Like a lot of people in my line of work, I seem to be a walking Google for anyone with a health or fitness-related question. Some are good. Some are bizarre. And some sound daft, but are actually pretty interesting. Here are five recent – and genuine – examples of the latter.

If I was a better swimmer, would it be better for me?

Depends what you’re trying to do. If it’s a cross-channel swim, then the more efficient your swimming, th e further you’ll go on each stroke. But if you’re just looking to burn calories, 40 minutes flailing away in the pool like a drowning gibbon will give you far more of a workout than you’ll get by gliding effortlessly through the water.

Should I drink coffee before exercise?

Not so daft. Moderate pre-workout consumption of coffee (black rather than full-fat frappucino with extra choccy, of course) can improve your performance by 8-10%. However, don’t forget that coffee is a diuretic, so drink plenty of water to compensate.

Is a lie-in good for me?

Good or bad news (depending on whether you have teenagers or are one). Sleep is probably the most undervalued element of health and fitness, and it’s important to make sure we get enough. However the regularity of your sleep pattern can be as important as the duration of your night’s kip. Going to bed and getting up at a regular time maintains your body’s natural rhythm, with well-documented benefits for energy levels, health, stress and performance.

Will dieting make me fatter?

Actually, it can. Yo-yo dieting slows your metabolism, you lose muscle mass as a result, and you need muscles to consume calories. So when you go back into your regular eating pattern your metabolism is now slower than it was and so all the excess calories that are no longer being used are stored as fat. A regular well-balanced diet is way more effective long-term.

Will stretching make me taller?

No. And yes. Stretching can’t lengthen bones, so it can’t make you taller than your natural height. But it can make you taller than you currently are. Today’s lifestyles encourage poor posture, immobile joints and tight, short muscles, all of which can leave you hunched. Regular stretching will leave you standing better, straighter – and as a result, taller – than you have for years.

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