Myths, Lies and Propaganda about Exercise
By Lt. Col. Bob Weinstein, USAR-Ret.
Throughout my career in the military I have come across a variety of tall tales about eating and exercise. The extent of misinformation is so great that you’d think we were dealing with Cold War propaganda. If a lie is told frequently enough it is treated as the truth. Here are some of the myths, lies and propaganda about exercise.
Exercise MYTH # 1: The best time to exercise is in the morning, because it jump-starts your metabolism.
The TRUTH: Exercise anywhere, anytime.
The best time to exercise is the time that fits your schedule. That can be morning, noon or nighttime. The enemy wants to rob you of any thought of flexibility so that you just surrender and do not exercise enough. Morning exercise will expedite the wake-up process, and you will feel energized. Mid-day exercise will energize and refresh you and help you overcome that afternoon grogginess. Nighttime exercise is an amazing stress-management tool that will get that blood circulation back up so you are really infused with the energy to enjoy the evening much more. Any morning versus evening metabolism, difference is insignificant compared to the overall benefit of exercising. It is propaganda from the enemy. This myth is busted.
Exercise MYTH # 2: If you do not exercise, muscle will turn into fat.
The TRUTH: Muscle does not and cannot turn to fat.
What a bunch of hogwash! The Wizard of Oz may be able to turn muscle into fat, but that is a fairytale, and the Tooth Fairy will not be able to help you on this one! Snap out of it, Soldier! Fat cannot and does not turn to muscle, and muscle cannot and does not turn to fat! Here’s what does happen. You burn off fat and build muscle OR you lose muscle and gain fat. Get that other propaganda out of your head!
Exercise MYTH #3: Running a mile burns more calories than walking a mile. The TRUTH: Both running and walking a mile burn the same amount of calories.
We called in our mathematicians for this one. They looked at us with a grin and said, “Give us something challenging. This is a no-brainer.” Running one mile and walking one mile both burn 100 calories. Walking a mile takes longer and therefore results in a burn of the same amount of calories. So why run? Because it works that cardio and, if you are looking for a calorie burn, running will burn more calories in less time than walking. Ask a mathematician. It is true.
Exercise MYTH #4: You must exercise continuously for 30 to 40 minutes to benefit your heart.
The TRUTH: Every bit of exercise adds to a heart benefit.
The enemy wants you to subscribe to the self-defeating All-or-Nothing Principle. The All-or-Nothing Principle: “If I can’t exercise continuously for 30 to 40 minutes, I’m not going to do it at all.” We have been created to do what we CAN do. Research supports the fact that every bit of exercise accumulates to an overall health benefit. Conversely, every bit of sedentary lifestyle accumulates to damage your health and your heart.
Exercise MYTH #5: A good sweat results in extra weight-loss.
The TRUTH: A good sweat is a good sweat.
I will tell you what a good sweat is! It is a good sweat! A good sweat results in extra water loss, not fat weight-loss. Need I say more?
Exercise MYTH #6: If you are injured, you should not work out at all, in order to allow your injury to heal.
The TRUTH: Movement promotes healing.
My reliable agents in the field have uncovered a couple of sources of this myth. It is possible that liability concerns of the medical community will play a role in the propagation of this misinformation. The truth: Movement promotes healing as long as it is done safely and under the guidance of your physician. Now, here is a big test question for you. Why is physical therapy prescribed for injuries? Yeah, I know. I already gave you the answer: Movement promotes healing and the regeneration of tissue.
Exercise MYTH #7: Focusing on abdominal exercises will help me lose that belly fat.
The TRUTH: This inspired me to get poetic.
You can crunch all day.
You can crunch all night.
You can crunch at bedtime and by the moonlight.
You can crunch it up.
You can crunch it down.
There ain’t no way you’ll lose a pound.
No! Abdominal exercises do not target belly fat loss. Do not believe those gadget commercials and, by the way, there is no Tooth Fairy.
Exercise MYTH #8: Stretching before exercise is essential to prevent injury. The TRUTH: There is no conclusive evidence that stretching prevents injury.
This myth is designed by the enemy to keep you from getting down to business and focusing on your cardio and strength training. Too much emphasis on stretching! The cardio benefit of stretching is almost zero. There is no conclusive evidence that stretching is essential to prevent injury. In fact, there are studies that suggest that stretching actually increases the muscles’ susceptibility to injury, which – according to the studies – causes the muscle fibers to lengthen and destabilize the muscle during strength training. Mild stretching should not really be a problem. My recommendation: Warm up the body before stretching, or perform mild stretches until warmed up. Another option is to stretch briefly between sets.
Exercise MYTH #9: Never eat before a workout.
The TRUTH: Eat before your workout.
The enemy would like Americans to run out of energy and get weak. Now, if someone said to you, “We’re going take a drive. Make sure you don’t get gas,” I think I can visualize that look of astonishment on your face! Food is fuel, and you need it for your workout. However, do not overeat. If you have an evening workout, make sure that lunch is not the last meal you had. In addition, if you do not have time to get a decent meal, eat a banana, a sports shake or an energy bar. There is no excuse for not getting some good-quality nourishment in preparation for a good-quality workout.
Exercise MYTH #10: Strength training with weights will make women bulk up.
The TRUTH: No! Strength training will not bulk women up.
The enemy wants to keep our women weak. Do not let it happen! Ladies, you will not bulk up with strength training. Most women’s bodies do not produce enough testosterone to become bulky like those big guys on TV. Proper strength training will enhance your appearance and strength. In addition, if you are still concerned, just concentrate on doing high reps. That strategy is very healthy for your muscles because you will also be increasing your muscle endurance and not just your muscle strength.
Exercise MYTH #11: You should only start strength training after losing excess weight.
The TRUTH: Strength training is great for weight-loss.
Here we go again. The longer the enemy can delay an American getting on an exercise program, the greater the chances of defeat and another healthy lifestyle will be shot down by a myth before it even takes off. Movement is always healthy as long as you are not hurting yourself. Of course, in the beginning, exercise may very well hurt your feelings. If you feel that coming on, just go to my website NoMoreCryBabies.com. Strength training is a definite plus when you are in the process of losing excess weight. Cardio is also essential. Just follow that principle of doing what you can do, and do not forget to say to yourself and others how much fun you are having.
Exercise MYTH #12: If you do not exercise hard and often, it is a waste of time.
The TRUTH: All exercise benefits your health.
The human body was created for movement and not a sedentary lifestyle. Every bit of exercise you can integrate into your daily life will enhance your health and wellbeing. It is a myth that you must exercise hard and often to reap any health benefits. Eat right; exercise regularly; think predominantly positive thoughts; focus on those worthy life goals; focus on leaving your mark on this earth by serving others and benefiting your fellow man and woman. That is a recipe for a healthy life.
Exercise MYTH #13: You will burn more fat if you exercise longer and keep your heart rate in the “fat burning” range.
The TRUTH: You will burn more fat when you increase the intensity.
It is time for math class, again. Yes, it is true that the percentage of fat you are burning with a low-intensity workout is higher than a more intense workout with a heightened heart rate. Nevertheless, here is the fatal math error. With a low-intensity workout, you are burning fewer calories. With a high-intensity workout, you are burning, overall, more calories and are therefore burning more fat, even though the percentage of fat burn is decreased. This means that all those treadmills with those fat burn indicators are not only robbing you of a calorie burn, but are also robbing you of a good cardio and strength-training workout.
Forget those gadgets that measure your heart rate, and get back in touch with your body by using what is called perceived exertion. You can tell whether your workout is light, medium, hard, very hard, or brutal. Use that as a gauge. In addition, remember: You want to get your heart rate up, to improve your cardiovascular condition. Otherwise, those disease-related enemy soldiers will be knocking at your door.
Exercise MYTH #14: You must stay away from strength training while trying to lose weight, since it will cause you to bulk up.
The TRUTH: All exercise, both cardio and strength training, is essential during a weight-loss program.
This one may tie in with the other myth that fat can turn to muscle. All exercise, both cardio and strength training, is essential during a weight-loss program. If you do not perform strength training, your body will begin practicing cannibalism. Moreover, guess whose muscle mass your body will eat? Your own! That is not science fiction. If you are not using and maintaining your muscle, you will lose it. Your metabolism will slow down even more, and your health will suffer.
Exercise MYTH #15: Stress speeds up the metabolism and burns more fat.
The TRUTH: Stress causes the body to burn fat slower and may result in increased fat retention.
Exercise MYTH #16: Jogging and running will make a woman’s breasts sag.
The TRUTH: This is not a myth! Jogging and running will make a woman’s breasts sag, if she does not wear proper support.
Wear a sports bra and do not even think of eliminating excellent cardio from your workout. Walking is for people who cannot run, and I hope you are not in that category. If you do not wear a good sports bra, exercising can make your breasts sag more quickly, says Peter Bruno, M.D., an internist in New York City. High-impact activities, particularly jogging or aerobics, can stress your Cooper’s ligaments, the connective tissue that keeps breasts firm. According to the American Council on Exercise, compression bras work best for smaller-busted women. The more well endowed (typically a C cup or larger) should opt for an “encapsulation” bra that supports each breast separately. Replace workout bras every six months to a year.
Exercise MYTH #17: I cannot lose weight because it is in my genes.
The TRUTH: No! Your genes do not have the last word. Eating right and exercising regularly will have a positive impact on your weight regardless of your genes. Lack of exercise and bad eating habits will have a negative impact on your health regardless of your genes.
You have no influence over your genes and, in some cases, there is a propensity for weight gain that is in the genes. But wait. The truth is exercise and healthy eating will have a positive impact on you regardless of your genes. This means that if you have the propensity to gain weight or get certain diseases, exercise and eating right will still reduce the impact.
Your lifestyle choice could have a negative impact on the development of your genes for future family generations. There is new evidence for what is called environmental inheritance, a radical theory of transgenerational genetic adaptation proposed by Professor Marcus Pembrey of the Institute of Child Health, University College of London in the mid 1990’s. Simply put, your lifestyle of poor food choices or overeating or not exercising could lead future family generations to have a propensity for being overweight or having certain diseases or even smoking. The good news is that your healthy lifestyle may have a positive impact on the development of your genes for future generations.
Author: Lt. Col. Bob Weinstein, USAR-Ret.
Please mention the author when using this article.
Lt. Col. Weinstein, nationally known as the Health Colonel, has been featured on the History Channel and specializes in a military-style workout for all fitness levels on Fort Lauderdale Beach in South Florida. He is the author of Boot Camp Fitness for All Shapes and Sizes, Weight Loss – Twenty Pounds in Ten Weeks – Move It to Lose It, Discover Your Inner Strength (co-author), Change Made Easy and Quotes to Live By.
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