From step counts to BMI: 10 pieces of health 'advice' you can straight-up ignore.

As someone who couldn’t possibly go out without her Garmin watch attached to her wrist (because did you even leave the house if your smartwatch wasn’t around to track it?), new research that backs the idea that we, in fact, do not need to take 10,000 steps a day has left me feeling things.

Mostly, lied to.

A new paper published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology tells us that, basically, we've all been duped. 

According to the research, we only need to walk 3,967 steps a day to reduce our risk of dying from any cause; and if we want to lower the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease alone, we need to take just 2,337 steps a day.

“The whole 10,000 number is this juicy goal that we've been taught that we need to aspire to and isn’t rooted in science or any evidence,” dietitian and nutritionist Lyndi Cohen explained to Mamamia

“It’s an arbitrary number that was plucked from the sky by the Japanese government to try to encourage people to walk more.”


Watch: 7 health myths debunked. Post continues after video. 

Video via Mamamia.

But as Lyndi went on to say, you don’t even need to take that many.

“The general idea that is rooted in evidence is that we should be moving our bodies in a way that is enjoyable,” the host of the podcast No Wellness Wankery explained.

“So instead of jumping around in your bathroom at 10pm to hit your step count, I would either pick a step count that feels doable and inspiring to you or just set a time goal that you’d like to achieve.”

Like, say, taking the dog out for a 15-minute walk first thing in the morning. Or getting off the bus a few stops earlier to get some movement into your day.

All this got me thinking – what other pieces of dubious health advice have we been tricked into believing?

Myth 1: Collagen supplements will improve skin elasticity.

“There is really nice evidence that collagen supplements may benefit your joint health, but the collagen molecule is actually really large and there isn't much evidence to say that it's going to improve the elasticity or the appearance of your skin,” Lyndi said.

“Even when applying collagen topically via your skincare routine, it can't make it through the skin barrier."

That said, some people swear they can see a difference when they make ingestible beauty part of their routine – and Lyndi advocates a 'you do you' philosophy, saying if you do notice a difference, go for it! But when it comes to whether or not to splash the cash, "there isn't enough research to say that this is something to be spending your money on”, she says.



Myth 2: Carbs are bad for you.

Guys, we need carbs. That's just a fact. 

“Carbs are the main source of energy for our brain and body,” Shreen El Masry, a personal trainer and Certified Intuitive Eating Counsellor, told Mamamia. “And we need a minimum of 130 grams of carbs per day just for our brains to function." 

That’s the equivalent of eating eight slices of bread, FYI. And honestly, bread is life, so great to know.

"Restricting carbs can lead to nausea, fatigue, reduced physical performance and, in the long term, osteoporosis and kidney damage," Shreen added.

Myth 3: We ALL need to drink two to three litres of water every day.

Okay, this is a bit of a tricky one. The thing is, we do all need water. Literally, to survive. But how much you need depends on, well... you, said Lyndi.

“This idea that we all need to be drinking two to three litres of water a day doesn't make sense when you consider someone who's 4ft 5 needs to drink the same amount as someone who's 6ft 5,” explained Lyndi. 

“Instead, the colour of your wee is going to be the best determinant of how much water you need to drink, remembering that this will change based on the weather, how much you're exercising, and whether you ate your fruit and vegetables that day."

Lyndi suggests getting to know your wee on a whole new level, because it will tell you whether you're dehydrated or not. “What you should be looking for is light-coloured wee that doesn't have a strong smell," she said. 


Myth 4: There's a magic number for how much sleep we need.

We've all read that we need seven to nine hours' sleep, but rather than a hard and fast rule, this is more of a general guideline, says Dr Caroline Hardy, a general health practitioner. The amount of sleep we each need as individuals depends on – you guessed it – our bodies' individual needs. 

"We usually need a minimum of five one-and-a-half-hour cycles of sleep at night," Dr Caroline told Mamamaia. "But each person is a little different."

Ideally, she added, we need to look at what time we're hitting the hay. 

"To get enough deep sleep, we need to go to bed earlier than around 10pm. If we go to bed too late, the hormones required for deep sleep are not produced in adequate quantities."

Myth 5: The BMI. Straight-up.

Here are some interesting facty facts about old mate BMI that you definitely need to know. 

“The BMI, or Body Mass Index, was created by a mathematician and astronomer in the 1800s and was never intended to measure health,” said Shreen, who wrote the book Be You Be Free

“The data is mostly based on white European men and the categories were arbitrarily created. The BMI tells you nothing about a person’s overall health."

So what kind of health markers should we be looking at?

“My advice would be to get rid of the scales and take the focus off BMI and body weight, and instead focus on improving and increasing health behaviours, which are so much more than what you eat and how you exercise," she said. 


"So that's your sleep, stress, self-care, relationships, emotional wellbeing, work, mental health, passions and values.” 

Myth 6: We should all be adding protein powder to our diet.

According to Lyndi, we're in our Protein Era. And listen up gym bros, because it's not good. 

“I think we have a protein obsession," she said. "That means we often end up consuming highly processed protein powders in the name of health that cost a large amount of money, taste really strange and can lead to unhelpful gut symptoms like excessive bloating and really awful smelling farts."


Um. Ew.

She said unless you're doing super-intensive physical activity for more than an hour, or you're looking to pump up those guns, you don't need to be downing shakes. 

"The majority of people do not need to take protein supplements because you should easily be able to get all your protein needs just by eating healthy food, and it's a much more affordable way to do it and it's much kinder on your body.”

Also, you'll avoid those stinky windy-puffs.

Myth 7: Juice cleanses will detox your body.

Ah, the juice cleanse. The stuff of Hollywood diets. And a whole tone of BS.

“There is currently no valid scientific research supporting the effects of juice cleansing," Shreen said – a statement backed up by a study in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics that showed researchers can't find valid support for claims that juice can 'detox' the body.

“The truth is, our bodies are amazing and can detox all by themselves!”  

Myth 8: Count macros to lose weight.

If you think that counting calories is tough enough, just imagine doing it for each macronutrient to breakdown the carbohydrates, protein and fat content in every single meal.  

Now while this may work for some people, Lyndi said it's a surefire way to develop an unhealthy obsession with our food intake. 


“It’s sold as a simpler version of calorie counting, but in fact you actually need to keep track of more numbers because now it's not just calories, it's protein, carbs and fat," she explained. 

And it could be "a slippery slope to disordered eating", Lyndi warned.

Myth 9: The ‘Alkaline diet’ will restore the pH balance in your body.

Since it became the diet to follow in the '90s, with many celebs on board like Gwyneth Paltrow (no surprise there), Jennifer Aniston and Victoria Beckham, the Alkaline method has been clouded in controversy. 

“The ‘Alkaline diet’ encourages people to eat foods such as fruits, nuts and vegetables, and avoid all meat, grains and dairy products,” dietitian Natalie Briggs told Mamamia

“The premise is that eating ‘alkaline foods’ makes the body more alkaline and restores optimal health.”

Except... science disagrees. According to the experts, food has little effect on the pH of our blood. Not to mention, we could actually be doing more harm than good.

“Your stomach requires an acidic environment to help digest your food," Natalie added. "Excluding food groups such as dairy or grains could also increase your risk of nutritional deficiencies, which may impact overall health." 


Myth 10: Only ‘hard exercise’ counts.

Stressed you're not working out 'hard enough' because you're not pumping iron for hours or running mega marathons?

The truth is, all movement has health benefits, and it doesn't matter what it is. That's a big YAY from us! 

“That includes vacuuming, walking to the shops, gardening, playing with your kids and dogs, and dancing around your lounge room," Shreen said.

“Choose the exercise that you enjoy the most, because when you choose to move your body in ways that you enjoy, you are not only more likely to stick with it long-term, but will also actually want to do it, rather than seeing it as a chore.” 

Image: Getty/Mamamia.