There is no question that getting in shape and maintaining your fitness are important. Exercise can be fun, but working out consistently is also hard work. Unfortunately, knowing if you are doing the right fitness routines and the appropriate amount of exercise is a daily challenge when faced with all the fitness myths you read online, in print and hear at the gym. These exercise myths include reasons not to work out, exercises to do and not do, the fastest (faddish) way to fitness, and many more. To help you sift through the truth and lies, here are five common fitness myths debunked and one myth that actually is true.
Fitness myth #1: Muscle turns to fat when you are lazy
How often have you heard this one? Perhaps you’ve even used it as an excuse to skip exercise, thinking there’s no point in building up muscle, because it will all just turn to fat when you stop working out. Well, quit making excuses to not exercise. Muscles do get larger as you work out regularly, and they will shrink (called atrophy) if you stop. Because you burn fewer calories when you don’t exercise – and perhaps also eat more – your body fat can build up. Yet, neither fat nor muscle morph into eachother under any condition bcause they are different types of tissue. This also means that exercise won’t turn muscle into fat, but it might help get rid of some of it.
Fitness myth #2: The most important thing is to be skinny
Though the current Western culture focuses on weight and size – and women (and men) feel pressured to be stick thin – wearing a size 2 does not equate to health. It’s true, having a BMI of over 30 (being overweight) can affect your health, increasing the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, gallbladder disease, and certain types of cancers, but actually, it seems that fitness level is more important than size. Research suggests that people who are fit live longer, regardless of their size. That doesn’t mean going to the gym and then using it is an excuse to stuff yourself with cakes like there’s no tomorrow; though fat and fit is better than lean and unfit, lean and fit is the healthiest of all.
Fitness myth #3: Weight training makes you bulky
Some women avoid weight training because they are afraid that it will make them look too muscular. Because of their lower levels of testosterone, women doing moderate levels of weight training are unlikely to build bulky muscles. For most people, weight training isn’t about building visible muscles and looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Rather, weight lifting improves balance, strength and bone mass (the latter is particularly important for postmenopausal women), and can help reduce body fat percentage because muscles burn more calories at rest than fat tissue.
Fitness myth #4: Exercise will get rid of specific areas of fat
Dubbed “spot reducing,” doing specialized exercises, such as sit ups or leg raises, can tone up specific areas of muscles, but unfortunately, these exercises cannot shift local areas of fat. Losing weight will cut fat down overall, but different people will lay fat down in different areas, and in women, fat can tend to move from the hips to the waist after menopause. Instead of spending inordinate amounts of time doing dozens of repetitions to “spot reduce” certain areas, balance your workout time by focusing on exercises that tone and strengthen your whole body.
Fitness myth #5: Running is bad for your knees
For over three decades, people have assumed that running is bad for the joints, especially the knees. If you are avid runner, chances are you’ve been faced with the questions: What about your knees? or Won’t you get arthritis? You can keep safely racking up the miles and tell your skeptical friends and family that a study carried out at Stanford University found no link between running and osteoarthritis (the arthritis that results from wear and tear). It showed that running did no long-term damage to joints, and might actually prevent arthritis and keep the cartilage in the joints healthier by increasing circulation. Turns out, being overweight is a much greater risk for arthritis.
Fitness myth #6: Exercise makes you eat more
This one is actually true. In an Australian study, people eating a fixed breakfast and also doing exercise designed to burn off 500 calories said that they did feel more hungry after exercise, but also reported that their post-breakfast satiety (how full they felt after breakfast) increased as well. Therefore, it seems that exercise does make you hungrier, but it also makes you feel more satisfied after you eat.
Keep your post-exercise rewards sensible
One reason why some people don’t lose weight when they exercise is that they (even subconsciously) treat themselves with high calorie food after their workouts. It’s a good idea to have a sensible snack an hour or so before exercising, eat a healthy meal fairly soon after exercise and drink plenty of water (or other low calorie fluids) -- but avoid buying a cake or a bag of chips as a reward for exercising.