Letís start the year off on the right foot ó well, OK, if you want to start it off on the left foot, thatís fine, too. Just get moving.
We all know the more physically active we are, the better we will feel and the healthier we will be. But instead of going on and on about how a healthier new year can be yours, Iíd like to dispel a few fitness fallacies that mislead many in their quest for health.
For some reason, these erroneous beliefs continue to plague good intentions despite scientific results that say otherwise. Keep these fitness facts in mind as you begin your efforts toward a healthier lifestyle in this new year.
Fitness fallacy: Exercise must be strenuous.
Fitness fact: All intensities of exercise are beneficial. Your intensity should be based on your current fitness level and should increase gradually over time. Exercise that is too strenuous is the biggest reason people stop exercising. More important, there are specific forms of exercise that are designed to offer relaxation benefits or flexibility and range of motion benefits. These forms along with higher-intensity forms, such as cardiovascular and strength training, all play an important part in a well-rounded fitness regimen.
Fitness fallacy: You must work out at a health club to be fit.
Fitness fact: Research has shown that matching your personality to the type of exercise you choose is the determining factor whether you stick with an activity. While health clubs offer a wide array of activities to move your body, they are not for everyone. Some prefer outdoor activities such as hiking, jogging and cycling; some people enjoy a more competitive arena and pursue sports; some choose a social path to fitness such as dancing or walking with friends; many strength train at home and others prefer a quieter more personal home workout such as yoga, Pilates or tai chi. The best environment is the one that keeps you coming back for more.
Fitness fallacy: Exercise must be one continuous effort.
Fitness fact: Exercise can be cumulative. You should aim for 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity most days of the week; however, this can be accomplished each day by performing 15 minutes in the morning, 20 minutes in the afternoon and 25 minutes at night. Appreciate the fact that performing frequent bouts of activity, even minimal efforts, add up and make the difference between a sedentary and active lifestyle.
Fitness fallacy: You must feel the burn to improve your fitness level.
Fitness fact: While some muscle soreness is inevitable when starting a new or more intense form of exercise, physical activity in general should never be a source of pain. If you experience pain, stop! Overtraining and working beyond your true capabilities will not result in the kind of body you desire.
Fitness fallacy: Aerobic exercise is all I need to make me fit and healthy.
Fitness fact: A healthy body is a result of a well-balanced physical training regimen. It includes aerobic work for the heart and lungs, strength training for muscles and joints, flexibility work for maintaining range of motion and joint health, and relaxation and breathing exercise for stress management. Runners need to hit the weights and weightlifters need to condition their heart and lungs. Balance is the key.
Fitness fallacy: Women who strength train with heavy weights will build bulky muscles.
Fitness fact: It is particularly important that women strength train to maintain bone density and muscle mass. It is the most anti-aging workout for women. It will also give you greater visible results than anything you do. To accomplish this, your muscles must experience overload. It is essential to lift weights that exhaust the muscle after 12 to 15 repetitions. Anything less will not challenge your muscle and will undermine your progress. Forget about high repetitions and low weight. As women donít have the testosterone hormone levels that men possess, bulky muscles cannot be connected to the amount of weight a woman lifts. If she has bulky muscles, she needs to examine and improve her diet.
Fitness fallacy: My child is not overweight. As he grows, he will lose that excess fat.
Fitness fact: Your childís Body Mass Index is a reliable indicator of body fatness for most children and teens. A pediatrician calculates the BMI based on the childís weight and height. BMI is used as a screening tool to identify possible weight problems for children and is recommended beginning at age 2. If your child is active and eating a healthy diet, you have little reason to be alarmed; however, if they are not active and consistently eating more calories than they are expending, you should see a pediatrician for advice. They will not lose excess fat as they grow if diet and lifestyle remain the same.
Fitness fallacy: To get a flat stomach and six-pack abs, I need to concentrate on doing lots of targeted abdominal exercises.
Fitness fact: Flat stomachs and six-pack abs are given to those who are lean and have very little body fat. Nutrition and diet are the only way to a flat stomach. It is impossible to reduce a specific area of the body by targeting that area with exercise. If you are doing abdominal exercise such as crunches, you will strengthen those muscles, but excess body fat must be shed before you will flatten the stomach and see the six-pack.
As you begin 2008, design your goals around fact, not fallacy. Lifestyle changes require a steady commitment, a thoughtful plan and a little patience. Believe in yourself and you will succeed.
Cindy Boggs, fitness consultant, author and Activate America director, has been an ACE-certified coordinator/instructor since 1989. Send your questions about fitness, training or health to YMCA of Kanawha Valley, 100 YMCA Drive, Charleston, WV 25311, or e-mail cindys...@aol.com. Look for Cindyís fitness advice book, ďCindySays ... You Can Find Health in Your Hectic World,Ē on her Web site, www.cindysays.com, or contact the YMCA at 340-3527.