Jonathan is 50 years old. He came into my office with a host of problems. His main problems were lack of energy and being overweight, and he also suffered from a low-level, mild depression. He had read some information about the benefits of exercise, but the material he was reading wasn’t entirely accurate. He then proceeded to tell me that he started exercising on his own, but it had no positive effect on his weight, was making him even more tired and he was still depressed. He was now even more depressed after the disappointment of not seeing results. Jonathan also told me that he knew he would be doing better if he could only go to the gym. However, he had time and money issues in that regard. I explained to him that proper exercise should be helping him with all three of his difficulties and that we would have to take a close look at what he is doing to refine his routine and figure out the best course of action.
We have a lot of perceptions about exercise that are true and probably just as many that aren’t true. Let’s take a look at some common myths about exercise and what the proper way is to go about achieving your exercise goals:
“I need to go to a gym to get an effective workout.” Gyms are certainly a convenient place to get a workout. You generally have a nice selection of different types of equipment there. It’s air conditioned and you can take a shower before getting dressed after your workout. The gym counselors or trainers are there to show you how to use the equipment and how many reps and sets you should do. But, the gym isn’t for everyone. You might have to wait for equipment to become available. You might feel uncomfortable working out with people on a higher level than you or for many, being overweight can also make one feel self-conscious. Also, in gyms where people don’t clean up after themselves, you can easily pick up various bacteria on the equipment. If you can walk, run, or bike outdoors, and do some dynamic exercises using your own weight (like push-ups and abdominal exercises), you can progress nicely in increasing your fitness and gaining overall health. Some like to invest in having one piece of aerobic equipment (like a treadmill, bike or elliptical) in their home so that when the weather is bad, they have that alternative.
“Exercise doesn’t work for me.” Exercise has been proven to be an effective way of managing a healthy weight, achieving performance goals and improving overall health. There are a variety of reasons why someone might feel like exercise doesn’t work. Novice exercisers often become frustrated if they don’t immediately achieve results; many fitness programs promote false-hope promises like losing 10 pounds in 30 days; and sometimes people enter into an exercise routine with great intentions but start too hard too quickly and burn out. The key to success is to go into exercise with a lifestyle change mindset. And, choose a type of exercise that you find pleasurable or mix up your routine if you’ve hit a plateau.
“I need to work out intensely in order to achieve results.” Simply not true! Walking, biking, using any aerobic machine or swimming, even at a moderate pace, are great forms of exercise and can be effective at improving overall health for many individuals. Since walking is the easiest and involves no expense, let’s expound on that. Walking provides innumerable physical, mental and emotional benefits. In fact, walking is one of the oldest forms of exercise. Hippocrates said, “Walking is a man’s best medicine.” And according to Harvard Health, walking improves cardiovascular factors such as cholesterol and blood pressure; protects against obesity and diabetes; and protects against depression and dementia. The best part about walking is that it’s light on the joints and can be done every day, virtually anywhere. Walking is an ideal mode of transportation and a great way to expend extra calories throughout the day. Try walking on your lunch break or taking the stairs to burn more calories throughout the day.
“I should drink sports drinks during and after exercise.” For most exercisers, only water is necessary. Sports drink companies have been effective in using marketing tactics to make people believe that sports drinks are the perfect recovery beverage. Non-diet sports drinks contain high amounts of sugar, which hinders weight loss goals. Anyone who exercises fewer than 60 minutes at a low to moderate intensity should only need water. Anyone who performs more than 60 to 90 minutes of high intensity exercise may require an electrolyte or carbohydrate replacement.
“I need to sweat a lot or I am not working hard enough.” Sweating is not necessarily an indicator of exertion. Let’s face it. Some people sweat more easily than others. Sweating is the body’s method of cooling itself. According to Elizabeth Kovar MA, many people associate sweating with burning more calories, but it’s the heat that contributes to sweating and not necessarily the effort. Those who don’t sweat easily shouldn’t discredit their efforts since it is possible to burn a significant amount of calories without pouring sweat.
And so Jonathan and I went over what it was he was doing, and it became evident very quickly that although his intentions were good, he needed some guidance in what a balanced exercise program is. The very first problem was that he was trying to run fast for as long as he could every day. He wasn’t getting very far as he wasn’t in condition and didn’t understand what “building up” was all about. Because he chose this path, he was ending up not even getting 12 minutes of exercise in each day. Jonathan also wasn’t hydrating properly for exercise or even doing enough drinking during the day. Also, there was no muscle building or stretching going in his routine.
The first adjustment was for him to walk 4.5 minutes and jog 30 seconds over a 30 minutes period of time. This was doable for him and got him to the minimum 30 minutes of aerobic exercise. We got him to drink water throughout the day, everyday so he was getting 10 cups per day and then when he exercised, he drank an extra cup before and 2-3 cups afterwards. I gave him 6 simple stretches to get started with after his walk-run, and I taught him how to do push-ups and sit ups that were simple and easy to accomplish.
After two weeks, the first immediate result was an improvement in both the tiredness and the depression. After a month, his pants finally were feeling looser and he was beginning to lose some weight. Also after a month, his walk/runs now had a little more running going on too. But you don’t have to run! Even 30 minutes of brisk walking can accomplish a lot.
We all know that exercise is good for just about everything, but if you are just starting out, it is very important to get proper instruction so you do it correctly and in balanced way. Certainly we don’t want to take on too much too quickly. Exercising smartly and correctly will “add hours to your day, days to your year and years to your life.”