Health mythbusters: 7 common beliefs about exercise and fitness explained by a pro

  • From the dangers of swimming after eating to the real benefits of sweat, we ask an expert to prove – or debunk – seven common health myths
  • Is running outside better than running on a treadmill? Let's take a look
Kelly Ho |

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Fat and muscles are separate layers of body tissues, so you can’t turn fat into muscle, or vice versa.

Ever been given health advice, or come across it online, and wondered if there was really any truth to it? Young Post went through some of the most common myths about health and fitness with sports scientist and physical education expert Lobo Louie Hung-tak, a professor at Baptist University, to sort the fact from the fiction.

“Exercise turns fat into muscle”

Fat and muscles are two different types of body tissue. “No matter what you do, you cannot turn one into another,” says Louie. Some people may think their six-pack will deflate into a spare tire when they stop exercising. However, what really happens when you stop working out is that the layer of abdominal fat, which is closer to the skin surface, thickens, while the layer of muscles becomes thinner.

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“You should not swim after you eat”

This can be applied to all types of vigorous exercise, but people tend to stress this when it comes to swimming because the possibility of drowning makes the risk much higher. In general, it isn’t a good idea to do high-intensity exercises straight after a meal, because a lot of blood is needed to digest food, and doing exercise will draw the blood away to your muscles instead.

“Running around after a meal will give you appendicitis”

No doubt many children have been given this warning by their parents, but it is simply a myth. Food needs to travel a long way before reaching the large intestine, so jumping and running around after eating cannot possibly cause an inflammation of the appendix. The discomfort people feel if they do physical activity after eating is usually caused by caused by an inadequate blood supply to their digestive system.

Road running and treadmill running train your leg muscles differently.

“If you exercise at night, you won’t be able to sleep”

In general, doing exercise at night should not affect your quality of sleep. But some people may find that the hormones given off during exercise affect their emotions, and this could stop them from falling asleep. Louie suggests doing a little experiment to find your best workout time, by comparing how you feel after exercising in the morning and at night.

“Exercise is the best way to lose weight”

It surely comes as no surprise that both exercise and diet control are the most effective ways to stay healthy. Working out is very important because it helps to boost our metabolism rate and strengthen the immune system. But Louie says that making smart food choices is the number one priority, as it is the first gatekeeper of our health.

“You gain about 700 calories from a bowl of lunch meat and egg noodles, but you can only burn 300 calories by running for 30 minutes. Isn’t it easier to choose our food wisely?” he asks.

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“The more you sweat, the better”

People link sweating with exercising or even detoxing (getting rid of toxins from your body), but it reality it’s just the body’s way of removing heat so that we maintain a normal body temperature. “Sweating is more like a feeling. Swimmers don’t sweat, but the sport is still a good way of training our body.” In other words, you can’t measure how effective a type of exercise is by how much it makes you sweat.

Sweating is vital for keeping us cool – but that’s about all the good it does.

“Running on a treadmill isn’t as beneficial as running outside”

Louie says both types of running have their benefits; it simply depends on what your goal is. Some people like to enjoy the view as they run, while others prefer to watch soap operas on their phone – either way, you’re still moving.

However, competitive runners shouldn’t rely solely on the treadmill, because the machine’s belt makes it easier for you to take longer, faster strides. To ensure you’re keeping a steady pace when training for a race, Louie advises running outside on a road, and using a treadmill for relaxation.

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