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It’s easy enough to justify skipping exercise on any given day.
A poor night’s sleep, the weather, tomorrow’s worries, a sniffy nose (especially prevalent in these times) – the list goes on.
Ultimately, there’s a reason most New Year’s resolutions tend to die a horrid death before we see the end of January.
Some excuses are more valid than others, but if you ask Daniel E Lieberman, a Harvard professor of evolutionary biology, workout myths don’t make it any easier.
Lieberman, writing for The Guardian, believes that once you reject unhelpful myths about exercise, you will be one step closer to living a healthier life.
Let’s start with myth number six, ‘running will wear out your knees’:
Many people are scared of running because they’re afraid it will ruin their knees. These worries aren’t totally unfounded since knees are indeed the most common location of runners’ injuries.
But knees and other joints aren’t like a car’s shock absorbers that wear out with overuse. Instead, running, walking and other activities have been shown to keep knees healthy, and numerous high-quality studies show that runners are, if anything, less likely to develop knee osteoarthritis.
The strategy to avoiding knee pain is to learn to run properly and train sensibly (which means not increasing your mileage by too much too quickly).
One such study followed more than 2 000 people for several years to see how many developed arthritic knees.
More from Runner’s World on that study:
In frequency of knee pain, symptoms of arthritis, and evidence of arthritis on X-ray, current runners had significantly better scores than non-runners. For example, current runners were 29 percent less likely than non-runners to report frequent knee pain. Even former runners were less likely to report knee pain and show signs of arthritis than non-runners.
That last finding is the opposite of what should be the case if running ruined their knees and caused them to give up the sport.
Again, this is borne out by multiple studies, showing that it’s running incorrectly that is the most damaging.
Other myths that Lieberman busts include that ‘it’s normal to exercise’, ‘sitting is the new smoking’, and ‘it’s normal to be less active as we age’.
Let’s dig a little deeper into that last one:
After many decades of hard work, don’t you deserve to kick up your heels and take it easy in your golden years? Not so. Despite rumours that our ancestors’ life was nasty, brutish and short, hunter-gatherers who survive childhood typically live about seven decades, and they continue to work moderately as they age.
The truth is we evolved to be grandparents in order to be active in order to provide food for our children and grandchildren. In turn, staying physically active as we age stimulates myriad repair and maintenance processes that keep our bodies humming.
Numerous studies find that exercise is healthier the older we get.
To each their own.
I intend to be a very lazy octogenarian, should I tick over into my eighties.
One more myth for the road – “exercise is a magic bullet”:
In the modern, western world we no longer have to be physically active, so we invented exercise, but it is not a magic bullet that guarantees good health.
Fortunately, just a little exercise can slow the rate at which you age and substantially reduce your chances of getting a wide range of diseases, especially as you age.
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