Recoil - - Contents - BY RYNE GIOVIANO

De­bunk­ing Fit­ness Myths

“Crunches are the best way to get a six-pack!” “Choles­terol is bad for you!” Re­gard­less of how much ex­pe­ri­ence you have in the gym, there al­ways seems to be some new study out or a health “ex­pert” who proves ev­ery­thing you’ve been do­ing wrong. For many, it can be down­right frus­trat­ing to think the work­out pro­gram you just started or the change you’ve made to your diet is now con­sid­ered com­pletely in­ef­fec­tive or point­less. Well, we’ve done the “heavy lift­ing” on some com­mon fit­ness myths in or­der to sep­a­rate fact from mar­ket­ing.


This may sound coun­ter­in­tu­itive, but chances are you need more long-du­ra­tion, low-in­ten­sity car­dio­vas­cu­lar ex­er­cise in your life. Th­ese days, ev­ery­thing is about high-in­ten­sity in­ter­val train­ing (HIIT), and how it’s good for ev­ery­thing fit­ness re­lated. While it’s un­doubt­edly good for goals like fat loss and improve­ment in many sports, it’s not nec­es­sar­ily the best or only choice for car­dio­vas­cu­lar train­ing.

Let’s talk about the many ben­e­fits of longer-du­ra­tion, low­er­in­ten­sity ex­er­cise. While it’s the slow­est en­ergy sys­tem our bod­ies have, it pro­vides the most en­ergy for us to use. Be­cause of this, it can im­prove our re­cov­ery from both ex­er­cise ses­sions and in­tense pe­ri­ods of ex­er­cise in gen­eral, like an in­ter­val­train­ing work­out.

One thing in par­tic­u­lar that low-in­ten­sity train­ing is ex­cel­lent for is the au­to­nomic ner­vous sys­tem. The sym­pa­thetic ner­vous sys­tem is part of our au­to­nomic ner­vous sys­tem and ac­ti­vates our fightor-flight re­sponse when we are feel­ing anx­ious, and our heart rate jacks up. On the op­po­site side, the parasym­pa­thetic sys­tem is syn­ony­mous with a rest and digest state where we’re re­laxed and have a lower heart rate. More ex­tended, slower ex­er­cise bouts last­ing be­tween 30 and 90 min­utes are great for get­ting our bod­ies to switch off that fight-or-flight re­sponse many of us are liv­ing in as a re­sult of daily stres­sors. This of­ten equates to lower stress lev­els, bet­ter sleep, and bet­ter re­cov­ery from ex­er­cise.

The big­gest knock on low-in­ten­sity train­ing is usu­ally that it’ll make you slower. “Train slow, be slow” is a com­mon say­ing in the fit­ness field with the main point be­ing that the lower in­ten­sity train­ing will neg­a­tively af­fect your speed and quick­ness. The thing is, though, that you don’t just start be­ing slow from one type of ex­er­cise modal­ity. If, say, you were only to do slow jogs for an hour and noth­ing else, per­haps there may be some truth to that, but that’s not the norm. A well-rounded pro­gram should have a mix of dif­fer­ent train­ing modal­i­ties, like lift­ing weights and high-in­ten­sity in­ter­val train­ing, which will eas­ily bal­ance out any of the per­ceived ad­verse ef­fects as­so­ci­ated with long, slow car­dio train­ing.

What this could mean for shoot­ing per­for­mance is ac­tu­ally pretty sub­stan­tial. When shoot­ing guns and ri­fles, breath con­trol is im­por­tant to ac­cu­racy. More in­clu­sion of this type of ex­er­cise can lower your rest­ing heart rate and im­prove re­cov­ery lead­ing to bet­ter ac­cu­racy in both stress­ful sit­u­a­tions and nor­mal ones alike. Need­less to say, pick­ing one or two days per week to in­clude a low­in­ten­sity jog can make a huge dif­fer­ence for you.


This is a wide­spread myth that has been around for a very long time. The ba­sic premise be­hind low choles­terol di­ets is that eat­ing choles­terol sup­pos­edly causes car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease through the buildup of plaque in the ar­ter­ies, which will even­tu­ally cre­ate a clot, which can re­sult in a heart at­tack or stroke.

So, be­cause of this, it would then make sense to re­duce your con­sump­tion of choles­terol, right? Well, not so fast.

Choles­terol is ac­tu­ally an es­sen­tial sub­stance that helps pro­duce hor­mones, cell mem­branes, and plays a role in cog­ni­tive func­tion, among many other things. There’s some ev­i­dence to show that di­etary choles­terol has lit­tle im­pact on blood choles­terol in most peo­ple.

Not to men­tion, a study done in 2009 showed that most peo­ple who suf­fer from a heart at­tack have choles­terol lev­els that wouldn’t be con­sid­ered high. It has even been re­ported that as many as half of all heart at­tacks and strokes oc­cur in peo­ple who have LDL choles­terol lev­els that are be­low the thresh­old for statin treat­ment.

What can you make of all of this? Choles­terol isn’t the boogey­man it’s made out to be. What’s worse, how­ever, is in­flam­ma­tion. This can be a cause of a

whole slew of health prob­lems up to and in­clud­ing heart at­tacks and strokes. This may even be the rea­son why statins ap­pear to work so well; they can help to re­duce in­flam­ma­tion. A re­cent ar­ti­cle from the British Jour­nal of Sports Medicine stated that coro­nary heart dis­ease isn’t caused by sat­u­rated fat or choles­terol in­take, but in­stead by chronic in­flam­ma­tion that can be re­duced with life­style changes like eat­ing a health­ier diet.

In­flam­ma­tion can come from many sources in­clud­ing sugar and pro­cessed car­bo­hy­drates like bread, soda, pasta, and break­fast ce­re­als. The best things you can do to re­duce your choles­terol are to slowly make life­style changes de­signed to im­prove sleep du­ra­tion and qual­ity, in­crease the num­ber of whole food sources like fruits, veg­eta­bles, meat, nuts, and seeds, ex­er­cise reg­u­larly, and man­age or re­duce your stress lev­els.


Walk into any gym, and you’ll see many gym-go­ers do­ing any num­ber of vari­a­tions of sit-ups, crunches, and twist­ing ex­er­cises (of­ten­times with ad­di­tional weight) with the in­tent on earn­ing their

way to a killer six-pack. We’ve heard for years that th­ese ex­er­cises, among many other ex­er­cises, are a great way to work their abs. While th­ese ex­er­cises may work your core mus­cles, you’re also pos­ing quite a risk to your spine.

Re­search from Dr. Stu­art McGill, pro­fes­sor of spine biome­chan­ics at the Uni­ver­sity of Water­loo, has proven many of th­ese ex­er­cises to be just aw­ful for your back long-term. The is­sue with twist­ing and bend­ing at the lum­bar spine (lower back) is that this is the area of the spine with the least amount of mo­bil­ity sug­gest­ing that sta­bil­ity and not mo­bil­ity is best for train­ing that area.

Each disc in your spine has a tougher ring around it with a mo­lasses-like fluid in­side. When you do a sit up, for in­stance, the spine will com­press and squeeze that disc forc­ing the fluid to one side and put pres­sure on the ring. Over time with re­peated bend­ing and twist­ing, this fluid can slowly work its way out of the disc and push on a nerve root lead­ing to back pain.

As al­luded to be­fore, sta­bil­ity ex­er­cises that fo­cus on re­sist­ing move­ment are the way to go. Ex­er­cises like planks, side planks, bird dogs, and the “stir the pot” are fan­tas­tic al­ter­na­tives that don’t in­volve bend­ing or twist­ing at the spine. Not only do a lot of th­ese ex­er­cises make train­ing safer on your lower back, but they also re­cruit more ac­ti­va­tion of deeper mus­cles than an ex­er­cise like a crunch when done with an ab­dom­i­nal brace tech­nique. To do the brace, imag­ine you were just about to get punched in the stom­ach. When you tighten up, you’ll be re­cruit­ing four lay­ers of ab­dom­i­nal mus­cles that ef­fec­tively cre­ate a corset around your mid­sec­tion and pro­tect your back. This tech­nique, com­bined with a full ex­hale, is con­sid­er­ably more ef­fec­tive at train­ing and im­prov­ing core mus­cle strength and sta­bil­ity as com­pared to tra­di­tional sit-ups and crunches.


So, there you have it. Some com­mon myths around fit­ness of­fi­cially de­bunked. While th­ese par­tic­u­lar myths just scratch the sur­face of all that’s out there, at least you can have peace of mind in know­ing you’re get­ting cur­rent in­for­ma­tion on the topic. For other com­monly held be­liefs around fit­ness and nu­tri­tion that we haven’t cov­ered, look to sci­en­tific lit­er­a­ture or at least a rep­utable source to sup­port any of the claims made. With all the mis­in­for­ma­tion out there, some fact check­ing can go a long way.


Look­ing to de-stress? Look no fur­ther than some lower in­ten­sity train­ing. For most of us, we’ve placed far too much em­pha­sis on high-in­ten­sity train­ing. Stress is stress re­gard­less of what it is.ja­coblund/is­tock­


Your liver makes about 3/4 of your choles­terol. If choles­terol was bad, would your liver pro­duce it? Be­lieve it: High choles­terol isn’t caused by what you eat. In fact, your choles­terol re­ally doesn’t tell you much about your heart dis­ease risk.Ce­cilie_Ar­curs/is­tock­

Health is­sues like obe­sity, strokes, heart at­tacks, and even Type 2 di­a­betes can be at least par­tially re­lated to higher lev­els of in­flam­ma­tion.vladans/is­tock­

The more you can train your core to re­sist move­ment, the health­ier your spine will be. The bird dog ex­er­cise pic­tured here is a fan­tas­tic spinal sta­bil­ity ex­er­cise that’s a sta­ple in many spine health and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion pro­grams.fizkes/is­tock­

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