Health and fitness fads and claims are in every magazine and on every talk show these days. While some health news proves to be valuable and true, there are even more claims out there that simply serve to confuse people and derail their efforts at getting fit and staying healthy.
Here are eleven debunked claims to kick to the curb in 2019 as you prepare for a healthy, happy 2020:
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Myth #1: E-cigarettes are better for you than regular cigarettes
When they first emerged in the market, e-cigarettes and other vaping devices were promoted as a healthier alternative to smoking. Many people bought into the myth and either traded their cigarettes for electronic versions or, shockingly, decided to begin the habit of vaping.
It didn’t take long for e-cigarettes to show how dangerous they really are. Not only can they spontaneously explode in users’ faces, but they also contain nearly as many cancer-causing chemicals and ingredients as regular cigarettes. New York City banned flavored e-cigarettes in November of this year, and other cities and states are expected to follow suit.
Myth #2: You must eat every four hours to be healthy
For years, health and fitness “experts” have sung the praises of “grazing” or eating small meals virtually around the clock. They claim that frequent snacking and smaller meals at regular intervals trick your body into burning fat and metabolizing calories.
There are a couple of problems with that approach. First, if you’re constantly grazing and snacking, it will be much harder to track how many calories you consume. Secondly, frequent meals cause your body to produce more insulin and store more sugar.
Intermittent fasting, or eating only during prescribed time blocks, has been proven to not only help stave off hunger and regulate insulin production, but it may also improve brain health. During periods of fasting, your body repairs its own cells and releases more Human Growth Hormone (HGH), which promotes fat loss and muscle gains.
Myth #3: You’re only healthy if you’re skinny
Breaking news — everyone’s body is different. Some people may appear to be rail-thin but are far from healthy on the inside. Metabolic obesity, which may be present in people of normal or even below-normal weight, is the accumulation of fat around vital organs. It’s extremely dangerous and can’t be detected by just looking at someone’s outward appearance.
The term “skinny fat” is often used to describe people who appear to be at a healthy weight, but in reality, have a high body fat percentage. They may also suffer from inflammation and dangerous, fatty deposits in their arteries and around their organs. While you should strive for a healthy body mass index, rest assured that weight is not the only marker of good health.
Myth #4: You can spot reduce fat
Bad news if you’ve been doing thousands of crunches in the hope of ditching your belly bulge. It’s impossible to reduce fat in a single area of your body. You can tone muscle groups, but unless you burn more calories than you consume, you’ll only be adding a layer of muscle on top of the existing fat. Cardiovascular exercise and a healthy diet are the only proven ways to reduce body fat.
Myth #5: You should avoid the sauna if you have high blood pressure
For years, people with high blood pressure have been advised to avoid saunas. The belief was that the high temperature would raise blood pressure even further and increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke.
Research shows that frequent sauna use can actually decrease blood pressure for some people and even reduce the risk of cardiovascular issues. Saunas don’t contribute to weight loss, but they do help flush out toxins and protect against free radicals that damage skin and cause premature aging. Make sure you drink plenty of water after a sauna session to replenish your fluid levels and avoid dehydration.
Myth #6: Coffee is bad for you
Coffee, that most heroic of liquids, has gotten a bad reputation for all sorts of things — from raising blood pressure to stunting growth. As with anything else, coffee is best consumed in moderation, but studies have proven that it comes with some pretty powerful health benefits. It may ward off Parkinson’s disease and cognitive impairment, as well as reduce the risk of depression. It has also been credited with improving liver and pancreatic health by reducing the risk of liver cancer and type 2 diabetes.
Try to avoid adding sugar and heavy cream to your coffee. It adds calories and sugar that negate the positive effects. And keep consumption at just two or three cups a day to maximize the benefits and allow your body to metabolize the caffeine properly.
Myth #7: You have to practice interval training to lose fat
The most effective exercise is the one that you’ll do with consistency. While HIIT (high impact interval training) does promote fat loss, it’s not the only form of exercise that does so. Many people love HIIT simply because it burns calories at a faster rate and requires less time to achieve the same results.
If you have a medical condition that requires low impact exercise (or you just don’t like HIIT), you can still burn fat through other cardiovascular activities such as swimming, walking, elliptical training, or any other exercise that boosts your heart rate and gets your blood pumping.
Myth #8: Diet soda is better than regular soda
While diet soda does hold the obvious advantage when it comes to fewer calories, it also contains some ingredients that may harm your health. Most diet sodas contain artificial sweeteners and additives such as saccharin, aspartame, and sucralose. Studies have shown that people who consume diet soda and other food and beverages that contain artificial sweeteners are more likely to overeat because their body loses its ability to manage calories and the triggers that signal fullness in your brain.
Diet soda has also been linked to an increased risk of metabolic syndrome, a higher body mass index, hypertension, and even higher mortality rates. Just like coffee, moderation is key. The occasional diet soda won’t derail your health, but it should be consumed sparingly. Water is the best beverage for your body, and there are plenty of other alternatives to diet soda, such as tea or sparkling water.
Myth #9: Fruit will make you gain weight
Fruit, with its high sugar content, has found its way on the list of “don’t eat” foods for many dieters and even some nutritionists. While it’s true that most fruit contains a relatively high quantity of sugar, the key is in the type of sugar and how your body metabolizes it.
The sugar molecules in fruit are comprised of natural sugars, including fructose and glucose. Unlike processed foods that are chock-full of added sugars, fruit is packed with other essential elements such as fiber, vitamins, and minerals. These ingredients work together to help your body process the natural sugars at a slower, regulated pace.
Stick with whole fruits instead of fruit juices, which are often processed and contain added sugars and preservatives. And remember — anything with calories can cause weight gain. The key is in preserving a balanced diet and watching overall calorie consumption.
Myth #10: Calories are the only thing that matter
Speaking of calorie consumption — don’t fall victim to the myth that counting calories is the singular path to good health. Of course, you need to watch how many calories you take in versus how many you burn through daily activity. What many people don’t consider, however, is that the quality of your food matters just as much as its calorie content.
While it’s true that every calorie has the same energy content, different foods can have a wildly different impact on the way you burn those calories and consume the energy they produce. A protein-rich food, for example, may contain the same number of calories as an equal portion of processed food, but the protein will help boost metabolism and curb your appetite much more effectively than a refined food with added sugars and “empty” calories.
Myth #11: You are at the mercy of your genes
It’s true that your genetic makeup and predisposition to certain diseases are a factor in your overall health. The good news is that even if your family tree is riddled with heart issues, cancer, or any other number of adverse health conditions, you don’t have to just sit back and wait for genetics to strike.
Your lifestyle and health habits play just as large of a part in your overall well-being as your genes. The science of epigenetics has proven time and time again that how people treat approach their mental and physical health can switch genetic signals on and off. In other words, you have the power to reverse some of the negative traits of the genetics you were dealt, by eating correctly, exercising, and protecting your body from environmental and other hazards. You have more power than you might think when it comes to your health.
As you enter the new year, don’t be fooled by these and other common health and fitness claims. You only have one body. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and conduct your own research on your path to lifelong health.