving… Bob, the diet alone guy, who cut an extra 400 a day, will burn 2,800 calories, or just under a pound in a week. Larry, on the other hand, eats to maintain his weight but burns 3,192… Larry’s joints feel better, he gets stronger and the stress he’s used to feeling is melting away by the week. Bob is eating twigs and berries and probably telling all his friends that they need to get on the latest fad diet.
You tell me who’s in better shape? I’ll take Larry any day of the week. We’re not done yet though. Studies show that the body continues to burn calories long after you’re done exercising (as many as 190). So Bob’s another half a pound ahead every week. Now, don’t get me going, there is another study out there that showed no afterburn…but the subjects were only riding at 50% of their VO2 Max…that’s ridiculous. I wouldn’t even break a sweat at 50%. In fact, the initial study, done at 70% VO2 Max is much more realistic for someone who is exercising to lose weight. Now, let’s do a little supposing. At 50% VO2 Max there’s no benefit. At 70%, there’s another 190 calories zapped… I regularly train at 80-95% VO2 Max in intervals… What would you bet there’s a greater benefit in afterburn? I’m just sayin’.
6. If I just get out there and do something, it’s better than nothing.
To wrap up, in addition to those items, exercise reduces stress (and I know about this one first hand – my job is ridiculously stressful – exercise keeps me sane. Exercise helps build your relationship with a significant other, and if you have kids (as I do), it gives them an example that no amount of school or governmental intervention can duplicate.
Please, use this information delicately. The intention is not to beat someone over the head with it so much as it is designed to keep someone from buying into their excuses. If you are reading this and you do happen to be overweight, check with your doctor (sheesh) and then buy some running shoes, or a bike, or rollerblades, or walking shoes or something! Just find something that you like to d0. You’ll love you for it.
By the way, if you happen to be overweight or know someone who is overweight, and you (they) are afraid to start with something like jogging or running because of your (their) weight, do not dispair. Visit your local bike shop and ask them to help. I just dropped a wheel off to get trued and met a fella there who “knew a guy” that started out at more than 300 pounds with riding… In one summer, he put 4,000 miles on that bike and dropped more than 80 pounds – in one summer. Now that’s a lot, 40 miles a day, 5 days a week – figure 3 to 4 hours a day at the heavier weight, but one summer? That’s nothing, a blip on the screen.
(p.s. did you know that if you can walk faster than a 10 minute mile, you burn more calories than if you’re jogging? It’s true, there’s more friction created in walking that fast – then again, try that some time…walking a 10 minute mile is fast!).