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Health, Science

Getting Fit for the Summer? 3 Top Fitness Myths Revealed!

[Life's a beach]Exercise – you either love it or hate it. We’d all like to be strong, fit and athletic, but let’s face it – most of us aren’t. If you suffer with exercise-guilt, then fret not because you certainly aren’t the only one: Nine out ten of us stop going to the gym within 3 months of joining!

With only 40% of us managing to do the recommended amount of exercise, so be sure to check out these commonly-held exercise myths before you start to dust off your old trainers…

Fitness Myth 1: Exercise will make you Thin

Spring has sprung, and T-shirts and strappy vests have made a comeback. If you were planning on exercising yourself slim in time for summer, then here’s some simple advice – don’t bother! Exercising to lose weight sounds like a good idea, and it should make sense: Working-out burns off calories, meaning less of what you eat gets turned into fat. However, science has shown that the reality is really quite different. It might shock you to learn that to burn off just one pound of fat will mean running from Leeds to Nottingham (or 70 miles)!

Sadly, it doesn’t get any better when it comes to sweet indulgences either; cancelling out that extra doughnut will take you nearly two hours of cycling. Exercise is fantastic for getting fitter, stronger and healthier; but sadly, getting slim is extremely unlikely unless combined with a calorie-controlled diet.

Fitness Myth 2: More is always better

spinning 2

Overdoing it? It could be time to take a break.

Celebrities like Madonna and Elle Macpherson have proved that even 40 and 50-somethings can have a stick-thin physique. But these high-profile waifs are almost certainly wreaking havoc on their body with their gruelling regimes. Extreme-exercising could ultimately leave you with heart problems, arthritis and even hormone and fertility problems. Worryingly, some estimates have calculated world-class athletes to have a life-expectancy of 67 – which is ten years less than what it should be!

If you’re walking, running or cycling for more than five miles a day then be advised, because you could be over-stressing your body. It’s essential to make sure you get plenty of rest between workouts and if in doubt chat things over with a qualified personal trainer.

Fitness Myth 3: Getting fit means Early Mornings

Had you realised that the time of day makes a difference to how easy it is to exercise? Serious swimmers are known for heading to the pool before sunrise for a quick 50 lengths before starting their day. New research casts doubt on whether this is a sensible routine. It has been discovered that our bodies are programmed to exercise best between the hours of 4 and 5 in the afternoon. So, head down the gym early afternoon if you want to get the most out of your workout. Now if that isn’t a good excuse to leave work early, I don’t know what is…

My Hated Alarm Clock

Thank Goodness! You can have a lie-in and still get fit...

Thanks for reading – your comments and feedback are warmly welcomed!


Related Posts:

Research Shows Skinny People at Risk of Diabetes!

The Top 10 Medical Myths


References/More Info:

How much exercise should you be doing? Click here to find out (NHS)

Could you be over-exercising? (The Times)

Online Exercise Calorie Counter available here (WebMD)

Curioni, C., & Lourenço, P. (2005). Long-term weight loss after diet and exercise: a systematic review International Journal of Obesity, 29 (10), 1168-1174 DOI: 10.1038/sj.ijo.0803015

Lehmann MJ, Lormes W, Opitz-Gress A, Steinacker JM, Netzer N, Foster C, & Gastmann U (1997). Training and overtraining: an overview and experimental results in endurance sports. The Journal of sports medicine and physical fitness, 37 (1), 7-17 PMID: 9190120

Hill, D., Cureton, K., & Collins, M. (1989). Circadian specificity in exercise training Ergonomics, 32 (1), 79-92 DOI: 10.1080/00140138908966069

About Stuart Farrimond

I love writing about science and health subjects. Strange, because I also teach the same things. I trained as a medical doctor before turning my hand to other things. Shortlisted for The Guardian/Observer for Science Writer of the Year 2011 and editor for Guru Magazine I also like to grow large pumpkins...


9 thoughts on “Getting Fit for the Summer? 3 Top Fitness Myths Revealed!

  1. “…but sadly, getting slim is extremely [unlikely?]unless combined with a calorie-controlled diet.”

    C’mon doc – our ancestors (including your grandparents most likely) were leaner, but it’s not because they were counting calories. If you have to count calories to stay lean, surely you’re doing it wrong. A *different diet, with lots of exercise, would do the trick I should think. Perhaps fruit and veggies without fructose, butter, or gravy, and grilled steak or chicken instead of country-fried… And whole grains only, if you eat grains at all. I made such a change 4 years ago when I was 56, and permanently lost ten pounds in a season. I was already exercising a fair amount, but I also improved my stamina (perhaps from smoothing out the glucose response).

    Posted by kermit | May 11, 2011, 5:49 pm
    • Hi Kermit!
      Thanks for your comment 🙂
      I think you’re on the money; Calorie counting is a miserable way to have a sensible diet. Simply changing to more wholesome foods are definitely the way forward (which incidentally are generally more satiating and of lower calorific value – not to mention the vitamins and nutrients they contain).
      Alas, researchers need to quantify the effectiveness of lifestyle interventions and the easiest way to measure dietary change is in terms of calories (which is a bit of a shame really). But by all means, where it says “calorie-controlled” please read “more sensible and balanced” – I’d hate for people to think they must spend a lifetime reading the backs of food packets.

      And thanks for pointing out the typo – now corrected!!

      Posted by Stuart Farrimond | May 11, 2011, 7:04 pm
  2. I would like to add to Myth 2: exercise is definately not always good for you. Being a serious hockey player myself, I kept getting myself patched up so I could keep going. 6 knee operations later, and 2 foot operations – I can hardly make it round Tesco, and I’m not yet 50!
    I am envious of my husband, whose crowning sporting moment was Captaining the 8th team at rugby, he then sensibly stopped playing sport. He is now laughing, as he has no medical problems to speak of!
    A warning to younger fitties – DO NOT BELIEVE YOUR COACHES – excercise is not that good for you.

    Posted by Alice Jackman | May 11, 2011, 10:13 pm
  3. Have quite seriously limited physical movement & capacity so don’t do a lot exercise wise, though a bit of a fidgetter, usually some part of me that is moving, even when sitting down.

    Was 20 kg (44 pound) over weight. Stopped most carbohydrates (especially refined ones), and ditched most processed foods, no other changes to diet, still eat mostly plants (including a fair bit of mixed legumes), lost 10 kg in 3 months, and still falling, at a nice steady rate, with no other changes to lifestyle.

    Very happy with that!

    Posted by Sam | May 12, 2011, 12:13 am
  4. Also, agree with Alice. High impact exercise is not good for you.

    Posted by Sam | May 12, 2011, 12:14 am
  5. Great news I don’t have to get up early.
    Does anyone know how many calories it takes to play a fiddle . Would the calories expended in three hours of very fast playing add up to two pints of cider I wonder? How many calories do brains use ? Do three year olds brains use more calories than adults because they are learning more ?

    Posted by Ruth Behan | May 12, 2011, 4:15 pm
    • Loving the questions Ruth! 🙂

      Here goes:

      Calories burnt playing violin = 160 per hour
      Therefore 3 hours fiddle playing = 480 calories

      2 pints of dry cider = 400 calories
      (sweet cider is 500 calories for 2 pints)
      Best stick to the dry cider and you’ll be fine…

      The human brain consumes about 500 calories – or about a quarter of the normal total energy intake (which is why people on very low calorie diets find it difficult to concentrate)

      A 3 year old’s brain is much more metabolically active than an adults given their size. The 3-year-old brain still burns about 500 calories (which remarkably is about half of their total food intake).

      Just what is a three year old thinking about to burn up that many calories…?

      Posted by Stuart Farrimond | May 12, 2011, 7:11 pm

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