Fitness fact or fiction?

Being physically active - along with eating a healthy diet - can help you manage your weight. But there’s lots of misinformation out there about when, where and how you should be exercising. We reveal the reality behind the fiction.

1. Sweating a lot proves that you're working harder

Sweat is your body’s way of helping you cool down when you’re overheating. It doesn’t necessarily prove how hard you’re working – the temperature outside, other health conditions, medications and your weight all make a difference, and some people naturally sweat more than others, regardless of how hard they are working. If you’re fit, or used to doing a particular activity, you may not sweat as much.

Sweating woman

2. No pain, no gain

Pain is your body’s alarm system, which signals when we are about to harm ourselves

If you are in pain, you should stop the exercise that you’re doing. Pain is your body’s alarm system, which signals when we are about to harm ourselves and that we need to do something differently. Check that your posture and technique is right, and speak to an exercise professional if you’re concerned.

You can still be physically active and meet the government’s recommended 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week without being in pain. Moderate physical activity will make you feel warmer, breathe harder and make it more difficult to talk, but you should still be able to carry on a conversation – you certainly don’t need to be in pain.

If you have discomfort after exercise (e.g. you have sore muscles), this is known as delayed onset muscle soreness. This is fairly common when you start a new exercise programme, change your routine, or increase the duration or intensity of your regular workout. Try a hot bath, stretching well after your exercise session, or a massage. If it lasts more than a few days then see your GP.

Woman pushing herself at the gym

3. If you have heart disease you need to take it easy

If you have heart disease, regular exercise can reduce your chances of another heart event, help you control your weight, reduce blood pressure and cholesterol and improve your mental health – helping you to look and feel great. What exercise is suitable for you may depend on your heart condition and any other health issues – so check with your doctor before you start. If you’ve had a heart attack or heart surgery, a cardiac rehabilitation programme can help you start exercising in a safe, supervised environment.

Watching TV

4. There’s no point in exercising unless you can do it for 45 minutes or more

With exercise, every little helps. You don’t need to do a 45-minute block of exercise if doing three 15-minute bursts is better for you. It might also take a while to get up to this length. Being physically active is easier than you think, for example you could start with a 10 minute walk or cycle around your neighbourhood and gradually increase your speed or distance. Try to build it into your daily routine, but anything is better than nothing.

Timer for exercise

5. The best time to exercise is the morning

There is no reliable evidence to suggest that calories are burned more efficiently at certain times of day. Some people prefer mornings, as they may be tired in the evening and not feel like exercising, and other tasks might bump it off the to-do list. On the other hand, some people find that intense exercise before they go to bed makes it harder to fall asleep. The most important thing is that you find a time that suits you, so that you’re more likely to stick to it, and the physical activity is more likely to become part of your routine.

Man running in the morning

6. I can eat what I want because I’m exercising

There’s some truth in the saying “You can’t outrun a bad diet”. Regular exercise will burn calories but does not get rid of the damage that regularly eating foods high in salt and saturated fat can do to your health. If you’re trying to lose weight then it’s important to make changes to both your diet and level of physical activity. It’s fine to have a treat now and then, but try to eat a balanced diet, including lots of vegetables and wholegrains. This will help to give you the nutrients you need to maintain your exercise routine.

Burger meal

7. If you want to lose fat, exercise more

Resting is important to let your body recover from exercise, and proper sleep is important for weight loss or to maintain your routine. Try to have at least one or two days a week where you can relax and rest. This doesn’t mean you need to stay at home with your feet up, you could always do some gentle yoga or walking if you’d like to. If you are trying to shed fat, it’s important to have a healthy diet and limit the amount of high energy foods you eat.

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