By Mark Misner, Tampa based Certified Personal Fitness Trainer EXERCISE MISCONCEPTIONS

I had the pleasure of enjoying some inspiring reading over the past month. A headline that caught my eye was "Exercise Fact vs. Fiction" in the March 2012 issue of Consumer Reports on Health. The article explored several popular health myths that can unwittingly sabotage our efforts to lead a healthy lifestyle. These myths have gotten started and passed along in many ways; old wives tales, hyped-up advertising claims, misleading headlines, and even bad advice from well-meaning friends and family.
One common misconception that really caught my attention was "If you stop strength training, the muscle you built will turn to fat." And yes, this is a total myth. In fact, according to Ben Hurley, professor of exercise physiology at the University of Maryland, "muscle is no more likely to turn into fat then fat is likely to become muscle."
So what does happen if you stop your weight training program? If you go from an active lifestyle to sedentary (i.e. behaving like a couch-potato), you simply continue to lose muscle density and gain additional body fat. Please understand that your scale weight may not be increasing dramatically, bur your clothes will continue to fit less and less comfortably. In fact, Dr Hurley states, "starting in your 40s, you lost a quarter pound of muscle each year unless you're doing strength training." This is extremely important as approximately 50 calories per day are expended for each pound of lean muscle tissue. Thus, your metabolism does slow down. Not because of normal aging, but due to lost muscle mass attributable to lack of resistance exercise. According to Miriam Nelson of Tufts University, "if you go from active to sedentary, you are going to gain fat" although muscle tissue will not directly turn into fat.
What is the most effective, most proven, long term approach to losing uninvited inches of body fat? This answer is a comprehensive approach that includes the following;
• Strength Training – two to three times per week. • Aerobic Exercise – gradually work up to forty to sixty minutes of heart pumping, moderate intensity activity on most days of each week. • Healthy Diet – a healthy moderate caloric diet including plenty of vegetables, fruits and whole grains.
So if you have been using this myth as an excuse to not start a strength training program, that is all it is – a bad excuse. Not a valid reason based on any fact or medical study. The truth is that a strength training program will help you build muscle and lose fat. You are better off continuing to train then if you stop, but your muscle will NOT turn into fat if you do.
Another myth is that you can lose fat from specific parts of your body. In fact, there's no such thing as "spot reduction." The calories you expend during exercise help burn fat from your entire body, including any areas you are targeting. In addition, over-concentrating your exercise on a specific body part can actually limit the benefits of training, since other muscle groups might be neglected.
Remember, don't believe everything you read or hear. In this age of the internet, health related information is abundantly available right at our fingertips, but it is not all created equal. Please take the time to verify the source of the information and check with a health care professional before you make lifestyle changes based on information that might not be the truth. But please don't use the possibility of being misinformed as the excuse not to exercise and eat right. There are plenty of reliable sources available where you can learn the truth about health and fitness.
Special Note: Congratulations to all of Tampa's Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic runners and walkers. Take great pride in your exercise commitment. Have a healthy day!

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