In life we take many things for granted. People are told to go on a low fat diet and do some aerobic training, and yet they still gain body fat. Your blood work shows slightly altered cholesterol and thyroid levels and right away you’re told to go on medication. The trainer at your local gym rips out a copy of Everyday Stretches (reproduced from a 1987 poster) and says: “Do this before your next workout.”If you’ve been spinning your wheels and going nowhere in your pursuit for optimal health and fitness, then stop! Doing something simply because you’ve been told to is not good enough. It’s time to question authority and challenge the establishment!Let’s start by dispelling five common health and fitness misconceptions. Dare I suggest that…1) A high fat intake can actually lower body fat! Two reasons: a) If low fat is consumed, your body retains body fat as a protective/survival mechanism, and b) a high fat intake upregulates key (lipase) enzymes, which not only break down dietary fat but also body fat. Of course, a high fat and high carb diet will result in body fat accumulation so this only applies to a low carbohydrate intake.2) Reduced thyroid levels (i.e. TSH levels above 5) for a lean individual following a low-carb diet may be normal and healthy! Now before you throw your chair at the computer, hear me out. As Dr. Ron Rosedale notes, reduced thyroid levels are not necessarily synonymous with hypothyroidism. The body chooses to lower thyroid hormones due to an increased efficiency of energy use and hormonal signaling. It is yet another example of how the body adapts and should not be viewed as abnormal. The knee-jerk reaction in many cases would be thyroid medication which could potentially decrease lifespan.3) Low cholesterol levels will promote aging. Cholesterol is the raw material for many hormones – lower cholesterol and you lower hormone production… and if you lower hormone production, you increase aging! To make matters worse, low cholesterol has been associated with a broad complex of emotional, cognitive and behavioral symptoms including aggressiveness, hostility, irritability, paranoia, and severe depression. There is an increase in deaths from trauma, cancer, stroke, and respiratory and infectious diseases among those with low cholesterol levels. Furthermore, a study in the British medical journal, Lancet, indicates that elderly men die earlier with low blood cholesterol levels.4) Aerobic training can increase body fat. Specifically, long distance, low intensity, rhythmic-type aerobics done for a long duration/distance on a frequent basis can signal the body to store fat. Your body prefers fat for fuel at lower intensities. It adapts to aerobic activity by storing fat (usually in the hips and thighs) to become more efficient for future use. The more fat you store, the more you can use. Furthermore, aerobics are associated with increased cortisol levels without a concomitant increase in testosterone (as occurs during strength training) disrupting an optimal testosterone:cortisol ratio. In fact, average testosterone levels are significantly lower in endurance athletes. This, of course, equates to a decrease in muscle and strength along with an increase in (android) body fat, i.e., midsection fat.5) Static stretching will make you weak. This has been well documented in the literature, and yet a typical warm-up usually contains some form of (you guessed it) static stretching. The classic Bob Anderson style of stretching before exercise tends to sedate muscles, and research shows that it will decrease power and strength by as much as 30% for up to 90 minutes. By that time, your workout is over!Sometimes you need to take a sledgehammer and crush what’s written in stone! We’ve been told to reduce fat in our diets, lower our cholesterol levels, improve reduced thyroid production with medication, perform aerobic training almost daily, and definitely start each workout with some static stretching.Dare I suggest otherwise?You better believe it!