Exercise FAQ

Author: Joe Cannon
If you're like most people, you have a lot of exercise and health questions. In spite of the widespread abundance of books, videos and the internet available today, many of the same questions remain unanswered in the minds of Americans. Here is a run down of some of the most frequent questions I am asked in the hopes that you may be wondering the same things and having a hard time finding a straight answer. Put a True or False next to each question to see how many you get right.

1. Question. Doing sit-ups will flatten your tummy.
2. Question. Skinny people don't need to exercise.
3. Question. The "Fat Burn" program on the treadmill is the best for weight loss.
4. Question. When I stop exercising, muscle turns to fat.
5. Question. Osteoporosis is an old-persons disease.
6. Question. Women who strength train will get big, bulky muscles.
7. Question. Lactic acid causes muscles to be sore the day after working out.
8. Question. Soy protein will lower cholesterol.
9. Question. Strength training is safe for children.
10. Question. Eating low fat foods is best for weight loss.
11. Question. Muscle weighs more than fat.
12. Question. Muscle burns more calories than fat.

1. False. Abdominal exercises such as sit ups and crunches strengthen abdominal muscles but do little to reduce fat from that area. Aerobic exercise like walking or bicycling will decrease fat from the tummy better than crunches. Most ab-gizmos advertised on TV come with a low-calorie eating plan that should be followed for maximal abdominal definition and weight loss.

2. False. Skinny people also must exercise. A receptionist brought this up recently when I was in the hospital having some routine tests done. She was very thin and was convinced only overweight people have to exercise. Being thin is not the same thing as being healthy. While it's true that obesity is associated with a number of diseases, the fact remains that skinny people get heart attacks too. This woman was so skinny in fact that I pointed out to her that she might be at risk for osteoporosis.

3. False. We are usually burning a mixture of fats and carbohydrates for energy. The fat-burn program on treadmills and other cardiovascular gym equipment is based on the fact that we burn more fat at lower levels of exercise intensity. Higher intensity exercise burns more carbohydrates for fuel -and also uses more calories. The fat burn program usually holds us at about 60% of estimated maximum heart rate which is sometimes a good starting point for the person beginning an exercise program. Greater intensities and lengths of time working out will result in more calories burned-which if coupled with reductions in the number of calories eaten, promotes weight loss.

4. False. Muscle and fat are two different tissues. We cannot transform muscle into fat and fat can't turn into muscle. This myth was probably started by older athletes who, after retiring, stop exercising but to continue to eat as if they were still working out. The combination of shrinking muscles from inactivity, coupled with excess calories eaten give the illusion that muscle has been transformed into fat.

5. False. Would you believe that bone loss starts to occur around the age of 35! Osteoporosis is starting to be seen as a disease that actually begins in youth. Getting adequate calcium in the diet as well as doing resistance training when we are young can strengthen bones and offset the ravages of osteoporosis when we are older

r. Studies of seniors who strength train also show increases in bone mass. So it's ever too late to start lifting weights! If you have osteoporosis or any medical conditions, consult your physician before starting an exercise program and then get proper guidance from an exercise professional on the best exercise to stimulate bone growth.

6. False. Women lack the hormones to needed make their muscles big like that of men. Even the biggest of female bodybuilders are smaller than male bodybuilders. Women who have overly large muscles often get them because they lift very heavy weights, exercise for several hours a day, and consume many thousands of calories. Sometimes they are also blessed with muscle fibers that get bigger from strength training. Strength training is something all women should do to improve the quality and quantity of their lives!

7. False. Lactic acid, produced from the anaerobic breakdown of carbohydrates causes the feeling of muscle burning and fatigue during exercise. Studies show that most lactic acid is removed from the muscles about one hour after exercise. So, the lactic acid is not around 24-72 hrs later when muscle soreness shows up. The muscle pain that is felt 24-72 hrs after exercise is called delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Studies show that most DOMS is caused by eccentric muscle contractions ("negatives" as they are sometimes called in the gym). Eccentric muscle contractions occur muscle fibers lengthen, such as when you lower a weight.
8. True. Studies show that if you have high cholesterol, consuming soy protein, when combined with a diet that is low in saturated fat can reduce total cholesterol levels by about 9%. Studies also show soy can reduce LDL, the so- called-bad cholesterol, by about 13% and lower triglycerides (blood fats) by about 11%. These effects may take 2 months before they are observed. See your doctor if you have a history of breast or bladder cancer. Some experts theorize that high levels of soy may activate these cancers. This is a controversial area of research but it is best to discuss this with your doctor to be on the safe side.
9. True. Studies do not generally show damage to growth plates or other injuries resulting from resistance training in children if they are under the guidance of a professional. Children are not miniature adults and should not lift heavy weights. Before puberty, when testosterone levels are low, children will not increase the size of their muscles from strength training. The focus should be on proper lifting technique and lighter resistances. Manual resistance, body weight resistance, dumbbells and some machines may be appropriate for children.

10. False. It's possible for a food to have almost zero fat yet be teeming with calories. Remember, its reductions in calories eaten, not fat, that causes real weight loss.
11. False. Muscle and fat weigh the same. Muscle is denser and takes up less space than fat. A pound of muscle and a pound of fat both weigh a pound.
12. True. It's estimated that a pound of muscle burns between 20 to 80 extra calories per day. Fat burns essentially zero calories. Thus, adding muscle can help you burn more calories and lose more weight.

If you have other questions which I have not addressed here, feel free to email me. I'd love to read your questions and I may use them in upcoming editorials in this magazine. Email: Joseph Cannon at joecannon@rcn.ca