The First 20 Minutes, New York Times “Phys Ed” columnist Gretchen Reynold’s new book, is like a Myth Busters episode devoted to exercise science.
And we predict that it changes the way people move more than 50 Shades of Grey.
In it, Reynolds uses recent, quality research to address oft-debated exercise questions and to strike down common misconceptions—like how much should we exercise (20 minutes at a time, hence the book name, is enough to reap health benefits.) What’s the best way to get rid of muscle cramps? (Drinking pickle juice. Yes, really.) And many, many more.
The book is so full of fitness findings that floored us that we selected five of the most jarring research conclusions Reynolds comes to.
Warning: These big five may change the way you think about your exercise regimen and, just as urgently, your beach reading. Find out what they are now… —Lisa Elaine Held
1. You don’t have to stay ahead of your thirst. Hydration is important, but researchers in the book call the age-old eight-glasses-a-day recommendation “nonsense.” Recent studies cited have shown that thirst is “actually a reliable physiological marker of your fluid needs. If you’re thirsty, drink. If you’re not, you probably are sufficiently hydrated.”
2. Post-exercise massages don’t get rid of lactic acid. Athletes generally get post-match massages in order to break up the build-up of lactic acid, which is thought to cause muscle soreness. But research studies found that it’s not effective for this purpose and can in fact impair the removal of lactic acid from exercised muscle. (We await a spa industry rebuttal.)
3. The safest running shoe for you may just be the one that feels comfy. In several large-scale studies, runners who wore “proper” shoes assigned to them based on their foot types did not avoid injury more than those who didn’t. “If anything, wearing the ‘right’ shoes for their particular foot shape had increased trainees’ chances of being hurt,” Reynolds writes.
4. You may have workout-prone (or averse) genes. Scientists have determined that differences in exercise behavior among individuals are about 60 percent attributable to genes. So if lunges make you want to cry, you can (partially) blame your parents.
5. Exercise is the only true anti-aging product. Put down that miracle cream. Current scientific evidence suggests that exercise can make you live longer and keep you vibrant for the length of it. Various studies have shown that being active can benefit your health down to your DNA—it can lengthen your telomeres and keep your mitochondria healthy (trust us, this is important). “A great deal of the physical effects that we once thought were caused by aging are actually the result of inactivity,” one researcher explains. So, seriously. Get to spin class.