According to the most recent reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in four Americans report not participating in any leisure time physical activity at all (ie. any physical activity such as running, golf, gardening or walking). This isn’t surprising when you consider approximately 36 percent of U.S. adults and 17 percent of children and adolescents are obese. Fitness myths and negative beliefs about exercise and physical activity have given people of all ages an excuse to not get involved and participate. This may be one of the many reasons why obesity (and severe obesity) is estimated to affect more than 50 percent of the U.S. population by 2030. Let’s examine some of the most common fitness myths and set the record straight.
Top 8 Fitness Myths (and Excuses)
1. I don’t have time to workout.
The CDC recommends a total of 150 minutes of physical activity for adults each week. It may be difficult to find 30 or 45 minute blocks of time for exercise but that’s not necessary. You can accumulate 150 minutes of physical activity with several short bouts of exercise (minimum of 10 minutes each) throughout the week. A sample week could include:
- Monday: brisk walk (10 min.), walking up/down stairs (10 min.)
- Tuesday: brisk walk (10 min.), stretching & flexibility exercises (10 min.)
- Wednesday: light jog (10 min.), bicep curls & dips (10 min.)
- Thursday: brisk walk (10 min.), shooting hoops (10 min.)
- Friday: jump rope (10 min.), pull-ups & crunches (10 min.)
- Saturday: bike ride (10 min.), pushups & crunches (10 min.)
- Sunday: brisk walk (10 min.), squats & lunges (10 min.), yoga postures (10 min.)
2. I can’t afford a gym membership.
Long before the first gyms existed people were getting active and keeping fit. By simply setting aside space in your home or going to a playground or park in the neighborhood is all that you need. If you prefer traditional resistance exercises you can avoid the hefty cost of free weights by making your own using common household items. For information on how to make your own free weights, click here. For information on how to include cardiovascular exercise on a budget, click here.
3. There isn’t a gym close to my home or work.
You don’t need a gym or fitness center to exercise. If you can find the space to exercise you can do it anywhere! You don’t even need a lot of space to start an effective fitness program. A ten foot by ten foot space (100 sq. ft.) is more than enough space to get started. You don’t even need any equipment and can accomplish a total body workout using body weight and functional exercises (ie. squats, lunges, push-ups, pull-ups, crunches, yoga postures, etc.).
Although you can accomplish a total body workout using body weight exercises you may want to consider the following equipment and accessories:
- Set of dumbbells or resistance tubing (with handles)
- Exercise mat
- Stability ball
- Jump rope
- Upright mirror
4. I’m too old to start an exercise program.
The human body was meant to move at every age. Although participation in a regular exercise program has been proven to effectively reduce and/or prevent a number of functional declines associated with aging, only 22 percent of people in the U.S. over the age of 65 report exercising on a regular basis. According to the American Council of Sports Medicine (ACSM), current evidence supports the fact that older individuals can adapt to a program of regular cardiovascular training as well as their younger counterparts and can also make significant gains in strength, regardless of age.
The CDC physical activity guidelines for older adults recommends the following (for individuals with no limiting health conditions):
- 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (ie. brisk walking) every week and
- Muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (ie. legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms)
5. Exercise is too hard.
The old saying, “No pain. No gain.”, doesn’t necessarily hold true. Exercise doesn’t have to be hard or painful be effective. Start simple with basic physical activities that get your body moving (ie. gardening, walking the dog and taking the stairs instead of the elevator). You can progress to more structured exercise programs and activities when you are ready for something more challenging (ie. weight training, tai chi or an aerobics class). Try different activities and identify those that you like to ensure you get regular physical activity in your weekly routine.
6. I don’t want bulky muscles from weight training.
The majority of women who exercise are not looking to have a muscular physique and prefer to have toned and firm muscles. There are physiological reasons why the majority of women will not get bulky muscles from weight training:
- Testosterone. Women do not have adequate amounts of testosterone to build muscle the same way men do.
- Resistance. Women traditionally do not lift the heavier weights than men do in their resistance workouts. Adequate resistance and challenge to the muscle is required to cause them to adapt and change in size and shape.
- Body Type. Different body types respond to exercise in different ways. Individuals with a mesomorph body type (click here for more information) build muscle easier than ectomorphs or endomorphs. The majority of women fall under the endomorph category (ie. feminine and curvy).
7. I don’t like getting hot and sweaty.
People sweat (or perspire) for lots of reasons. Sweating is the body’s natural way of regulating temperature. People also sweat when they exercise vigorously (or for extended periods of time) and in response to situations that make them nervous, angry, embarrassed or afraid. All exercise doesn’t require a significant increase in body temperature and it doesn’t have to be for long periods of time. Physical activities that are beneficial to the body but do not necessarily increase body temperature include:
- Leisurely walk
- Stretching and flexibility exercises
- Gentle yoga
Shorter bouts of exercise (minimum of 10 minutes) are also effective ways to accumulate the adequate amounts of recommended exercise each week without breaking a sweat.
8. I already eat a healthy diet.
Food alone cannot replace the health benefits of physical activity and exercise. According to Frank Hu, associate professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health (SPH):
“Good nutrition is essential for health [but] the single thing that comes close to a magic bullet, in terms of its strong and universal benefits, is exercise.”
- Control your weight.
- Reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
- Reduce your risk of some cancers.
- Strengthen your bones and muscles.
- Improve your mental health and mood.
- Improve your ability to do daily activities and prevent falls, if you’re an older adult.
- Increase your chances of living longer.
Food for Thought …
Whether something is true or not, the truth is what we ultimately believe. Having the facts about exercise and physical activity can help people change their negative beliefs and give them the chance at a longer and more productive quality of life.