Even if you are a longtime exerciser, you may inadvertently buy into some fitness myths, which are pervasive and feel like they should be true simply because they’ve been around for so long. When it comes to the facts about exercise, lots of misinformation exists, and changes often, so you may not even realize that some of what you believe actually is not true.
Make the most of your exercise sessions by learning the truth about some of the most common fitness myths, debunked for you here.
- Crunches will give you a six pack. Doing 100 crunches a day, or planking for 2 minutes daily, is great for ab strength, but won’t shed belly fat or give you washboard abs. To achieve noticeable definition in your core, you need strong muscles, definitely, but you also need to shed the layer of fat that lies on top of the muscles. Strength training can burn body fat, but cardio and interval training in general does a better job utilizing fat for fuel.
Plus, just because you’re exercising one area, like the abs, doesn’t mean the body is using the fat deposited directly in that region. In other words, there’s no way to spot reduce. If you’re goal is a six pack, you need to do cardio workouts, interval training, strength exercises for the core and follow a low-fat, low- or reduced-calorie diet.
- You have to do lots of cardio to lose weight. If you want to shed pounds, cardio workouts with high-intensity intervals are an effective way to burn calories, which can contribute to weight loss. And yes, consistent cardio workouts will help you lose weight better than infrequent sessions.
But incorporating strength exercises also is important because they help build your muscles, and more muscle mass increases metabolism. A higher metabolism means you burn more calories throughout the day. Finally, weight loss only happens when you expend more calories than you ingest through food. So the best plans to lose weight integrate a reduced calorie diet and a regular exercise program of cardio and strength work.
- The best workouts make you sweat a lot. Although we sweat when we exert ourselves as the body’s built-in mechanism to cool down, the amount of sweat, in and of itself, is not an accurate indicator of the value of our workout. You can challenge yourself big-time in the pool or kill it in yoga or Pilates, for instance, and you may not sweat much, if at all. Furthermore, how much people sweat varies and can be affected by their hydration levels and sensitivity to ambient temperature.
- Stretch before you exercise. Stretching loosens the muscles and formerly was recommended as a warm-up, but research has found that it’s better to stretch after workouts, when muscles already are warm and more pliable. To warm-up at the start of a sweat session, do dynamic movements, like marching, easy side bends, shoulder rolls, squats and more. Then spend a few minutes after you exercise to stretch the large muscle groups, holding stretches statically (no bouncing) for 10-30 seconds.
- If I skip workouts, my muscles turn to fat. Absolutely not! Muscles and fat are two distinct tissues, and are not physiologically capable of converting from one into the other. If you quit exercising, your muscles may atrophy (get smaller), and you may not look as lean, but they never, in fact, change into adipose tissue (fat). That said, you do need to be consistent with workouts to maintain your muscular size, strength and endurance – all of which are important to your fitness.