Health Rumours: Truth or Scare?

Bored of trying to separate health facts from fiction? Let our wellness guide ease your worries away this winter.

You’re more likely to catch a cold in a ski resort = Scare
Good times in the mountains, blazing the candle at every possible end, always equals muchas sniffling, either at the end of your trip or once you get home. But does the science confirm the connection? “All things being equal you are no more likely to get a cold in a ski resort,” says Carl Petersen, a Vancouver-based fitness expert. “However, late nights partying in close proximity to other people, fatigue from riding and dehydration can all weaken your immune system and dry cracked nasal membranes from the altitude allow for easier entry of the virus.” Eek!
Verdict: Wearing a bandana Shaun White-style, 24/7, could be our only hope.

Gentle exercise keeps you fit = Scare
We’ve long been led to believe that doing a spot of gentle exercise is enough to keep fit. Even stuff like taking the rubbish out and dusting counted, as did going to the gym, not breaking a sweat and spending more time chatting than working out, or maybe that last part was just us. But alas, now the killjoy scientists, behaving like those evil PE teachers from childhood, have reworked the guidelines to say that 30 minutes’ vigorous exercise a day is needed, on top of the moderate stuff and that people should do two weight-training sessions a week.
Verdict: Next they’ll be telling us diet fizzy drinks don’t really make you thin and nor does stuffing your face with pasties and chips.

TV makes you stupid = Scare
TV gets the blame for most of the world’s ills, such as turning us into fat bastards and making us dumb, not to mention promoting dubious images of women (Nuts TV, anyone?). But a study by Brown and Chicago Universities has found that in traditional societies it’s having a positive effect on women’s lives. The spread of cable TV in rural India, beaming urban soap operas starring well-educated, emancipated female characters, has made significantly more rural women get jobs and have less kids. They’re also less likely to accept beatings from their husbands.
Verdict: It may not excuse the reality TV pap we’re subjected to, but it’s nice to know the permanent fixture in the corner of your lounge ain’t all bad.

Cracking your knuckles gives you arthritis = Scare
To many, the sound of cracking knuckles is as unwelcome as the noise of fingernails screeching down a blackboard, others just find the idea of it unpleasant. And in unison these crackle-haters will tell the offender they’re bound to get arthritis, but will they? Apparently not, though the loud ‘pop’ sounds pretty bad, it is simply the synovial fluid that surrounds the joint forming a bubble, which then implodes and reforms. The largest study on the subject, published in the Annals of Rheumatic Diseases, showed no connection between knuckle-cracking and arthritis, though serial crackers did have less grip strength over time.
Verdict: Crack away! Though reduced grip is something skiers and mountain bikers might want to bear in mind.

More truth or scares>>

Headphones wreck your hearing = Truth
Any of life’s soul-sapping situations, such as work and commuting, are made so much more bearable when set to your personal soundtrack. Plus good times, such as riding, are noticably enhanced. So how cruel would it be if the very headphones that facilitated said process also trashed your hearing? Well headphone-use does damage the extremely sensitive hair cells in the inner ear (who said hairy ears weren’t sexy?), leaving you hard of hearing in later life. In-ear headphones linger around the harmful 100 decibel mark, which is louder than a lawnmower, according to a Harvard Medical School study. However, big DJ-style headphones did fare significantly better.
Verdict: Get some big bad-ass headphones, they look the bomb, which always helps.

You shouldn’t eat snow to cure thirst = Truth (sort of)
Even those with the IQ of a marmot would know to steer clear of yellow snow if you get a thirst on up the mountain. But what if the snow is pure white, then is it ok? Not really, says the Food Safety Society in Canada, as snow can contain heavy metals, toxins and bacteria, especially if you’re near a town, or the Mont Blanc Tunnel. “But staying well hydrated at altitude is also really important,” says Carl Petersen, especially if you’ve been trekking your ass off, so “choose snow that is fresh and white and let it melt in your mouth before swallowing.”
Verdict: Pray for fresh snow or better still invest in a Camelbak.

Running is bad for your knees = Scare
For years we’ve sat with our bums moulding nice shapes in our sofas, comforted by the knowledge that running is bad for our knees. Surewe’d go for the odd jaunt around the park on a summer’s day, but in winter, with a bone-chilling wind-a-blowing, we’d give it a swerve, favouring indoor yoga. But scientists at Stanford University have scuppered that particular excuse, finding that running does no damage to knees and may actually protect them. Runners are less likely to get arthritis, and by shedding excess weight by running, you will put less strain on your joints. Make sure you get the right sneaks though, as having ill-fitting trainers will lead to long-term injury bother.
Verdict: Get off your ass and start pounding the pavement.

Drinking alcohol kills brain cells = Scare (sort of)
Binge drinkers, not entirely unlike our good selves, are frequently scolded for the amount of booze they put away from a health point of view. But do they actually kill brain cells, as is often cited? Alcohol is a powerful disinfectant, which in high concentrations can kill human cells but the blood alcohol levels that make a person feel drunk are only 0.1 per cent, compared to the 100 per cent needed to murder cells. But even if it doesn’t damage the actual brain cells (neurons), studies show it trashes the brain’s communications devices (dendrites), which are involved in learning, reflexes and coordination, which explains a lot, and isn’t ideal in a long term kinda way.
Verdict: Drink less, but then you knew that anyway right?

Words: Sam Haddad
Illustrations: Casey O’Connell


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