In the age of information, we are bombarded with an abundance of health advice, some of which can be misleading or outright false. When it comes to exercise, nutrition, and chronic disease, separating fact from fiction is crucial for making informed decisions about our well-being. In this article, we will delve into three prevalent health myths and debunk them using evidence-based research. By dispelling these myths, my team and I will pave the way for a healthier and more informed lifestyle.
Meet the Team
I’m Paulina Martinez, and I’m the Director of Camino Vida, which is a health and wellness program offered at Camino Health Center. Camino Vida furthers Camino Health Center’s mission of equipping people to live healthy lives by offering individualized nutrition, exercise, and wellness plans to the Latino community. With the help of our Registered Dietician, Personal Trainer, and our most recent summer intern, we will debunk 3 common health myths plus a bonus myth that many individuals encounter throughout their lives.
Myth 1: Genetics Solely Determine Chronic Diseases
Debunked by Paulina Martinez, Director of Health and Wellness
It’s often assumed that genetics dictate the onset of chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease, and there’s little one can do to prevent them. While genetics do play a role, lifestyle factors, including diet and exercise, also significantly influence the development of these diseases. Making healthy choices can mitigate the risk, even for individuals with a family history.
Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition indicates that adopting a healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet and regular physical activity, can reduce the risk of chronic diseases even in those with a genetic predisposition. Remember, balance and lifestyle choices can tip the scales in our favor against chronic diseases.
Myth 2: Eating Late at Night Causes Weight Gain
Debunked by Reatna Taylor, Registered Dietician/Nutrition Program Manager
We’ve all heard the whispers that indulging in a midnight snack can produce disasters for our health. But is there any truth to this? The short answer: not really.
Weight fluctuation isn’t solely determined by the clock; the quality and quantity of what you eat also play a factor. Eating late at night won’t automatically lead to weight gain if your overall intake aligns with your energy needs.
Here’s the scoop: Our bodies don’t have an internal stopwatch that magically converts late-night calories into fat. What matters more is the balance of nutrients in your meals throughout the day. If you find yourself reaching for a snack before bed, opt for a small, nutrient-rich option like a handful of nuts or Greek yogurt.
Myth 3: Working Out at a Gym is more Effective than Working Out at Home
Debunked by Steve Marin, Personal Trainer
Exercise has many benefits, from adding energy to even adding years to your life. Exercise is for all ages, and various exercise programs can be tailored to each person if needed. Exercise helps control your weight by preventing excess weight gain and even helps maintain weight loss. By exercising, your body burns the calories that you consume from your diet. The number of calories you burn increases with more intense activity. Exercising does not have to be limited to the gym. You can work out in the comfort of your own home. There are many exercises you can do using your furniture at home. For example, you could walk up and down the stairs as fast as possible to increase your heart rate. You can then do some jumping jacks, sit-ups, or push-ups. Another way to incorporate some activity in your daily life is to take the stairs instead of the elevator or park further from your destination to incorporate more walking into your day. In whichever way you decide to add some physical activity into your life, you want to be as consistent as possible. When you are active, your body also starts to change and make itself better.
After a stressful day, exercise can be a great way to blow off steam and may help improve your mood. When you are physically active, various brain chemicals are stimulated, which can cause you to be happier or more relaxed. It can even help ease any anxiety. Do you have a busy lifestyle and often find yourself running low on energy? Exercise can help improve your heart and lung health by delivering oxygen and nutrients to your tissues, which provides more energy to tackle daily chores. Exercise is also great for someone who might struggle with falling asleep. Being consistent in your physical activity helps you fall asleep faster while also helping you get a better night’s sleep. It can also help deepen your sleep. Something important to note is that exercising too close to your bedtime might make you too energized to sleep. You want to make sure to give yourself plenty of time between working out and going to bed to avoid this problem. Exercise doesn’t have to be something done alone—you can make it a group activity. Get a couple of your friends or colleagues and do some fitness classes with them.
Myth 4: Junk Food Makes You Gain Weight
Debunked by Anna, Intern
There are many common food myths that are popular in the American fitness culture. One of the myths I would like to focus on is about eating fast food. Many people believe that eating junk food will make you gain weight, but this is false. The only way to gain weight is by continuously eating processed food, having a sedentary lifestyle, and not taking care of yourself. Eating junk food once in a while will not make you gain weight as long as you eat fresh, high-quality foods most of the time.
Processed foods are also calorie-dense—our bodies have a difficult time processing the additives in these foods. This causes the limited nutrition in them to not be bioavailable to the body. As the saying goes, “We are what we eat.” When working out, our body can only use the nutrition we have provided before the workout. If these foods are mainly carbs, sugars, and processed meats, our bodies will struggle to perform at optimal levels. This causes us to become tired faster and to have longer recovery times that prevent us from actually being able to grow and build muscle from our workouts.
It’s imperative to distinguish between fact and fiction when it comes to our well-being. My team and I have debunked four widely-held health myths, shedding light on the truth to help you live a healthier life. We now understand that genetics alone don’t determine chronic diseases, emphasizing the power of lifestyle choices. Eating late at night doesn’t automatically lead to weight gain, as it’s the overall quality and quantity of our diet that truly matter. The misconception that working out at a gym is superior to home exercise has also been dispelled, reminding us that physical activity can take various forms to benefit our health. Lastly, our summer intern has thrown in a bonus myth-buster, highlighting the importance of choosing nutrient-rich foods over processed junk for optimal health. With this knowledge, we can embark on a path to a healthier and more informed lifestyle.