I’ve previously talked about various food and exercise myths that appear to be born from misinformation. A single article barely scratches the surface of common myths about health, so in this post, I want to expand upon the ever-changing world of wellness and focus on three more health myths that have been debunked by science.
1. Running is Bad for Your Knees
A common myth is that running is bad for your knees. Running is a great workout if done with the proper technique, using the correct, supportive equipment and in the right doses appropriate to your goals. While it is, of course, true that the knees will be impacted by running, it does not mean that you shouldn’t choose running as a form of exercise, and there are ways to reduce the impact on your joints. “If you mix running with other cardio activities, like an elliptical machine, or you ride a stationary bike, you will reduce impact on your knees so you’ll be able to run for many more years,” says Todd Schlifstein, DO, a clinical instructor at New York University Medical Center’s Rusk Institute.
A long-term study at Stanford University chartered the knee health of 1000 people, both active runners, and non-runners, and they discovered that over the 21 years of the study, the runners’ knees were no more or less healthy than the non-runners’ knees.
Of particular interest to people hoping to extend their healthy lifespan, the same study noted that the runners had a 39 percent lower mortality rate than the non-runners, even adding three years to your lifespan. In other words, the ideal amount of running, as well as other regular exercise slows down aging. But, folks, take these kinds of studies with a grain of salt. Running, and exercise in general, is always a good thing, but there are plenty of other factors that go into extending our healthy lifespan.
So, let’s say running may extend our lifespan by three years, does this mean if we run more, do we gain more years to our life? Dr. Lee from the study published in Progress in Cardiovascular Disease, says. “Running does not make people immortal. The gains in life expectancy are capped at around three extra years, however much people run.” Yay!, if you’re not into running and Aww! if you are. Dr. Lee goes on to say that “Improvements in life expectancy generally plateaued at about four hours of running per week. But they did not decline.”
2. Our Diets Don’t Have Enough Protein
Protein powder, protein supplements, high-meat diets – a lot of fitness literature has encouraged us to increase our protein intake, whether for weight loss, muscle growth, or general health. However, in reality, your diet probably already has way more protein than you need! Indeed, having too much protein in your diet may result in an increased risk for several diseases, including renal damage, heart disease and osteoporosis.
Consuming too much protein may also be aging you. Research has shown that a hormone known as insulin-sensing growth factor (IGF), which is induced by a high-protein diet, may be responsible for aging you. Studies have indicated that a low-protein diet may actually extend your lifespan.
Rather than bloating your already protein-stuffed diet, consider spreading out your protein consumption throughout the day. Have a good amount of protein for breakfast, lunch and dinner, rather than skipping out the protein in the morning and doubling down at night. This will also help keep you more satiated and control your appetite so you don’t ravenously eat everything in sight (including easy-to-consume high processed food that you just need to rip open a package for) when you get home.
There are of course certain types of people who legitimately need to increase their protein intake. If you’re doing an exceptional amount of heavy muscle and endurance training, it’s important to eat more protein to help build your muscles. Or, if you are recovering from an illness or injury, higher intakes or protein may help with the healing process. There’s also some truth to the idea that protein helps you lose weight; because it’s digested more slowly, it also leaves you feeling fuller, so you eat less.
3. You Can Eat as Much Healthy Fat as you Want
It’s been common health knowledge for a while now that, just like carbs, there are “good” fats and “bad” fats. When this knowledge became widely-known, it ran contrary to the traditional wisdom, that supposedly all fats and oils were the sources of weight gain and heart disease. In fact, good fats can manage your bad cholesterol levels and prevent stroke and heart disease, among a wide range of other health benefits. But so does kale.
However, this shouldn’t be taken as permission to eat as much good fat as you want. Whether they’re good or bad, all fats contain the same caloric content, and they’re very dense in those calories – fat contains nine calories per gram, whereas protein and carbohydrates weigh in at a mere four calories per gram, and even alcohol is ‘just’ seven calories per gram. Obesity is primarily the result of eating more calories than you burn, and having another significant source of calories in your diet can put you on that path. Obesity is associated with diabetes, heart disease, stroke and a multitude of other ailments, so excess consumption of even good fat may well negate any of their health benefits.
“But, I eat healthy!” This is what I hear so often with my clients who are looking to fight belly fat…and arm fat…and thigh fat. The problem is that they are consuming way too much healthy fat for their energy needs. I admit, I was one of them too. I would go through handfuls of nuts (raw and sprouted!) thinking they are good healthy fat and this was a license to eat as much as I wanted. Wrong! I work with a lot of women 40 – 60 who, like I was, are doing the same thing and have seen incredible change when they get their energy sources (carbs and fats) in balance and under control. So, eat your healthy fat, but be mindful of your consumption.
Get Your Health Knowledge From the Right Place & Self Experiment
It can be tough to choose the right sources of information. There are just so many of them, and at the same time, science keeps uncovering new knowledge that could shake up what we knew previously. For example, between 2015 and 2016, the world of nutrition science vacillated between saying that “butter is healthy” and “butter is bad.”
This constantly changing nature is actually why I still recommend that you choose reputable scientific sources and peer-reviewed studies. It means that science is open to changing what’s considered popular wisdom whenever the data suggests it, rather than staying rigid to old beliefs.
That being said, there is nothing better than good old self experimentation. What works for one group of people in a study, may not necessarily work for you. I always recommend to my clients and friends to observe themselves after any lifestyle and diet changes they make, taking careful notes, measurements, perhaps a blood test and following up with a doctor and include any other tests over a period of time, usually about 3 months. If your health is important to you, these steps are not a pain in the butt, but rather a pleasure and an opportunity to better understand the body you live in.