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The Truth About 10 Common Fitness Myths

Some long-time workout "rules" can actually hurt you more than help you. Here's the latest, research-backed advice that busts some of the most common fitness myths and shows you what to do instead.

As if it isn’t hard enough to stay in shape, we also need to decipher which fitness tips are true… or false. Plus, all that contradictory information out there is just plain confusing!

Is squatting bad for my knees… or not? Which sport drink (if any) best complements my workout? Should women really forego lifting weights for fear of bulking up?

It’s enough to make your head spin. That’s why we’re here to debunk 10 common fitness myths and share the TRUTH with you once and for all.

Read on to learn the truth behind the myths…

Myth #1: If you focus on one area, you can lose fat in one area.

Truth: Here’s the thing: Our body parts do not live in a silo. So even if we do abdominal crunches for six weeks straight, we won’t see the results we were hoping for if we aren’t focusing on our body as a whole, that is. This means that you need to complement your crunches with a fat-burning aerobic workout, a bit of strength training and no surprise here a healthy diet. Because the truth is, the six-pack of your dreams might simply be hiding behind a bit of excess fat.

[Losing fat] is accomplished through a strategic combination of cardiovascular activity, resistance and core training, which are all supported by healthy and balanced eating habits.” (Source: AceFitness)

Myth #2: If you stop working out, your muscle will eventually turn into fat.

Truth: Good news! Muscle and fat are two different tissues that cannot magically turn into one another. So while your muscles can definitely shrink  if you stop working out, what happens is the tissue weakens but it doesn’t turn into fat. And if you’re staying relatively active and are eating well, it can take months for your muscles to drop in size. Now let’s reverse the idea: Same goes for the idea of transforming fat into muscle. You need to shrink your existing fat cells, and then work on building your muscle tissue. (Another myth? The idea of “burning” fat. The truth is, once formed, fat cells never truly disappear.) For quicker results, you can work on these two different processes (shrinking and building) simultaneously, keeping in mind your job is to target one area and enhance the other.

“The best analogy I can use is, you cannot turn an orange into an apple.” – Brad Schoenfeld

Myth #3: If women lift weights, their bodies will bulk up.

Truth: Men and women don’t need to exercise differently. In fact, we could follow the exact same routine and have very different results, thanks to our hormones. See, testosterone is one of the “fundamental ingredients” for muscle growth and women only have a fraction of the particular hormone when compared to men. And they don’t have near enough to build muscle in the way their male counterparts do. In fact, women who weight train often become leaner, rather than bulky. So, women, listen up! Rather than lifting light weights (or not lifting at all), challenge yourself to do some weight training that makes you sweat a little, with the goal of developing strong, healthy bones.

”Women can and should lift weights (heavy ones) without the fear of becoming anything more than healthy, toned and strong.” (Source: AceFitness)

Myth #4: Stretching before a workout is good for you.

Truth: In most cases, it’s not. And that’s because, if you’re like most people, you’re doing it wrong. The idea behind stretching pre-workout is to activate the muscles we’ll be using once we really get moving. Unfortunately, many of us (through no fault of our own) engage in the sort of stretching we should be doing post-workout: a little something called static stretching. In reality, it’s dynamic stretching that should come before a workout. That way, we’re warming up our entire body by using a variety of muscles and joints, resulting in an improved range of motion among other things. This is in direct contrast to what is essentially a “cool down” you know where we engage in relaxing stretches that signal to our brains that it’s time to rest.

“[The wrong] stretching before a workout will weaken the muscle by 30%, and the reduced tension may increase the risk of injury.” – Maik Wiedenbach

Myth #5: Exercise is the single best way to lose weight.

Truth: It’s actually a combination of exercise, diet and genetics. Don’t kill the messenger, but a stellar exercise routine does not mean you’ve got free reign to give into temptation whenever you’d like. And don’t forget about things like portion control, avoiding highly processed, refined foods, and making sure to incorporate whole, nutrient-rich foods into your diet. Because, unfortunately, exercise alone is not going to give you desired results if your diet and possibly your genetics aren’t on your side.

“You can’t out-exercise a crappy diet.” – Maik Wiedenbach

Myth #6: Squats will harm your knees.

Truth: Squats actually strengthen your knees and back. (Seriously!) Time to undo years of messaging you received from expensive gym equipment manufacturers, and listen up: Previous to the boom in the 80s, champion bodybuilders had been doing squats for decades. Not only are they not bad for your knees (assuming you’re not overdoing the weight), they are frequently employed as a recovery tool by sports therapists working with injured athletes. So if you want an inexpensive way to build up your knees and back, start squatting! You can thank an entire industry for its bad reputation. And now that you know about it, ignore the naysayers and get your squat on!

Unfortunately much of the (mis)information we consider truth in fitness was promoted to sell supplements or gym memberships. The truth isn’t so complicated.” – Sal Di Stefano

Myth #7: No pain, no gain. (Or: More is always better.)

Truth: Pain is most often a sign of injury, and overexerting our bodies can result in the exact opposite of our desired effect. This expression, made famous by Jane Fonda in the 1980s, may have done more harm than good. You don’t need to hurt yourself to see results. If, however, you’ve already sustained an injury and are working through it with your physiotherapist, it is normal to experience some pain until things are back to normal. And remember, if you’re working yourself so hard that your body is giving you warning signals (like pain!), this isn’t a good thing. Most of us just need 30 minutes of moderate activity a day to stay fit. In fact, if you over do it, your body may go into an “elevated stress response,” heightening cortisol levels (which can actually lead to weight gain!).

“Never exercise through pain unless you have a known injury, and it is part of a supervised rehabilitation program. In most cases, pain is a warning of an injury.” – Dr. Jennifer Solomon

Myth #8: Post-workout, grab a sports drink or a protein shake for better results.

Truth: Most of us just need good ol’ water after a workout (or anytime, really). The alternatives are often high in sugar, which can negatively impact our health in many ways and make it that much tougher to actually lose weight. So while sports drinks are hailed for providing us with the electrolytes we need after a good sweat, the reality is that only endurance athletes or those working out for more than 90 minutes, in extreme heat or at high altitudes need worry about this. For the rest of us, water is best. And protein shakes? Whether you’re using them for weight loss or muscle growth, we say: Don’t believe the hype to save yourself a few bucks.

Most [protein shakes] are a mix of cheap protein, vitamins, sugar and coloring agents.” (Source: Forbes)

Myth #9: Staying fit is too expensive.

Truth: You don’t need a gym membership or fancy equipment to stay fit. A 13-dollar jump rope is a killer calorie-burner! And don’t forget that it doesn’t cost a dime to take a walk outside (and experts recommend just 30 minutes a day to stay fit and healthy). If, however, you like the gym experience for the classes or the hands-on help, check out the multitude of fitness videos available for free on YouTube or through apps like Skimble. Bottom line: You don’t need money to be active so don’t let this be an excuse for not getting fit.

“The first wealth is health.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Myth #10: One day, you’ll be too old to exercise.

Truth: Exercise is recommended at all ages, and can help prevent age-related health conditions. Experts agree that if you continue to make activity a part of your life as you age, you will minimize the risk of developing a myriad of health conditions, and cardiovascular issues in particular. Not only that, but it helps you remain more limber and maintain your balance, which in turn, can help you avoid falls. In short, you’ll be younger at heart than your non-active peers. That’s good news because it’ll be that much easier to participate in the recommended light-to-moderate activity when you reach an age you previously thought was too old to exercise!

A study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association involving 1,622 men and women, ages 60 to 64, who wore heart-rate monitors for five days, suggests exercise is important for your heart health, especially as you age.” – Dr. Mercola

Now that we’re clear on the (fitness) facts, try not to let these often pervasive myths get in the way of your workout routine. And if you’re ever unsure, reach out to Health Concierge (a.k.a., the Myth Debunkers) with questions or concerns. We’re always here to help!

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