Top 5 Exercise Myths

With a subject like fitness where there are lots of “experts”, but not many experts, there will always be a lot of disagreement about what’s right and what’s wrong.  There are so many myths about exercise and fitness – what works, what doesn’t, what happens – thatit can be really confusing.

Here’s 5 of the biggest exercise myths that have definitely been debunked:

Sit-ups / Crunches Get rid of Belly Fat

They don’t.  They help to condition and tone the underlying muscles, and they may help to give you a flatter stomach through tightening the area, however they’ll have a negligible impact on any subcutaneous fat.  To get rid of that, you need to eat a more sensible diet.

Steady Cardio Work is the Best Way to lose Weight

Lots of people think that running for miles on end is the best way to lose weight.  It isn’t if you want to lose weight through running, you need to smash out sprints like they’re going out of fashion.  Fartlek Running is much more efficient at helping you burn calories than just a steady pace.

Running on a Treadmill is Safer for Your Knees than Running on a Road

Ultimately, damage to your knees when running is done by your body weight crashing down through a joint many times over a period of time.  That’s going to happen whether you’re on the road or a treadmill.

Women Build Muscle Bulk if they Lift Heavy Weights

Without taking massive amounts of testosterone and vast protein supplements, women don’t get big just by lifting weights.  This misconception often means that women use 1KG weights in the gym for resistance for fear of becoming masculine.  Don’t worry, life weights that challenge you and you’ll get a better impact.

Stretching Before a Workout Prevents Injury

Actually, if the first thing you do when you walk into a gym is some extreme stretches, things are going to get bad pretty quickly.  If anything, stretching before you work out is going to do more harm than good.  What you should be doing is:

  • Warm up
  • Stretch
  • Lift
  • Stretch
  • Cool Down

Missing out on any of those steps is what increases your risk of injury.

Any More

What are your favourite (or least favourite) fitness myths?  Tell us below.

How Much Sleep Do You Need?

Wellness is not just about how fast you can run, or how much weight you can lift, it’s about how you feel as a person, and the health of your body.  One aspect of health that you can’t ignore is the need for rest, which raises the question of how much sleep do you need to remain healthy and fit.

Ultimately, every individual is slightly different – factors such as age, weight, general health, and level of activity have an impact on exactly how much sleep you need on a daily basis, but a rough guide would be as follows:

How Much Sleep You NeedAccording to the National Sleep Foundation study that led to this data, how much sleep you actually need steadily drops through childhood, and then remains relatively stable through adult hood – which suggests you need between 7 and 9 hours per night.

I know very few people who actually take between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night.  It seems like an awful lot – If you were able to take that much sleep, you’d either be late for work, or you’d be missing out on all the late night TV (not necessarily a bad thing).

Recent studies suggest that there are two parts to our sleep requirements:

  • Basal Sleep
  • Sleep Debt

These two elements combine to create our overall requirement for sleep.  The Basal Sleep is the minimum amount of sleep our bodies actually need to function.  This isn’t “wake up and feel great sleep”, but “you’ll fall apart if you don’t get it sleep”.  This is the amount that you as a baseline for your body.  This varies depending on your age.  Given that this type of sleep is associated with growth, and cell repair, you tend to need less as you get older because you aren’t growing as much.

How do you know if you're getting enough sleepThe amount of basal sleep you need is somewhere between 3-5 hours per day for an adult depending on your age – more if you’re younger.  On top of this you run up a sleep debt on a daily basis.  Not just the sleep you don’t get, but also the additional sleep that you need.  If you’re stressed, you’re not processing information properly during the day, so your brain needs more time at night, and if you’re training, you need additional sleep above the baseline to faciltate rest for your muscles, but also time for cell repair and growth.

The more you think and the more you do, the more you need to sleep – this is where the big variations are.  Someone who is training hard for an endurance event might need an extra 4 hours of sleep at night whereas someone who has a day off might need just one hour.

Repaying Sleep Debt

When most scientists suggest that you can’t recover sleep that you’ve lost, they typically mean that you can’t recover the basal sleep – once you’ve missed your opportunity, it’s gone forever, however you will still need to repay your sleep debts.  Training and work need to be covered to allow for the body to repair itself properly.  Lot’s of people catch up on their sleep at the weekend, and while this isn’t ideal, it seems to help them remain healthier than they otherwise might.

Are You Sleeping Enough?

Probably not.  There are probably very few people who get exactly as much sleep as they really need.  There are a number of factors that can show if you’re not getting enough sleep.  If you answer yes to any of these questions, then the chances are that you’re not spending enough time actually asleep – not resting:

  • Does your mind wander, even if you’re interested in a subject?
  • Do you always need an alarm clock to wake up?
  • Do you fall asleep within 10 minutes once you get into bed?
  • Do you feel stress frequently during your working week?
  • Do you get up much later than normal at the weekend?
  • Do people around you find you irritable?

It can be hard to fit it in to our daily routine, and even harder to motivate ourselves to go to bed, but the fact is, if you want to maximise your health and fitness, then adding enough time into your diary  for sleep is more important than finding time to get to the gym.

Superfoods for weight loss

There are a lot of myths about superfoods and weight loss from whether they offer any benefit at all through to what they are.

Quite simply, superfoods are foods which have quite high levels  phytonutrient content compared to other foods.  This means that they are generally considered to be better for you because they better meet the needs of your body to either promote better general health or fill another need such as improving your immune system.

Because they contain more concentrated nutrients than regular foods, it is thought that superfoods can help with weight loss plans because they reduce the need for as much food.  In fact, more intelligent choices of food can actually help to boost your metabolic rates and help you burn more calories.  Here’s our list of the top 5 superfoods for weight loss:

Oats

Eating a good bowl of fibre rich oats each morning will help to keep you feeling full, as well as boosting your metabolism throughout the day.

Black Beans

Black Beans are absolutely packed with protein, and have no saturated fat like meat, so they’re a great choice for building new muscle without building fat.

Salmon

Salmon dish

Delicious Salmon can help with weight loss

Salmon is leaner than red meat, and has more Mono Unsaturated Fats (MUFA).  A study in 2001 found that followers of a MUFA rich diet lost more weight than people on a dedicated low fat diet.

Avocados

Speaking of MUFAs, don’t forget avocados.  Delicious and packed with protein and fibre, its a satisfying addition to a lunchtime salad.

Brown Rice

Rice in general is heavy and filling, which means it keeps you satisfied throughout the day.  Swap out your white rice for brown rice which has more fibre and helps to boost your metabolic rate.

Blueberries

Blueberries are the super food that most people have heard of.  They’re packed with fibre, have relatively low calorie content, and are also known for their anti-aging effects.

Grapefruit

Grapefruit contains a compound that helps to lower insulin levels which can reduce the amount of fat you store.  Grapefruits are also high in water, vitamins, and protein.  Eating half a grapefruit before each meal could help you lose a pound each week!

Broccoli

Broccoli is a real love it or hate it vegetable, but that’s normally because most people overcook it and turn it into a mush of green floppiness.  Keep it almost raw so it’s crunchy, and you’ll also protect the nutrients and anti-oxidants.  Broccoli is just 30 calories per serving, and very filling which will help you lose weight.

Eggs

High in protein, and filled with vitamins, eggs are a great way to start the day, and their levels of cholesterol are much lower than you might think.  They’re filling so they keep you going in the morning due to their protein levels.

Pears

Don’t peel your pears!  Leave the skin on and you can get almost a sixth of your daily fibre needs in every pear meaning that they’ll fill you up more than apples and keep you feeling good.

Low-Fat Milk

Low fat milk contains plenty of protein to help muscle repair and in one medical study, women burned more calories when they took 1-1.4g of calcium a day.

Almonds

Almond superfoods

Almond Superfoods can keep you feeling full

We’re all tempted by snacks – usually ones with a high carb content or too much fat.  Almonds have been shown to help with weight loss as part of a low calorie diet because they help you feel full and satisfy your apetite.

Green Tea

Green tea is known for its high levels of antioxidants which increase your rate of fat burning.  Replacing your cups of coffee with green tea could help you lose lose weight while also boosting your immune levels and reducing stress.

Bananas

Eat your bananas slightly green, and they contain up to 12.5 grams of resistant starch to boost your metabolism and keep you feeling full.  When the bananas ripen, the volume of resistant starch falls somewhat, but they remain a great superfood for weight loss.