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Exercise Myths

One of the definitions of a myth, according to Merriam-Webster, is “an unfounded or false notion.” Despite being inherently false, it seems like myths take on a life of their own, circulating for years, even decades after being disproven. Remember being told that if you sneezed with your eyes open, your eye balls would pop out? Or that if you drank soda while you ate Pop Rocks, your stomach would explode? And don’t forget the popular “drink a cup of coffee to sober up” line of thinking (sorry, this just creates a caffeinated drunk, but the person is no less drunk for it).

Many people cling to these ideas as if they’re gospel. Well, I’m here to address a few persistent exercise myths that just won’t seem to go away.

Myth #1: You shouldn’t swim within an hour of eating or you may drown.

Because the process of digestion directs blood to the stomach and away from the muscles, it may be uncomfortable for some people to swim (or jog, dance, or bicycle, for that matter) while their food is digesting, but many other individuals are able to tolerate it just fine. In fact, a small snack before exercise will give your body the fuel it needs for a quality workout. Bottom line – let your gut be your guide. If you feel fine exercising after a meal, go for it.

Myth #2: To get six-pack abs, you should do tons of sit-ups.

While it’s true that sit-ups and other exercises that work the core muscles (such as planks and bridges) are important for overall fitness, they are not the key to a washboard stomach. Every person’s abdominal muscles lie behind a layer of fat. In lean people, this layer of fat is thin and allows the definition of abdominal muscles to show through. In not-so-lean people, it’s the opposite. So don’t give up on the sit-ups, but if you really want six-pack abs, you’re better off investing your time in fat-burning cardio exercise.

Myth #3: Jogging will ruin your knees.

Remember the scientific principle “correlation does not prove causation”? It applies here. Yes, many people experience aching knees when they jog for a variety of reasons. They may have poor form or weak muscles and tendons. They may be overweight and are thus putting extra strain on their joints. They may have taken on too much activity too quickly and caused themselves an injury. They may pronate. Or supinate. Or have leg length discrepancies. Or any other of a thousand possible reasons for aching knees that are not caused by jogging, but which jogging brings to light. The good news is that each of these issues can be addressed, making jogging a much more pain-free time for your knees. And the best part? Regular activity actually helps to strengthen joints in the long run!

I’m no Mythbuster by any means, but I do love to educate people about the fitness myths that are keeping them from getting the workout results they want. Let’s put these myths to rest. Keep moving, my friends!

– Alan

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