BY BEVERLY BURMEIER
DOES CONFLICTING exercise advice leave
you so baffled you’re tempted to just sit it
out? Don’t! These tips will help you sort the
good from the bad.
Is it good? Some athletes say stretching
before exercising, whether you’re hitting
the court, trail or gym, will reduce the risk
of injury and boost performance.
Or is it bad? Other experts warn that
stretching right before activity may actually impair performance by causing a
small, temporary reduction in a muscle’s
force and power.
As for protecting against muscle soreness, a study reported in the British Medical
Journal reports that stretching before or
after exercise doesn’t, and stretching before
exercise hasn’t been shown to reduce the
risk of injury. Also, stretching won’t prevent
an overuse injury, so proceed cautiously if
you have a chronic condition or pain.
Experts say: It’s best to perform a general warm-up before stretching to loosen
Is what you’re doing
truly good for you?
prene sleeves provide gentle compression
and warmth for relief from injury or arthritis, but don’t provide protection.
“If you’re trying something new or have
had an injury, a brace can protect the injury
or add support until the movement is
learned,” says Orloff, a Costco member.
To prevent aches and pains, warm up
properly and add therapy to develop balanced strength in the muscles surrounding
the injury site. Braces can help temporarily,
but ultimately you’ve got to do the rehab.
Sitting on a balance ball
Is it good? Some trainers recommend
sitting on a balance or fitness ball during
exercise to help strengthen core muscles.
Or is it bad?
Because a balance ball is an
unstable surface, sitting on it for
prolonged periods of time puts
strain on the lower spine and can
lead to poor posture.
Experts say: Be sure the ball you
choose is the right size. Your knees
should be at a right angle when you sit on
the ball with your feet flat on the floor.
When learning to balance, place pillows at
the base of the ball to prevent excessive roll.
If you’re considering swapping a balance ball for your desk chair, it’s best to
alternate the two in half-hour increments
rather than making a complete switch.
Exercising in general
Is it good? Of course! Regular exercise
is part of a healthy lifestyle—it keeps you
fit and flexible and helps prevent weight-related diseases. Most experts recommend
;; to ;; minutes of exercise daily.
Or is it bad? Given that, for many of us,
even ;; to ;; minutes a day is a challenge,
it may be hard to believe that some people
exercise to the extreme. Compulsive exercisers become genuinely distressed if they
can’t work out as much as they feel they
should. At this point, exercise becomes
more important than work, rest or social
activities—and it’s no longer fun or feels
good; it becomes a preoccupation with
Not only is this obsessive behavior mentally and emotionally unhealthy, it can lead
to overuse injuries, unhealthy weight loss
Experts say: Anyone who has reached
this stage should step back and re-evaluate
their exercise routine. By resolving the
conflicts and finding a balance, you’ll clear
the way to a fitter, healthier lifestyle. C
Beverly Burmeier is a freelance health writer.
© KUES / SHUTTERSTOCK
FOR YOUR HEALTH
stiff muscles; this can improve performance. But don’t bounce, as bouncing may
cause muscle receptors to contract rather
than stretch and could tighten muscles even
further. When your muscles are warm and
elastic, do slow, relaxed, static stretching
to reduce the risk of injury. Then move to
dynamic stretches such as rotating your
arms and swinging your legs back and forth.
Finish the warm-up with a reduced version of movements used in whatever activity you’re prepping for. Stretching should
feel good; if it hurts, you’ve pushed too far.
Wearing a brace
Is it good? If you’ve injured your ankle
or knee, a brace can help you get back in the
game more quickly and provide stabilization for a weak joint.
Or is it bad? Some experts believe these
devices cultivate a dependence that delays
gaining strength and mobility. “People can
become overconfident in their ability and
rely on the brace to prevent injury,” says
Heidi Orloff, retired professor of exercise
science at the University of Puget Sound,
in Tacoma, Washington.
Experts say: Braces with rigid frames
or metal supports control movement of the
joint until the injury heals. Slip-on neo-
Costco warehouses and Costco.com offer
a wide variety of exercise equipment.