There are many myths around fitness that deserve a closer look. Here is a very brief list of some that need busting for good. Have a question about something you believe to be true? I’d love to hear about it!
MYTH – Cholesterol only comes from food
While cholesterol can come from some of the animal products you eat, such as meat, fish, eggs and whole milk, your liver naturally produces cholesterol. For some people, the liver makes more cholesterol than is needed. In those cases, high cholesterol is possible, but a balanced diet coupled with careful management will help keep levels in check.
MYTH – The best test for heart disease risk is the standard cholesterol panel
There may be better blood tests than HDL, LDL and Triglycerides to help identify heart disease risk. These are inexpensive and becoming considered far more accurate in identifying at-risk populations. Below are three to order on your own (yes, you can do that easily now) or ask your doctor to order.
Apolipoprotein B (ApoB)
ApoB indicates the number of cholesterol-laden particles circulating in the blood—a truer indicator of the threat to our arteries than absolute cholesterol levels, some researchers believe.
High-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP)
C-reactive protein (CRP) is a protein the liver makes as part of the body’s response to injury or infection, which causes inflammation. Inflammation plays a major role in development of atherosclerosis. High-sensitivity CRP (hs-CRP) tests might determine heart disease risk before any symptoms are present. Higher hs-CRP levels are associated with a higher risk of heart attack, stroke and cardiovascular disease. A measure of hs-CRP above 2.0 milligrams per liter (mg/L) indicates a higher risk of heart disease. Combining your hs-CRP test and other blood test results with your heart disease risk factors gives a more complete picture of your overall heart health.
Lipoprotein (a) (Lp(a))
Lipoprotein (a), or Lp(a), is a type of LDL cholesterol. Your Lp(a) level is determined by your genes and isn’t generally affected by lifestyle. High levels of Lp(a) may be a sign of increased risk of heart disease, though it’s not clear how much risk.
MYTH – Tight muscles need stretching
While it might be relaxing to stretch, you won’t lengthen muscles and it may not even resolve that “tight” feeling. There are many reasons muscles might feel tight. Stress, dehydration, chronic fatigue, illness and even muscular weakness can make muscles feel as though they are tight and need stretching. Next time your muscles feel tight, do a quick scan of what else is going on in your life that might figure into the picture. You might be surprised with what you find.
MYTH – You can lose weight merely by adding exercise
Exercise is great for mind and body, but the amount of calories you burn during exercise is very small compared to total daily expenditure. What’s more important is to have a robust metabolism. To get there, it’s important to stay relatively active throughout the day, reframing “exercise” as total daily movement. Also to keep in mind, if weight loss is a goal, you will get farther towards losing weight by dramatically reducing your consumption of low-quality, highly refined foods.
MYTH – Weight lifting turns fat into muscle
You can’t turn fat into muscle. Muscle and fat are two different types of tissue. Adipose tissue is found under the skin, between muscles, and around internal organs like the heart and liver. Muscle tissue is found throughout the body.
Weight training helps build muscle tissue in and around any fat tissue. To reduce fat tissue, eat a healthy diet that incorporates vegetables, complex carbohydrates (which are loaded with fiber), lean proteins and healthy fats like olive oil, avocado and fish.
MYTH – Brain Games and Puzzles Ward off Mental Decline
So-called “brain games,” word puzzles, and crosswords may be fun, but the evidence that they can maintain or improve brain health is spotty. That said, if you enjoy doing them, don’t stop, but there are plenty of other stimulating activities that can help you stay sharp. Aerobic exercise, learning a new skill and staying socially engaged are good activities to keep the brain active. There is also value in volunteering and engaging in activities you find challenging, such as learning a new language or a new instrument you’ve wanted to learn. The earlier you start challenging yourself with cognitively stimulating activities, the better your brain will function as you age.
MYTH – The goal of meditation is to clear your mind
This idea is simply not true and it can also be a big struggle for those new to the practice. If you think you’re doing it wrong, it’s easy to just give up and think you can’t do it.
Meditation is, in fact, all about watching the mind and trying to achieve a deeper control of its natural state through the awareness of thought. We don’t eliminate the tendency of the mind to jump from one thought to another. Some types of meditation actually emphasize being present and mindful to thoughts as they arise as part of the practice.
What surprised you from this list? Let me know!