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Contradictory Fitness Information
by Justin Leonard
Written on October 28, 2000

It's not uncommon to read a magazine article about health and fitness, only to realize later that a news headline about the same topic gave a different side of the story. Although the information was from two credible sources, the evidence and theories just didn't add up.

The perfect example of this is situps. We were taught growing up that situps were good. We did them everyday in physical education class. When we graduated high school, we learned that situps were bad for the back. When did the change take place? Which theory is true? Everything we learned as a kid contradicts what "experts" are saying today. Here, we have two credible sources: a certified PE teacher and a doctor. One says it's ok, the other says you can damage your lower back as a result of performing situps.

What should you do when you hear information like this? Believe it or not, both theories are correct. This is true because situps do work for many people and they have no back problems as a result of performing them. At the same time, others who attempt to do situps have a higher risk of injury to the lower back because of physical limitations and other reasons. This is because our bodies our different. Each person is affected by fitness differently. In this case, the PE teacher and the doctor were right.

There is an additional reason we hear and read conflicting fitness information. This is what the "experts" don't want you to know. I'll reveal the secret. 

The reason we sometimes get conflicting information is intentional. It's a marketing strategy. Imagine the news headline, "Alcohol Decreases the Risk of Heart Disease." What kind of attention does this draw? With an advertisement like this, anyone would want to hear what these people had to say. Picture the boost in TV news viewers when a headline of this type begins to circulate around the country. Or how about the potential increase in alcohol sales as a result of hearing the "good news?" All throughout our lives we were taught alcohol is one of the biggest causes of death. We learned to "Just Say No", and that there was nothing good about it. We then hear about a positive effect of alcohol on the heart when it is consumed a certain amount per week. 

Take a look at the high fat diets. Since when was fat a good thing? These diets involve eating all the fat and meat you want while drastically restricting carbohydrate (bread, rice, pasta, etc.) intake. It contradicts the "fat is bad" theory we learned growing up. In this case, the inventors of diets of this type are telling people exactly what they want to hear. It makes heads turn. It's a diet that actually tastes good and doesn't involve starving. In this example, they are using the same strategy as the alcohol example . . . a new theory or method that grabs attention. This is all a marketing scheme used to boost sales and ratings.

Contradictory information on fitness can actually be a good thing. From diet to exercise, conflicting information comes in all forms. Use each bit of information to your advantage. It gives you an alternative way to view opinions, theories, and methods. It also enables you to make decisions based on what you believe is true. This allows you to determine which information you will ultimately benefit from.

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