The desire to stay fit forever is universal. Everyone desperately wants to find secrets to fitness and as a result of this desperation, we often fall for misconceptions. Very often these misconceptions cloud our judgement and do more harm than good. Here are the top five fitness misconceptions that we should steer clear off.
Staying fit is expensive
The commercial focus that fitness has gained over the past decade has made it an expensive affair. There is an entire industry counting on your insecurities and desperation to sell products, equipment, food, gels, supplements, drinks etc. that make something as basic as staying fit unaffordable. However, if one gets their basics right, they realise that to stay fit in the long run, the monetary expenses are very little. The only thing that they truly need is commitment, a plan, a place to work out (does not have to be a gym, it could be your parking lot, a living room, a balcony, a community running track), basic equipment, fresh, seasonal and locally available food (if something is local and seasonal, it will naturally cost less), discipline and flexibility.
Fitness is always about losing weight
A very unfortunate generalisation that holds true is that the majority of people start on their fitness journey only to lose that extra weight. A very healthy person may carry slightly more or less weight than a person with supposedly optimum weight. Also, someone with high muscle mass and bone density may look leaner and toned than someone with lesser weight. My weight hasn’t changed in the last six years but people who have seen me know the difference. No, I don’t look thinner or heavier, but I am definitely stronger, more toned, more flexible and more positive than I was six years ago. What does that say about our reliance on the scale that does not provide you a complete picture?
Our bodies are way more complex than what the weighing scale can decipher and we need to rely on more robust indicators to really understand if a healthy lifestyle is working for us or not. Some of them being – synergy with our hunger signals, sleep quality, increase in stamina, strength, ability to take up new tasks on a daily basis and complete them with renewed zeal, fearlessness when it comes to food, confidence in one’s judgements about the quantity and type of food consumed etc.
Fitness is all hard work and no fun
We have all grown up believing that for something to make us happy, we must undergo pain and suffering. However, as I always say, ‘If you are not happy throughout the journey, you are not going to arrive to the destination happy’. Yes, staying fit requires hard work but there is also a lot of fun when your journey is customised mindfully to suit your interests. If you are someone who enjoys running outdoors, no matter how physically challenging the run is, you will always look forward to it. If you are someone who likes to push yourself just to see how far you can go, you will enjoy your workout.
Staying fit = Starve yourself
I can’t even begin to emphasise on how this one is downright the most dangerous misconception that can cost someone their health in the long run. I have personally seen people (unfortunately, in most cases teenage girls) boast about how little they have eaten during the entire day, people often sharing about how their “portion control” has helped them achieve toned abs and how eliminating carbs (or any particular food group that has been recently villainised) from their “diet” is their most significant achievement.
The outcome is scary and something that we need to have a dialogue about. I have read about young girls who have lost their periods, people who have seriously injured themselves or fallen sick by depriving their bodies of the necessary nutrients. A very important principle to apply to ensure you do not fall prey to any of these is sustainability. Say you are gifted a lifespan of 85 years, ask yourself if you will be able to continue depriving yourself till the end of your life?
The answer is definitely NO. Why would you or anyone want to live a life that does not support their dreams and goals? Because a life of deprivation does not leave you with the ability or energy to do much.
Not inclusive of all body types
For years now, people with normal bodies have been made to feel ‘left out’ whenever there is a dialogue surrounding fitness. Deep rooted insecurity and body image issues are triggered when one comes across a visual representation of someone who fits the image of a fit individual. Close your eyes and imagine a fit person, it will be someone with chiselled abs, toned arms and thighs and someone with flawless physical appearance. The mainstream platforms always portray a fit person as someone who appears ‘perfect’ and completely excludes ‘natural, imperfect and flawed’ bodies.
Bodies that may carry some flab on their tummies, dimples on their thighs, some stretch marks, hip dips and everything else that people like you and me embody. This constantly reinforces that fitness is only for certain body types and that other bodies cannot, rather should not attempt leading healthier lives. This is not to say that I am promoting that people live unhealthier lives, all I am saying is that we need to stop equating fitness with aesthetic looks. A good looking body could be a mere side effect of a life well lived and the definition of ‘good looking’ will keep changing as long as we depend on “the industry” to dictate it to us.