Things People Say About Fitness That May Not Be True

Are you guilty of spreading misinformation about exercise and fitness? Here are 5 of the most common things we hear – just how true are they?

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 anxiety.

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.