, Gloucester, MA

October 12, 2012

On the Mend: The truth and many myths about exercise

On the Mend Joe DiVincenzo
Gloucester Daily Times

---- — A good portion of the classic exercise axioms we used to live by are slowly being phased out of common language.

Fortunately, things like, “no pain, no gain” are now said more satirically than seriously. But there are still plenty of myths out there that could be hampering your attempts at getting in shape – and hurting you at the same time.

Unless you have a background in exercise science, it’s difficult to know which adages are true and which will land you in hot water. So if you’re an exerciser – avid or not – read on to debunk some of the misconceptions surrounding toning up.

“Exercise by itself will do the trick.” Exercise is only part of a broad formula needed to be healthy. It is true that exercise is a good way to catalyze the process of getting in shape, but the majority of your slimming down will come from controlling your diet. Think of that the next time you reach for a piece of candy after a hard workout – reward yourself with some veggies instead.

“Working out at a low intensity for a long period of time burns fat best.” If you want to metabolize fat, you need to work out hard – plain and simple. If the kind of exercise you participate in feels gentle and doesn’t exact too much strain, chances are it’s not exacting too much fat burning either. Plus, long-duration workouts subject the exerciser to a number of overuse-type injuries which can sideline you for weeks to months and really derail your fitness goals.

“Weightlifting will make me bulk up and look chunky,” a fear that women deal with more so than men, is one of the biggest myths in our entire gym and exercise culture. Weight loss is directly related to the percentage of lean tissue vs. fat tissue in your body. People who have more lean tissue burn fat and use calories more efficiently – all while looking better than those who shy away from strength training.

“Yoga will fix my back pain.” Yoga can be an amazing tool to keep the body limber and joints flexible. But it also involves a lot of forward bending – which is a big ‘no-no’ if you have the most common form of back pain – disc disease. It pays to know something about your injuries, so get checked out before deciding that a brand-new, high-intensity stretching program is exactly what you need.

“I won’t benefit from exercise because I’m overweight.” As long as there aren’t any major medical issues preventing you from hitting the gym, everyone can benefit from exercise. Not everyone responds to exercise optimally, though, and it’s good to keep that in mind. If you’re starting from a low level, it may take a while before appreciable gains in health and fitness are actualized – but don’t give up – they’ll come if you stick with it.

“I’ll hit the gym after I lose some weight.” It’s a cruel world we live in that you have to look good before you can go exercise – so you can look good. But it is true that many of us don’t feel like we’re in shape enough to be seen in the gym. Try to remember that most gym goers are normal people with jobs just trying to exercise when they can. It’s very likely that you’ll blend right in.

Gloucester resident Joe DiVincenzo is a physical therapist and clinical specialist in manual therapy. He writes “On the Mend” weekly. Questions may be submitted by email to