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introducing any changes to your diet or level of physical activity.

Living Well : Physical Activity

Test Your Activity Acumen

"No pain, no gain," right? Wrong! Get the facts behind 4 common exercise myths

Knowledge is power

Physical activity can be very important. There are a lot of myths and confusion about what activity can do or what kind of activity is best. Here are 4 common activity myths dispelled.

If you want to lose fat from your thighs, you need a workout that targets your thighs.

Some people think sit-ups burn belly fat, leg lifts trim the thighs, and neck rolls will wipe out a double chin. That’s not how it works. Where your body stores fat depends on your genes and your hormones. Regular moderate aerobic exercise may keep fat from building up around your abdomen, but for the most part, you have little control over where your body burns fat. Resistance training will help your muscle tone. This can help you look thinner, but it doesn’t take away fat. Doing sit-ups will help your belly look a little less flabby, but it will not force your body to take fat from there.

When it comes to being active, “no pain, no gain.”

Of all the fitness myths, this may be the most harmful. Physical activity doesn’t have to hurt; you may not even need to break a sweat. You can improve your health by walking the dog or going up an extra flight of stairs. Some forms of strenuous exercise may make you sore a day or 2 later. If physical activity makes you feel pain as you do it, you may be working too hard—or, you may already have an injury. You may be hurting yourself even if you don’t feel pain. If you feel pain, during physical activity, stop—you may not be doing it right. Don’t forget to consult with your healthcare provider.

Only people with a normal body weight can be healthy.

No 2 bodies are the same. Your weight matters, but it is not the only measure of your health. You can be overweight and fit. Overweight people who are active and fit have less risk of heart disease and early death than people who are thin but inactive.

If I exercise, I can eat whatever I want.

Exercise burns calories, but it takes a lot of physical activity to lose one pound. It takes 25 to 30 miles of walking to lose one pound of fat. In an intensive aerobics class, the same pound would take 5 to 6 hours.

Physical activity is important. If you stay active, you are more likely to keep the weight off. But this benefit comes from more than burning calories. Exercise can help most by boosting your mood and your self-control, and by helping you be more aware of your body.

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