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Debunking common fitness myths

Misleading exercise ads continue to bombard us, on TV, the Internet and in magazines, all sharing special formulas on how easy it is to "lose here," and "firm there." Such false and unrealistic expectations are cunningly timed as we try to keep on track with our new year of resolutions.

"With the abundance of available information sources, it is easy to pick up erroneous fitness advice," says Dr. Cedric Bryant, chief exercise physiologist for the American Council on Exercise. "The key is looking to qualified, fitness professionals or reputable organizations for health and fitness advice to safely sort through the ever-increasing maze of misinformation." As you continue your fitness commitments for 2010, here are some myths to be aware of.

.Myth: Abdominal exercises will get rid of abdominal fat: It is true that abdominal exercises will strengthen and tone your muscles, but these are the muscles that lie below the fat. To lose fat anywhere in your body you need to eat less and exercise more. Aerobic exercise and strength training (whole body exercises) will reduce your body fat but there is no predicting where the body fat will be removed.

.Myth: If you stop working out your muscle will turn into fat: Muscle and fat are different tissues and one cannot automatically change into the other. If you stop exercising, the muscle tissue will atrophy, which will reduce the body's caloric burning rate. If you stop exercising and still maintain the same eating habits, you will slowly begin to gain weight.

.Myth: Running on a treadmill puts less stress on knees than running on pavement: "Running is a great workout but it can impact the knees, and since it's the force of your body weight on your joints that causes the stress, it's the same whether you're on a treadmill or asphalt," says Todd Schlifstein, D.O., a clinical instructor at New York University Medical Center's Rusk Institute Medical College "If you mix running with other cardio activities, like an elliptical machine, or you ride a stationary bike, you will reduce impact on your knees so you will be able to run for many more years."

If you are 50 or older and have not been exercising, check with your physician before beginning any exercise program. Trainer Sally Anderson is happy to hear from readers but cannot respond to individual queries. She can be reached at

This month we show you how to strengthen legs, glutes and abdominals. Mary Lee Brownstein, 73, and Betty Flachsmann, 61, demonstrate how at the Vinoy Tea Garden in St. Petersburg. -Sally Anderson

Side lunge with weights: Strengthens legs and glutes

Begin in a standing position, holding weights by your sides. Keeping right foot planted on the floor and leg straight, take a wide step to the left, bending left knee until thigh is almost parallel to floor. Push off left foot and return to original position; repeat move by stepping out to the right. Alternate moves 8 to 12 times. Tip: Toes should point forward throughout the exercise movement.

Chair pose with a twist: Targets abs and glutes

Standing with feet together, hold a weight in each hand, palms facing inward. Bending knees and keeping thighs together, bring weights together to the center of your chest; palms should continue to face inward. Contract abdominals as you twist to the right. At the same time, slightly shift hips to the right, opening out the elbows. Return to center and repeat move to the left, repeating 8 to 12 times. Tip: Do not let knees protrude forward.

Two-arm row: Targets back muscles

Stand tall with feet a comfortable distance apart, holding a weight in each hand. Bend forward until torso is almost parallel to floor, arms hanging down with palms facing inward. Keeping arms close to body, pull weights up and back toward sides of chest, never allowing elbows to flare out to the sides. Lower weights toward the floor and repeat 8 to 12 times.

Debunking common fitness myths 01/26/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 26, 2010 3:30am]
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