As the holiday season nears its end, I have no doubt whatsoever the track facility where I train will be filled with well-meaning persons trying to undo the damage inflicted upon their bodies since the end of October. I hold out hope (however fleeting) they will keep at it long enough to develop a healthy habit of daily (or near-daily) exercise.
I'm not certain what is more frightening, the pile of fitness, health and dietary myths printed on a regular basis in the public media...or those that are not only printed in the media, but repeated by medical professionals...with no scientific evidence whatsoever.
The British Medical Journal traditionally carries light-hearted features in its Christmas edition. Two U.S. researchers took seven common beliefs and searched for evidence to support them.
Despite frequent mentions in the popular press of the need to drink eight glasses of water (in fact, repeated on the health section of Yahoo!), they found no scientific basis. The lack of evidence is recorded in a study published in the American Journal of Psychology.
So, let's take a look at the other six "myths" (and my editorial commentary):
1 - Reading in dim light ruins your eyesight - unlikely to do permanent damage, but may make you squint, blink more and have trouble focusing. (If you're reading Runner's World, some of the articles will make more sense.)
2 - Shaving makes hair grow back faster or coarser - no effect on thickness or hair regrowth, but stubble gives the impression of coarseness. (So if I let my mustache, beard and head and leg hair grow long, I can slick it down for aerodynamic effect. What do you think, dear?)
3 - Eating turkey makes you drowsy - tryptophan is involved in sleep and mood control, but turkey has no more than chicken or beef. Eating lots are probably the real cause of sleepiness. (Not to mention slowness and fatness.)
4 - We use only 10 percent of our brains - imaging shows no area of the brain is completely inactive. (The jury is still out on the effects of skull thickness.)
5 - Hair and fingernails continue to grow after death - the skin dries and retracts after death, giving the appearance of longer hair or nails. (Hm...there's an untapped market for manicurists...)
6 - Mobile phones are dangerous in hospitals - studies found minimal interference with medical equipment. (People using mobile phones in public, not only hospitals, are more a pain in the @$$ than anything else. Mobile phones are still dangerous in airliners and while driving on the roadways, however.)
So, go ahead and use that cell phone (quietly) in the hospital, back off your dietary intake a skosh if you're feeling sleepy, and drink when you're thirsty. If you're one of those persons who believes all the stuff you read in the newspapers, stop, already. Always, but always go to the source documents. And don't believe everything your physician says, especially when they tell you that running is bad for the knees. :)