Trust But Verify Your Fitness Facts
I hear, read and see lots of material on health and well-being. Sometimes the information is thorough and accurate. Sometimes the information is correct, but some facts are omitted. Here are a few things I still hear after many years in the fitness business.
BMI is not a valid health measure. Body Mass Index, or BMI, is a measure of body fat based on height and weight that applies to adult men and women. Some complain that this not a valid way to determine if someone is fat or not. The fact is, most Americans can use BMI to determine if they are overweight or obese, but for some this method is not useful. If you are an athlete or serious exerciser, you may have a high percentage of muscle mass. If you do, your BMI value will be inflated. When I was younger, teaching fitness classes and playing soccer, my BMI was just under 24. The recommended BMI is less than 24.9, so even though my actual body fat was around 18%, very lean for a woman, my BMI was very close to the upper end of the spectrum. A more accurate means of determining body fat, that is just as easy to calculate as BMI, is waist to hip ratio.
No pain, no gain. If I never heard this phrase again, it would be too soon. In the era of Boot Camp and The Biggest Loser, we’ve all bought into the myth that our workout must cause pain to be effective. Muscle soreness – yes, it happens. Is it sometimes uncomfortable to do something new for the first time? Yep. But as far as pain is concerned, that should be a red flag that you are doing too much. When I was working as a personal trainer, I found it useful to ask questions when a client told me that something was painful. I would ask them to describe their pain. Is it shooting pain, dull or achy pain? More often than not, pain was the word used to describe an action that was hard or uncomfortable. Perhaps this is the origin of the no pain, no gain philosophy?
Work out in the Fat Burning Zone to lose weight. This one has been around for as long as I can remember. When you work out at a lower intensity, the fat burning zone, you are, theoretically, burning more calories from fat. The problem is, your total calories burned is lower than it would be if you worked out at a higher intensity. For example, if you perform 30 minutes of low-intensity aerobic exercise (i.e., at a level of 50 percent of maximal exercise capacity), you’ll burn approximately 200 calories. About 120 of those, or 60 percent, come from fat. However, exercising for the same amount of time at a high intensity (i.e., 75 percent of your maximal exercise capacity) will burn approximately 400 calories, and 35 percent of them, or 140 calories, will come from stored fat. In the end, total calories expended vs. calories consumed, plays a bigger role in weight loss success.
The bottom line for understanding health and fitness is to know the facts. If you rely on the catchy headlines of a story or the sound bites on television or radio, you are likely missing out on important facts about fitness. Just as you do with your health care, you have to be a smart consumer of fitness information.