Debunking Four Fitness Myths and Misbeliefs

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Debunking Four Fitness Myths and Misbeliefs

It’s the start of a new year, which means goals and resolutions. And it means swearing that this will be the year to get — and stay — active. Sadly, roughly 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail. Why? In many cases, resolutions, or goals, aren’t specific enough. In other cases, those resolutions are too big and too overwhelming, paving the way to failure. However, don’t be swayed by this grim statistic. You CAN succeed at making physical activity a regular part of your life. One way to do this is to address common misbeliefs and myths that act as barriers to a more active lifestyle. Let’s debunk these once and for all.

Myth #1: You should exercise every day.

The 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition, recommend that adults aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity each week. A suggested way to achieve this amount is to be active for at least 30 minutes every day. But 30 minutes can seem a like a lot, even for the most dedicated person.

Make it work for you

If you’re starting out with regular physical activity, think about your week ahead and choose days that will work best for you to fit in some activity. Mark those days on your calendar or in your phone so that you’ll commit. Over time, you may find that you can squeeze activity into other days of the week, too. Another tip that helps boost activity: Move for a few minutes every hour that you’re awake. Climb some stairs, walk to the mailbox, march in place while watching television — you get the idea!

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Myth #2: You’re exercising to lose weight.

A successful weight loss plan includes making dietary changes (eating lower-calorie foods, watching portions, eating more mindfully) as well as increasing physical activity. However, if you’re exercising in hopes of shedding some pounds — without taking a good hard look at your food choices and eating habits — you may end up disappointed and discouraged. Some health experts believe that physical activity is most important for keeping off the weight that you’ve lost. And most health experts believe that, while exercise alone isn’t sufficient for weight loss, it IS important for so many other health reasons, including better blood sugars, lower blood pressure, and stress reduction (to name just a few).

Make it work for you

Don’t give up on physical activity if you want to lose weight. But reframe your approach: As you find time in your schedule to move more, also find time to look at your eating habits. Think about what may need to change so that you can meet your weight goal. If you’re feeling stuck, meet with a registered dietitian for a more individualized approach.

Myth #3: Resistance exercises are a waste of time and will only bulk you up.

Maybe your goal IS to bulk up (muscle-wise, that is). But maybe you really want to tone up and trim down. So why bother using weights or resistance bands? Here’s why: resistance exercises increase your muscle mass, strengthen your bones and heart, gives you more energy, improves balance, and yes, can help you keep weight off. Still worried about bulking up? Keep in mind that body builders combine intense resistance training with a diet designed to increase muscle mass. Also, fitting in resistance training at least two days per week can help you achieve those health benefits without increasing the size of your arms or legs.

Make it work for you

If the thought of using weights or bands is less than appealing, focus on using your body’s own resistance, instead. Not sure what exercises to do? Check out these core exercises from the Mayo Clinic (but first check with your doctor before getting started). You might also consider signing up for a few lessons or pointers with an exercise physiologist or a certified personal trainer.

Myth #4: You hate going to the gym so you can’t (won’t) be active.

Gyms are not for everyone, and with COVID-19 still running rampant, it’s understandable that a gym or fitness center is the last place that you want to be. Don’t let your dislike of gyms prevent you from being active, however. A dislike of going to the gym may stem from an even deeper dislike of exercise (gym or no gym). Maybe you were the last kid in gym class to be picked for a team or you struggled to run around the high school track. Maybe thoughts of sweating, huffing and puffing, and being altogether uncomfortable are what’s holding you back. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to be more active that don’t have to feel like exercise. Walking is a first choice for many people — you can go at your own pace, wear comfortable clothes, and walk with a friend to help make it more fun. Challenge your old notions and experiences and ask yourself if they are still relevant.

Make it work for you

Come up with a list of at least three types of activities that you enjoy (or might enjoy) doing. Walking might be one, but explore other options: dancing, using exercise equipment such as a stationary bike, doing active video games, using exercise videos or exercise apps, or taking an online class (search for classes that best fit your own needs — here’s an example, but there are plenty of others).

Make 2022 the year that you focus on taking care of you. This includes finding ways to be more active and then committing to a plan. Need some help? Check out the Move Your Way Activity Planner at Home to get you on your way.

Want to learn more about exercising with diabetes? Read “Add Movement to Your Life,” “Picking the Right Activity to Meet Your Fitness Goals” and “Seven Ways to Have Fun Exercising.”

Amy Campbell, MS, RD, LDN, CDCES

Amy Campbell, MS, RD, LDN, CDCES

Amy Campbell, MS, RD, LDN, CDCES on social media

A Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator at Good Measures, LLC, where she is a CDE manager for a virtual diabetes program. Campbell is the author of Staying Healthy with Diabetes: Nutrition & Meal Planning, a co-author of 16 Myths of a Diabetic Diet, and has written for  publications including Diabetes Self-Management, Diabetes Spectrum, Clinical Diabetes, the Diabetes Research & Wellness Foundation’s newsletter, DiabeticConnect.com, and CDiabetes.com

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