Thursday, March 20, 2008

3 Exercise Myths Debunked

According to U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, sport and exercise related injuries are on the rise for all age groups, and especially for older persons. Despite the tremendous sympathy and TLC you could receive from family and co-workers, you don’t want to be one of the millions of Americans who gets hurt. It’s not worth the short-term pain, mid-term reduction to your fitness, or long-term damage to your body.

Unfortunately, many people get injured, because they’re following the bad advice of old exercise myths. Read on to reduce your chances of being an injury statistic.

Myth #1 – Bigger is Better
Do you agree with any of the following statements?
§ If bench pressing 40 pounds is good, 60 pounds must be better for you.
§ It’s better to run fast or with longer strides than to jog slowly.
§ The best stretch for your hamstrings requires touching your toes.
Hate to tell you, but it ain’t necessarily so. When you pick a goal that’s more suitable for Lance Armstrong, Jackie Joyner Kersey, or Arnold Schwarzenegger, you ignore your body’s fitness needs and extend too far.

In addition, large movements often bypass small core muscles. Many of the muscles around the spine are less than one inch long. Small, slow movements will wake and strengthen them. Bigger may be a goal, but for the here and now, try to focus on the weight, time, and stretch that is “just right” for you right now.

Myth #2 – No Pain, No Gain
Even though your middle school coach told you that pain was good for you, he was misinformed, and you don’t need his approval anymore anyway. If activity hurts, you are probably hurting yourself. Period. Thousands of health professionals agree.

You get the most benefit when you work at your personal edge. The edge is the place right before it hurts. Most of us (me, too, most days) don’t want to pay that much attention; it’s easier to go full tilt and justify it with the “No Pain, No Gain” baloney. But if we want to stay fit for a lifetime, we must ditch this macho myth.

Myth #3 – Fun Exercise Doesn’t Help
When you’re happy, your body is more flexible, the muscles better able to contract and relax. When you force yourself to do something, you have to move through tension and shallow breath, which makes strain more likely. Plus, you’re more likely to stay active when you’re having fun.

The hard part can be figuring out what you like to do. I really don’t like breathing hard, so I’ll find any excuse to avoid the treadmill or elliptical. I do like riding a bike (in the sun) and dancing, so I get my cardio that way.

Your body knows what it needs and it will choose to challenge itself without the brain brandishing a whip. Try some of your favorite childhood activities, and, like a child, do them for fun. Enjoy jumping rope? Don’t force yourself for 10 minutes, just hop as long as it feels good. Again, work your edge. If 10 laps in the pool are pleasurable, try 11, not 15.

Many ideas of how to get healthy are unrealistic myths that try to mold you into a make-believe action-figure. Your body’s not disposable like a toy, nor infinitely reparable. If you set your sights on reasonable goals, avoid pain, and have fun, you’ll get injured less and soon exceed your current limits.

No comments: