It's no myth: Fitness is good for you

By Andrew Jokela - Staff Reporter

There are a lot of conflicting theories and misinformation about fitness, said Darin Smith, a physical education instructor at Highline.

Smith spoke on fitness myths and misconceptions at last Friday's Science Seminar.

Smith received a bachelor's in chemical engineering and a master's degree in kinesiology from the University of Illinois, is a certified personal trainer and a member of the American College of Sports Medicine.

Smith is also a 4th degree blackbelt.

"Exercise is good for you," said Smith. "Everyone has a rough idea of what good nutrition looks like, but the confusion tends to be in the details."

One myth is that high-intensive interval training, or HIIT, can be as beneficial as lower intensity steady-state cardiovascular exercise, he said.

"Most of the time when you go into the gym or you see someone do cardio, what you think about is someone on a machine either running, or stepping, or cycling at a steady rate," Smith said.

Typically, this type of exercise begins with a warmup period, then exercise where a target heart rate is maintained, and then a cooldown period. This workout is known as steady-state cardio.

"A more recent, popular way of doing cardio is HIIT [High-Intensity Interval Training]," said Smith. "The idea is that you can do a much shorter workout but with high intensity intervals, like a 30 second sprint followed by 90 second active recovery."

In terms of weight loss, calorie expenditure, cardiovascular fitness, and health, HIIT is as effective as traditional cardio, Smith said. HIIT may even be better, as it has a higher post-exercise oxygen consumption period, allowing the body to continue burning calories after the workout ends.

"One caveat I have to throw out there – if you: don't exercise regularly, have an injury, or other medical issues, doing a super high-intensity exercise might not be for right off the bat," Smith said.

Another myth is that using an altitude mask, or oxygen deprivation mask, will simulate high-altitude training.

Smith said that as you go up higher from sea level, the air gets thinner, so there are less oxygen molecules floating around. So, your body compensates by producing more hemoglobin.

"Hemoglobin is a protein that grabs onto oxygen molecules and helps transport it within the red blood cells," Smith said.

After three to four weeks of living at high altitude, a person will start seeing increased hemoglobin presence in their blood.

"The thing is, these altitude masks don't simulate altitude," Smith said. "One coach said that these masks simulate altitude in the same way that sticking your head in a toilet simulates swimming."

Instead, these masks simply restrict your airflow, without lowing the partial pressure of oxygen in the air — they just make it harder to breathe. Also, you only wear the mask for a short training session, and then you take it off.

Additionally, using the mask could even be detrimental to some athletes.

It takes up to four weeks of continuous exposure to adapt, said Smith. Using the mask makes you to breathe more forcefully, lowering your respiratory efficiency, he said.

 "This myth is busted," said Smith.

Finally, he explored the myths around working out while listening to music.

Music provides a tempo to sync up with while working out, said Smith. Also, it helps disassociate yourself from exhaustion or muscle fatigue.

"One researcher said that music was a type of legal, performance enhancing drug," Smith said. "It actually has benefits."

When listening to music while working out, the workout typically seems easier, said Smith. As a result, you can exercise longer before feeling tired, increasing your overall endurance.

"It improves your mood, motivation, enjoyment, and pleasure of the activity," said Smith. "It increases performance, power, strength, and intensity. When you're exercising, and listening to pump up music, like a Rocky theme, you are focused on the music and not focused on how your body feels."

There may be a point where music may not get you through the workout though, as one study demonstrated that as workout intensity increases, the effect of music decreases. At higher intensities, it becomes harder to disassociate because of increased stress, fatigue, and exhaustion.

"Your brain says you're really tired, that you're really sore," said Smith.

However, the study also found that even though the workout was more intense, those who listened to music said they enjoyed the workout more.

One final benefit of listening to music comes in the form of mood regulation. While some athletes may listen to music to pump themselves up, some listen to music to calm their nerves from anxiety or stress.

"Sports psychologists and coaches might use arousal regulation techniques like breathing and mental imagery, or music, to either psych up or psych down an athlete," said Smith. "Music has a psychophysiological effect on your body."

"This myth is absolutely confirmed," Smith said.

Next week, Eric Centauri will host the final Science Seminar this quarter. In this talk, he will explore the science behind dark matter, in all of its mystical glory. 

Students and the general public are invited to attend this free lecture held Friday, June 1 in Building 3, room 102.

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