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               Perhaps the most defeatist and popular excuse of all, however, is the popular lament: "When I exercise, I just don't see any results." Granted, you're a totally unique individual, but when push comes to shove, your body works more or less like everyone else's. So how come exercise doesn't work for you? Could it be that you are laboring under some misconceptions? You're not alone. Fitness myths abound. And they are often what keeps us stuck in our couch potato ruts. Let's examine some of these flabby fairy tales:

Myth 1

The only way to burn off fat is to live in a gym.

Wrong! The only way to burn off fat is to take in fewer calories than you spend. Try your favorite activity -walking, biking or swimming for 30 minutes five times so don't be discouraged by slow progress. Noticeable changes may seem painfully slow at first, but they will come with time. As you build up muscle tissue, you will burn more calories because muscle burns many more calories than fat.

Myth 2

As you get older, you lode muscle and gain fat, no matter what you do.

Some physiological shows that withe regular exercise, especially aerobic exercise, weight training and a low-fat diet, you can increase lean body mass and decrease fat mass. Even at age 90, people can experience renewed strength, increased mobility, stronger bones and greater flexibility by exercising.

Myth 3

No pain, no gain.

Exercise should never hurt. Soreness is not unusual when you start an exercise program, but your body acclimates quickly and soreness should be less of a problem as your muscles adapt. Warming up and stretching before and after exercising should help. There is a difference between soreness and pain. Pain is a sign that you are doing something wrong. If you are experiencing pain, you are either exercising at too great an intensity or using improper from. Don't ignore it - find out what you're doing that's causing the pain and give your body a chance to recover.

Myth 4

Exercising with weights makes women bulky.

First of all, nobody gets bulky overnight. It takes professional body builders many years of hard training with very heavy weights to bulk up. Light to moderate weights and many repetitions are most effective for toning and strengthening and won't make you look like a professional weight lifter. Besides, most women lack the testosterone levels necessary to make "Incredible Hulk" muscles.

Myth 5

Vegetarians don't build muscle or perform as well as athletes who eat meat.

Vegetarians have won championships. Consider Dave Scott, six-time winner of the Ironman Triathlon or Paavo Nurmi who won nine Olympic medals for distance running. Vegetarians are also well-represented among legendary bodybuilding champions: Andreas Cahling (Mr. International) and Bill Pearl (Mr. Universe) are all devotees of a plant-based diet.

Myth 6

The more you exercise, the more protein you need for energy.

Not true. Of the three major nutrients, protein, carbohydrate and fat, protein is the least efficient energy source. Carbohydrates are the best source of muscle energy followed by fat. The body tries to spare protein for tissue maintenance and repair functions.

Myth 7

You should never drink water when you're over-heated.

Wrong! You should drink water continuously before, during and after exercising to replace the fluid you've lost. On a hot day, you can lose as much as a quart of water an hour while exercising. When you work out, your muscles generate heat that causes your body temperature to rise. Heat from muscles is carried away by water in the bloodstream and brought to the surface as perspiration. As this continues, unless water is replaced, you can become dangerously dehydrated. By the way, don't rely on thirst as an indicator of water need. By the time you feel thirsty, you're probably already dehydrated. Drink before you get thirsty.

Myth 8

As long as you don't plan to overdo it, it's not really necessary to see your doctor before starting an exercise program.

Exercise deserves some serious forethought. Everyone over 40 should have a medical exam that includes a treadmill stress test to measure overall cardiovascular fitness; blood tests including blood cholesterol; and a medical and health habit history. While you're there, get your health practitioner's advice about what exercise might be best given your medical profile.

Myth 9
The best time to work out is early in the morning.

False. Many people believe that the energy boost you get from exercise is a double-edged sword. It's a great pick-me-up in the morning, but if you work out at night, you may not sleep well. If this were gospel truth, morning people would rule the earth. Fortunately for night owls, there is no one best time to exercise. It's a matter of what you prefer. You can try different times of day and see how it goes. Some people are at their best in the morning while others can't fit it in except at lunchtime or after work. Fitting exercise into your busy day is the main issue. Just remember to wait at least two hours after eating before working out. And no, working out is unlikely to keep you up at night. As long as you don't exercise too close to bedtime, you will probably sleep better on the days you work out.


Myth 10

The more intense your workout, the more fat you burn.

Not necessarily. You should be working at your (predetermined) target heart rate. If you exercise too hard and fast, you may be burning fewer calories than in less intense, aerobic workouts. Why? When you're huffing and puffing, your body can't get the oxygen it needs to burn fat effectively. (Think of what happens to a lit candle deprived of oxygen.) Aerobic means your muscles are working in an oxygen-rich environment, which is conducive to burning fat. After about 12 minutes of aerobic effort, your body starts four conditions that are required for an aerobic workout: steady, non-stop activity; a duration of at least 12 minutes not counting warmup and cool down time; a comfortable pace; and using muscles of the lower body. If you can't carry on a conversation without stopping or huffing and puffing, you may be working at too fast a clip. If, however, you don't have to stop occasionally to catch an extra breath, you may need to pick up the pace. Both your heart rate and your breathing should be elevated.

Myth 11

Eventually, your weight and fitness level will plateau.

Sure, but it's temporary. Just keep at it and periodically (every two to three weeks) "up the ante" by changing the frequency, duration and intensity of your exercise. You should continue to see results if you continue to challenge yourself.

Myth 12

If you are experiencing joint pains, you shouldn't exercise.

Wrong! People with joint pains and osteoarthritis can improve their condition by keeping joints mobile and active. Fitness training will also help keep bones dense and strong, increase blood circulation, relieve stress, increase immunity and protect the heart and other muscles from atrophy. A good exercise to try might be swimming. Because the water supports your weight, exercising in water allows you to get strong without putting stress on arthritic joints.

Myth 13

If all you're doing is walking, you don't have to worry about warming up, stretching and cooling down.

Sorry, you still have to worry. Soft tissue injury is a possibility even if you're "just" walking - an exercise that can be every bit as intense as running. The best way to avoid injury is to spend five minutes moving at a steady, comfortable pace until your muscles are warmed up and you break a sweat. Then, either move on to your exercise of the day or walk at the right pace for elevating your heart rate to the proper level. When you're done, cool down by tapering off the pace gradually. Walk or train slowly for three to five minutes. Then, stretch, breathe and drink more water. Because your muscles are warm, this is a great time to stretch. Warm muscles are more flexible, and you're unlikely to hurt yourself, says Ann Toglia, fitness consultant from New York City.

Myth 14

If you do enough abdominal crunches, you will have a flat abdomen.

Probably not. While sit-ups and crunches can strengthen your abdominal muscles, they can't get rid of the fat. To burn fat and flatten your belly, you need to burn more calories. Once you've gotten rid of the fat, your stomach muscles will be more visible. Crunches come in handy here if you're in pursuit of a washboard stomach. But think twice before you put in the time and effort to achieve those rippling muscles.

           It's interesting to note that what looks ideal (big, bulky muscles, washboard abs) may not be what's healthiest. As you start your exercise program, remember that your reflection in the mirror is not the most important barometer of success. Exercise's best benefits - longer life, improved health and mood aren't always manifested in a smaller jeans size. Get off the couch and we guarantee you'll start noticing a difference where it really counts: inside.



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