Have trouble finding a healthy middle ground when it comes to exercise? Thanks to the “no pain, no gain” myth, some people believe it’s not worth even thinking about exercise unless they’re willing to put in at least one sweaty, even painful hour every day.
But building fitness into your life doesn’t require pain or an enormous time commitment. Yes, there may be some achiness a day or two after a fitness activity, but there shouldn’t be pain or a feeling that you’re going to pass out while you’re doing it.
If you experience pain that doesn’t go away after resting, you may have an injury that needs medical attention. As for time: As little as 30 minutes of exercise five days a week can have an impact on your health and fitness.
But regular workouts may not be enough if they’re sandwiched between eight hours of sitting at a desk and four hours of TV time. Studies suggest too much sitting contributes to metabolic syndrome. This combination of factors, which includes high triglyceride and glucose levels and a large waist measurement, increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
The good news is you can reduce the impact of too much couch time. Plan to move for a few minutes during each of your sedentary hours — walk around your office, climb a flight of stairs at home or just stand up and dance with your kids.
Other popular exercise myths relate to muscle. One says lifting weights will make women look bulky. But women lack the testosterone that allows men to develop large, bulky muscles. The benefit of strength training for women is no myth. It helps burn calories and slows loss of muscle mass and bone density.
One tall tale says that, if you stop exercising, your muscle will turn to fat. But muscle and fat are different types of tissue, so one doesn’t turn into the other. But when you quit working out, your muscle eventually atrophies and gets smaller and flabbier. It’s a matter of use it or lose it.
Another exercise myth that won’t go away claims that spot reducing is possible. But that’s not the way it works. Working a specific area doesn’t mean you can burn fat in that location. A better idea is to focus on controlling overall body fat through a healthy diet and regular exercise that includes both aerobic activities and strength training.
A balanced approach to exercise means challenging, not punishing yourself. The key is making physical activity not just a routine part of taking care of yourself but an enjoyable one, too.
Cindy Eggemeyer is the executive director of Edward Health & Fitness Centers, with locations in Naperville, on the campus of Edward Hospital, 801 S. Washington St., and in Woodridge, at 6600 S. Route 53. For more information, visit www.edward.org/fitness. Cindy can be reached at 630-646-7915 and email@example.com.