Myths guide your actions. As important as it is for you to exercise, follow effective nutrition guidelines, and get sufficient sleep, in many cases your attempts to do what will keep you healthy are affected by and, thus, in some cases, contravened by myths. Some of these myths are wired into you, and no matter what scientific evidence is offered, they remain anchored, fixed, and secure.
You may wonder why myths often have such a stranglehold over you and your actions? First, they are what give support to your moral values. Whether it be a belief in faith, authority, human empathy, genuine feelings for others, or rational principles, myths buttress your system of moral values. Second, they give you your personal identity. Identity is an ongoing negotiation within you, between how you choose to narrate particular scenes and the culture within which you live. “I am part of a tightknit family,” “I am part of a larger community,” or “I am part of God’s kingdom,” all can be true; however, each plays a role in the formation of your personal identity. Showing loyalty to your family, town, church, or nation is the result of believing in the “sense of community” myth — and loyalties to friends or community are the result of strong myths that reinforce social bonding.
The third reason myths have such a restrictive hold over you is that they are a way to deal with the mystery of and fears relating to creation and death. For many people it is this related set of myths that provide solace. “It is in the nature of humans to wonder about the unknown and search for answers,” writes Lindsey Murtagh http://www.cs.williams.edu/%7Elindsey/myths/myths.html, in “Common Elements in Creation Myths.” She writes, “At the foundation of nearly every culture is a creation myth that explains how the wonders of the earth came to be. These myths have an immense influence on people's frame of reference. They influence the way people think about the world and their place in relation to their surroundings.”
But, what about the myths that guide your everyday life in the areas of exercise, nutrition, and sleep? How powerful are they? Without them, you are lost. Why? Because they create meaning out of your life and actions. Because they make you believe that you matter, that your daily life has meaning, and that your activities fulfill the myths that guide your actions.
Some of the myths about exercise are precisely those that prevent some from engaging in any kind of exercise program at all. “It’s all in the genes,” suggests, for example, that we don’t even have any control over it. We’re either fit or we’re unfit; it has to do with the cards we’re dealt when we’re born. “No pain, no gain,” is a myth, but certainly some see exercise as a painful way to keep fit. Or, “Once you stop strength training, your muscles will turn to fat.” Then, what’s the point? Leave my fat muscles as they are and avoid the exercise-intervention strategy! Of course, muscles turning to fat or vice versa is a physiological impossibility.
For most reasonable people, the operative philosophy regarding exercise is: “It works.” Why it’s important is discussed on the website longevity meme.org http://www.longevitymeme.org/news/view_news_item.cfm?news_id=3633 At this website, it states that exercise helps avoid damage caused by a sedentary lifestyle, hastens recovery from injuries, and prevents falls. Also, aerobic fitness may prevent a diminished functional capacity, including obesity, diabetes, hypertension, myocardial infarction, stroke, some forms of cancer, and osteoporosis.
Just as there are myths that guide exercising, there are myths, too, that guide the value we give nutrition and diet. The first is that there is a perfect diet that will work for everyone. Just as an example, some people do very well on vegetarian diets while others crash and burn. “One size only fits the people who come in that size,” according to the www.health.com, http://yourtotalhealth.ivillage.com website. Other myths mentioned at www.health.comhttp://yourtotalhealth.ivillage.com include, “Cutting carbohydrates helps you lose weight,” “Diet foods help you drop pounds,” “The more you cut calories, the more weight you’ll lose,” “Dairy makes you fat,” or “Brown equals whole-grain.”
At the www.healthcastle.com website, two of the nutrition myths discussed there include sugar and fat. The first myth is that sugar causes diabetes; sugar intake will not cause you to develop the disease. Type 2 diabetes results primarily from three risk factors: 1) a diet high in calories, 2) being overweight, and 3) an inactive lifestyle.
The myth regarding fat is that all fats are bad. Fact is, fats assist nutrient absorption, support nerve transmission, and help maintain cell membrane integrity. Of course, if consumed in excessive amounts they contribute to weight gain, heart disease, and certain types of cancers. But, not all fats are created equal according to www.healthcastle.com. What you have to do is replace bad fats with good fats.
The Medical News Today http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/66363.php website debunks ten common myths regarding nutrition that include eating immediately after a workout to improve recovery, the trouble eating fiber can cause if you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), the necessity for consuming extra protein to build muscle mass, that vitamin supplements are necessary for everyone, that all alcohol is bad for you, that eating eggs will raise your cholesterol, that brown grain products are whole grain products, the need to drink eight 8-oz. glasses of water per day, and that eating carbohydrates will make you fat. These are all myths.
In addition to myths governing the way we exercise and eat, there are myths that affect our sleep as well. At the Sleep Disorders http://sleepdisorders.about.com/od/gettingtosleep/a/sleepmyths.htm website two of the twelve myths discussed there are, first, that you can “cheat” on the amount of sleep you get. It can be dangerous to both physical and mental health to do so. Second, it is a myth as well, that you can “catch up” on sleep missed. Once you miss hours of sleep, they are gone forever.
The point of this essay is not necessarily the myths themselves but how myths govern our actions. Because of their importance in our lives, it is wise to be aware of them, check them out, and be flexible in altering those that no longer --- or never did! --- serve a useful purpose.
At the SharpBrains, “The Brain Fitness Authority,” website http://www.sharpbrains.com/free-eguide/http://www.sharpbrains.com/free-eguide/ there is a condensed version of a 40-page whitepaper "11 Sharp Brains Debunk 10 Myths on the Science Behind The Nascent Brain Fitness Industry." The whitepaper features 11 in-depth interviews with leading neuroscientists, psychologists and experts in the field of cognition, conducted by Alvaro Fernandez. The 10 myths are listed, and there are brief quotes from the interviews.
“Exploding Exercise Myths” at the infoplease.com website http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0872851.html “Getting Americans off the couch and onto their feet could save an estimated 200,000 lives a year, says the surgeon general. Yet most of us are either sedentary or only minimally active. Confusion may keep many couch potatoes from getting into shape,” are the first sentences at this website. Ten myths are exploded. ______________________________________________________________________________
Contact Richard L. Weaver II