Are you guilty of spreading misinformation about exercise
and fitness? Here are 5 of the most common things we hear – just how true are
1. Sitting is the new smoking
We probably do sit too much, and physical inactivity isn’t
good for us, but “let’s not demonise a behaviour as normal as sitting,” says
Harvard professor of evolutionary biology Daniel E Lieberman.
“People in every culture sit a lot. Even hunter-gatherers
who lack furniture sit about 10 hours a day.”
That said, there are healthier ways to sit. ‘Active sitting’
means getting up every 15 minutes or so to wake up your metabolism, and
research shows this leads to better long-term health, Dr Lieberman also
suggests that if you sit all day for work, pick a leisure activity that doesn’t
involve lots of sitting.
2. Running will damage your knees
We tend to think of our joints a little like a
car’s tyres or shock absorbers – that they will eventually wear out with
overuse. Even though knees are a common site of running injuries, studies have shown that running, walking and other activities help keep
knees healthy, says Dr Lieberman, and runners are, if anything, less likely to
develop problems such as knee osteoarthritis.
He recommends learning how to run properly and train
sensibly, which means not increasing your distance by too much, too quickly.
3. You can’t be fat and fit
Several studies have found that the association between
early death and being overweight or obese disappears when fitness is taken into
account. When you are not active, you have a higher risk of heart disease,
diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, some cancers, depression and
Even though someone who is a healthy weight but inactive may
look OK, you can’t assume they are healthy.
“People who are fit and of normal weight have the best
health outcomes, so there are still plenty of reasons to try to shed some
weight,” says Professor Vandelanotte.
4. If you don’t sweat, you’re not losing weight
Not so. Sweat is how your body cools itself. It’s a
biological response that cools your skin and regulates internal body
temperature, and people vary considerably in how much they sweat. You can burn
a significant amount of energy without ever breaking into a sweat.
5. If you have a chronic disease, you should avoid exercise
“This is not the case,” says Julie Broderick, Assistant Professor of
Physiotherapy at Trinity College Dublin.
“Being more active will benefit a range of chronic
conditions, including cancer, heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary
disease. Be as active as your condition allows, aiming for 150 minutes a week
of moderate activity if possible.”
If you have complex health needs, make sure you consult your
doctor before starting a new exercise regime and get exercise advice from a
physiotherapist or other exercise professional.