A month to change your heart: Day 20

There are quite a few myths out there about exercise.  Today, we will go over some of the popular misconceptions about exercise, and how to combat them.

  1. Muscle will turn to fat once you stop working out.  Muscle and fat are two completely different types of tissue in our bodies.  When you stop exercising, muscles begin to atrophy, or shrink.  While exercising regularly, and burning off calories, your weight may be perfect.  When the exercise stops, not only are you not burning off as many calories, but metabolism begins to slow down.  If you keep consuming the same amount of calories, fat cells will begin to swell, as will your weight.  These are two separate processes in the body, and the common denominator is the positive effects of exercise.  Hint: if you have to stop exercising, cut back on calories, and keep those fat cells nice and tiny.
  2. Muscle weighs more than fat.  One pound of muscle weighs the same as one pound of fat.  But, they would look very different.  One pound of muscle may appear to be about the size of a baseball, and one pound of fat will be two or three times the size and look like a quivering mound of yellow Jello.  Hint: try wearing a belt with five pounds on it around your waist for a day.  You will feel the difference in your back and fatigue levels.  Imagine how carrying around an extra 20 pounds would feel.
  3. You can reduce fat in your upper thighs by doing lots of leg lifts.  There are no exercises that you can do to reduce fat in areas of your body like your thighs and belly.  You can build up muscle in your biceps by lifting weight, but the only way to decrease fat in most other parts of your body is by aerobic exercise.  Hint: Don’t do crunches to flatten your stomach and try to get  six pack abs.  You may improve definition of the muscles in your belly, but it will not help to lose the fat
  4. No pain No gain is the mantra when exercising.  As we all get older, working through the pain can cause more and more problems.  If something hurts, stop and rest.  If it keeps coming back, see your doctor.  Hint: some minor discomfort during exercise is normal.  It is important to learn the difference between minor discomfort and actual pain
  5. Heart rate monitors are the key to a successful exercise program.  Heart rate monitors are getting cheaper and are now available inexpensively on devices like a FitBit.  It can be helpful to know your heart rate while exercising, but a cheaper and great way of monitoring your level of activity is to be able to carry on a conversation while you are exercising.  If you are slightly breathless but can still talk out loud while exercising, you are exercising at a reasonable level.  Hint: If you listen to music while exercising, it is still okay to talk to yourself once in a while to make sure you are staying within your limits
  6. All you need for weight loss is strength training.  Strength training two or three times per week for a half hour, after your aerobic activity, is a great way to complement your fitness.  It should not be your only form of exercise, and good aerobic cardiovascular exercise is key for weight loss.  Hint: Gentle weight training for strength and tone is important, but as you age, lifting weight to see how much weight you can do should be less important
  7. If you take a beta blocker that slows your heart rate, then you lose the effect of exercise.  This is not true.  Beta blockers will keep your heart rate from elevating, and your target heart rate will need to be lower if begin this medication.  You will still get all of the benefits of exercise even if your heart rate does not go up.  Hint: If you are on a beta blocker, and it not accurate to use your heart rate as a guide to how intense your workout should be.   Keep talking while you are exercising.  If you are slightly breathless but not panting, you are at the right level

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