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Top 10 Fitness Myths Debunked

Jul 10, 2013 09:49PM ● By Cate Reynolds

Despite the fitness industry’s cries to disprove long-held myth, there are certain commonly held exercise beliefs that just won’t disappear.

Myth #1: Lifting heavy weights will make a woman “bulky.”
Plain and simple, women do not have the right hormones to gain bulky muscle. That requires testosterone, which men have in surplus and women generally lack. Lifting heavy weights will instead make a woman look long and lean, says dietitian Katrina Seidman of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center. “Lifting heavy weights is actually key to not only building muscle and getting stronger, but boosting your metabolism,” she says. “The more muscle you have instead of fat means to the more calories you will burn on a daily basis.”

Myth #2: Doing crunches will help reduce belly fat.

Doing a particular exercise in effort to reduce a particular trouble spot is known as “spot toning,” and it doesn’t really do any good. You will strengthen your abdominal muscles (a good thing, naturally), but it won’t lead to weight loss. However, when you do lose weight through creating a caloric deficit, your ab muscles will be nicely toned because of that muscle you created.

Myth #3: If I don’t have a dedicated 30-60 minutes per day to work out, I shouldn’t work out at all.

Just because it’s recommended that adults exercise between a half-hour and a full hour per day doesn’t mean that less exercise won’t provide benefits. “A lot of people think if they don’t have an hour to work out, then it’s not worth it to work out at all,” Seidman says. Instead, designate 10 minutes for exercise in the morning, 10 minutes in the afternoon, and 10 minutes in the evening for the same type of caloric burn that you would get in one continuous session. “It might be more doable,” Seidman says. “You can get your heart rate up within a 10-minute session just as easily.”

Myth #4: I need to go to a gym to exercise properly.

Paying for a gym membership might motivate you to exercise more frequently, but a sports club is not the only way you can get your heart going. You don’t even need weights—just a healthy dose of motivation and your own body. Seidman recommends doing pushups for your arms, varying the width to work different muscles, as well as tricep dips, using a coffee table or kitchen chair as a stabilizer. For your abs, try crunches, planks, and side planks, and squats, lunges, and leg lifts for your lower body.

Myth #5: Certain types of shoes can help me lose weight.

Recently, companies have marketed shoes with “rocker” soles, which were originally meant for people with diabetes or ankle products. The shoes have an unstable, strongly curved sole that supposedly uses muscles in your lower body that you wouldn’t normally use. No studies done on the shoes have shown they have an effect on weight loss or muscle toning. Some people report soreness in their muscles because of the shift in balance, but you probably won’t develop killer legs from it.

Myth #6: If I sweat too much, it means I’m out of shape.
This is a strange myth because there’s no rhyme or reason as to how it got started. The truth is actually the opposite—the fitter you are, the more efficiently your body is at sweating. Therefore, your body begins sweating at a lower temperature, so it seems like you actually sweat more. Additionally, “some people just sweat more than others,” says Ted Vickey, board member for the American Council of Exercise.

Myth #7: No pain, no gain.

It’s normal to feel sore after a hard workout, but it’s not an indicator of how effective a workout was. After a workout or two, your body gets stronger and adapts to the pressure you’re putting on it. The key is to learn the difference between soreness/muscle fatigue and actual pain. The latter is your body’s way of saying that something’s not right — listen to it. Additionally, if you are sore for days after your workout, that means your working too hard. Ease up on the weights, and take a day off for your body to recover.

Myth #8: The longer my workouts are, the better my results will be.

It’s not about how long you exercise, it’s about how many calories are burned during the workout, Vickey says. There are high-intensity programs that burn a lot of calories in a shorter amount of time, or low-intensity workouts that take longer, but are good for people just starting an exercise program. At some point, though, you have to stop exercising. Spending too much time working out leads to overtraining, which can cause injuries

Myth #9: The calorie-counters on gym cardio equipment are accurate.

This is partially a myth and partially true. Machines that have been around a long time, such as stationary bikes and treadmills, have been tested enough to give a generally precise reading if you enter your age and weight. However, new-fangled machines such as ellipticals tend to overestimate how many calories you have burned. “The intent of the exercise equipment makers is worthy, but the validity is often wrong,” Vickey says. To track your exercise, he suggests investing in a heart-rate monitor.

Myth #10: Running is bad for my joints.

The myth says striking your foot over and over again with a force equal to eight times your body weight—that’s 1,200 pounds for a 150-pound person—should, logically, destroy your joints. However, 2009 study at Stanford University followed 1,000 runners and nonrunners for 21 years. None had arthritis at the beginning of the study, but at the end of the study, it didn’t matter how much they had run — their joints were the same. Similar study in 2007 in Massachusetts had the same result. No matter what, though, runners need to wear proper footwear, treat injuries properly, and incorporate cross-training into their routine.

5 Small Steps to Get Started

Take the first step to looking good and feeling great by making small changes in your lifestyle. By making little changes in your life, you’ll reach your goals more quickly and feel like anything is possible.

1. Get rid of the soda. “Those calories add up like you wouldn’t believe,” Seidman says.
2. Try a new vegetable at the supermarket. It’s easier to incorporate new fruits and vegetables into your diet when you enjoy a larger variety.
3. Share your goals with your friends and family via Facebook. “Nothing like a little support from my friends and my own accountability,” Vickey says.
4. Boost your intensity level gradually. Doing too much too soon is an easy way to get burnt out.
5. Write down what you’re eating occasionally. “People don’t even realize how much they’re eating,” Seidman says.