Myth #6: It takes too much time to eat right and exercise
Reality Check: It doesn't take as much time as you may think
One of the biggest misconceptions about physical activity is that it has to come all at once--the reality is that you can accumulate activity with short bouts throughout the day. In 2001, researchers reported in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition that either two bouts of 15 minutes or three bouts of 10 minutes result in similar aerobic benefits to 30 minutes of continuous activity. Also, another 2001 study, published in the journal Health Psychology, concluded that exercising for just 10 minutes improved mood, boosted vigor, and decreased fatigue.
And keep in mind that you don't have to make changes overnight--in fact, it's better if you make small incremental changes that will last. That means if you're sedentary now, you don't have to be jogging 30 minutes a day next week. Actually, you shouldn't be doing this. By approaching exercise in small chunks in the beginning, you can start stacking up successful workouts--building your confidence along the way and making it more likely that you'll stick with your new habit.
As for good nutrition, eating a healthy diet often just takes the split second required to make better food choices at the supermarket or a restaurant. For example, it takes no more time to pick up a few apples and oranges rather than grab a carton of cookie dough ice cream. It's no more trouble to throw a box of whole-grain cereal into your shopping cart instead of a box of Froot Loops.® The same goes for ordering the low-fat vinaigrette dressing at lunch rather than the full-fat blue cheese. Little choices like these throughout the week don't take any time but make big differences in the amount of calories you end up eating.
You don't even have to give up going to fast-food restaurants altogether. They shouldn't be a habit, but as with the grocery store and restaurants, it just takes making better choices--don't super size; instead of soda, drink nonfat milk; go for salads with light dressing and grilled chicken instead of the burger with cheese and bacon.
Myth #7: I won't be able to enjoy my favorite foods
Reality Check: As long as you have a generally healthy diet, occasional indulgences are OK, and there are ways to make your favorite dishes healthier and just as tasty.
If you believe this myth, you're not alone. In a national survey conducted by the American Dietetic Association in 1999, not wanting to forego favorite foods was the most frequent reason given by people who said they weren't doing anything more now than they were two years ago to eat a healthy diet. That's too bad, because this "all or nothing" attitude toward nutrition is self-defeating. You are not a machine, immune from the temptations of the chocolate mousse as the waiter wheels the dessert cart to your table.
But as long as you eat an overall healthy diet, there's nothing wrong with indulging occasionally. "There's no reason you have to give up hot fudge sundaes or French fries," registered dietitian Diane Quagliani said in a press release when announcing the American Dietetic Association survey results. "All foods can be a part of a healthful eating plan--it's all a matter of minding how often and how much you eat of some foods."
It's also possible that eliminating all those enticing foods from your menu will make them all the more alluring, and you just may end up gorging if you can't stand it anymore. But by allowing yourself periodic "cheat" foods, you'll satisfy a craving in a controlled way. Aside from treating yourself on occasion, there also are ways to make your favorite foods healthier-without sacrificing flavor.
Myth #8: No pain, no gain
Reality Check: While exercising may cause soreness, pain doesn't have to be part of your fitness routine.
With exercise, especially if you're new to it, there is some normal level of discomfort. After all, you're jolting your body from its resting state, making it jump into action, and causing changes all the way down to the cellular level. That's how your body gets stronger.
But just how intense and uncomfortable does exercise have to be? Activities that are intense or long in duration--such as running for a distance--can give health benefits beyond less-strenuous exercise. But the pace of a brisk walk is sufficient to boost the heart rate to a level benefiting overall health, according to researcher Kyle McInnis at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. When he asked obese men and women to maintain a "brisk but comfortable" pace while walking, the subjects all reached recommended exercise intensity levels.
"You really can get your heart rate up to the level that your doctor would recommend, and you don't have to jog or run to do it," McInnis said in 2003. "A large segment of the population still believes exercise must be vigorous, demanding, or involve more complicated activities than walking to adequately raise their heart rate. This perception of 'no pain, no gain' can discourage people from starting to exercise at all."
That's not to say that you won't feel some soreness after a workout. But be aware of pain caused by injury. "Good" soreness tends to be symmetrical--you'll feel it in both legs, say, from doing the squat exercise. "Bad" pain is typically on one side-your left knee, for example, after doing those squats. Also, there's a difference between joint pain (not good) and muscle pain (usually OK). Joint pain tends to be very specific, and you'll know the exact spot that hurts-which usually is on or near the joint. Muscular pain is more diffuse.
Myth #9: It's inevitable that I'll gain weight as I age, so it's not worth fighting it
Reality Check: Exercise can counteract the natural tendency to gain weight with age
It's true we tend to put on pounds the older we get-at least in our middle years. Researchers at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine followed more than 5,000 Americans for 20 years starting in 1971, and found that people put on weight until middle age, stabilized, and then started to lose weight around the age of 60. The causes may include hormonal changes (for example, women undergo shifting levels of estrogen) and a genetic predisposition.
So if it can't be helped, why worry about it? Because other causes of age-related weight gain are under your control--one of the most important being strength training. From our mid-20s to our mid-50s, every year on average we lose one-half pound of muscle and add a pound of fat. Not good, when you consider that muscle tissue burns more calories than fat, and so our metabolism slows down by 5 percent every year.
But through resistance training, you can counteract that muscle atrophy and actually put on muscle. Add in other lifestyle changes--like aerobic exercise and eating wisely--and you'll defeat the middle-age spread.
Myth #10: I have to join a gym or buy expensive equipment to get in shape
Reality Check: You can exercise just about anywhere, anytime, and with minimal equipment
Late-night infomercials want you to believe that fitness can be found in a contraption you can buy with three easy payments of $19.99. But exercise doesn't require complicated machines-you even can do some challenging exercises using just your body weight. Take Stephen Gatlin, founder and CEO of Gatlin Education Services. He's a regular runner, but he also adds push-ups to his fitness routine on a regular basis-"50 good, solid push-ups in a row," he says. "It doesn't do a whole lot of good to cheat yourself."
True, joining a gym can give you access to a personal trainer and plenty of weights and machines, and being around other people exercising can be a good source of motivation. But working out at a health club isn't necessary to lead a healthy lifestyle. Stash a pair of dumbbells and a medicine ball under your office desk or in the garage, and you have a miniworkout facility at work or home.
Now that these health and fitness fictions have been uncovered, it's time to get started on the path to exercise and good nutrition. And the best place to begin is with a quick assessment of your current level of fitness.
This article was excerpted from The Entrepreneur Diet. Buy it today from EntrepreneurPress.com.