After 16 years in the fitness industry, I have encountered a lot of people giving an awful lot of advice: Some of it good, some of it utter rubbish! So in this multi-part blog post, I'll try to debunk some of the more popular myths around fitness and exercise.
The most important thing to remember is that when it comes to getting yourself in shape, everyone is different. Something which works for one person might not be right for the next. The best advice I can give you is to get in touch with a personal trainer. Someone who has the knowledge and experience to treat you as an individual and set you a programme that is right for you! At Fitness In Time we are always happy to help you, so why not give us a call and book a review or PT session.
Anyway, that is my little sales pitch, but now on with the de-bunking!
1. Swimming is the best exercise.
I heard the gasps as you read that! that's right, this one is a myth, untrue, nonsense, poppycock (you get the idea).
Although I've chosen to highlight swimming, you could exchange just about any form of exercise into that phrase, however my real problem is with the full-stop that comes at the end.
Don't be fooled into thinking that I have a real problem with swimming (I was a qualified lifeguard for 11 years, and I still swim regularly myself!) it's fantastic exercise when done properly, lots of fun, and in my opinion, a valuable skill that everyone should have!
My problem is that this little nugget of advice is banded around, when there is an awful lot more that needs to be added. Firstly, the sentence is much to broad to have any real meaning, as I explained earlier, everyone is different so whilst swimming might be the best exercise for a few people, it is definitely not for everyone.
The reason swimming is good exercise is that it provides very light resistance exercise with low risk of injury because your body is supported by the water around it. Providing you have a good swimming technique, you can increase muscle strength. So if you are rehabilitating a bad injury, it's a great place to start before moving on to heavier or more specific resistance exercise. Swimming is also great as it provides cardiovascular exercise, but with cardio, you only get out what you put in. It's possible to swim a very long way without expending much energy, so you need to really push yourself to get the cardio benefits. As a general rule, if you aren't out of breath, you aren't really getting the cardio benefits!
The third issue is that people notoriously have bad technique when it comes to swimming. The simple act of lifting your head whilst doing front crawl or breast-stroke can put a lot of strain on your spine. So if you do enjoy swimming, make sure you think about your alignment and technique. Most pools do offer adult lessons or improvement courses.
Finally, my real problem is that this advice is often given to people who don't currently exercise and want to slim down. Whilst swimming can do this, it is definitely not the 'best' way of doing it, and that is due to the fact it is mostly a cardio exercise (although does have light resistance benefits). A quick google search will throw up countless studies that suggest resistance exercise trumps cardio-exercise every time when it comes to weight loss. Cardio exercise alone will increase your metabolic rate by around 50%, resistance exercise raises it by 300% - that is just the rate you burn energy! Not to mention all the other benefits such as improved strength, muscle tone and much more.
In conclusion, swimming is great. But it's not the 'best', and it's not for everyone. It has lots of benefits for your physical and also mental health but if you have specific goals you might be better off concentrating on resistance exercise.