If you desire to be optimally healthy, which includes staying fit and happy, exercise is essential. Most people are well aware of this, yet many do not exercise and, among those who do, many fall short of reaching their desired fitness goals.
A huge part of the problem is the advice itself, as recommending “exercise” is about as useful as recommending a “healthy diet.” Unless there are more specifics such as length of time, intensity, activities etc., many people will fail.
This is true even if you’ve been following conventional exercise recommendations, many of which are as outdated as JAVA powered cell phones. And even though there’s an enormous amount of information available to teach you how to best exercise, not all of it is accurate.
If you’re looking up to start an exercise program, or improve the one you’re already using, keep reading. Following are some of the more surprising fitness myths –and what you should do instead.
Myth #1: Crunches Lead To Flat Abs
Truth: Crunches do provide some toning of your abs, but you’ll get “flat” abs only by burning off belly-fat. This means fat-burning exercises are going to be essential for flat abs. Matter of fact, research has shown that doing abdominal exercises even when performed for five days a week during a six week stretch has no effect whatsoever on fat storage and abdomen size.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is among the best fat-burning exercises out there, but even core-building planks will burn fat (and work your abs) far more effectively than ab crunches.
Myth #2: More Sweat Means Better Workout
Truth: Virtually any type of intense exercise will make you sweat, but the amount of sweat isn’t an indication of how many calories you’ve burnt. Remember, sweating is a natural and essential body process that helps your body stay cool, so exercising in warm weather will create more sweating.
While you can’t use your amount of sweat as a gauge of exercise intensity, you can assume that if you haven’t broken into a sweat at all, your exercise is probably not intense enough. Additionally, sweating in itself may be beneficial as it can facilitate toxin excretion.
Myth #3: Running Harms Your Knees
Truth: Running does not necessarily “ruin” your knees. In fact, research shows that older adults who engage in long-distance running suffer less from osteoarthritis than those who don’t.
That being said, women are up to five times more likely to suffer from a knee injury due to running, compared to men. This is because they may have an imbalance in strength between their quadriceps and hamstrings. Regular strength training, including of your legs, is therefore important if you’re an avid runner.
Myth #4: Stretching Is Crucial For Faster Recovery
Truth: According to recent research, stretching only does a little work in influencing blood lactate levels (a measure of muscle fatigue) after a high-intensity workout. So while post-workout stretching may help you to build flexibility, it’s not necessary for muscle recovery.
In fact, cooling down after a workout is more of a personal choice, rather than a necessity for reducing muscular pain or improving recovery. As far as a pre-workout stretching goes, the best type of stretching to do is dynamic stretching, as opposed to static stretching (which is what most people do).
Myth #5: You’ve To Exercise for At Least 45 Minutes
Truth: Conventional aerobic exercises performed for long periods at a steady, moderate pace was long considered the “golden standard” of a good workout, but in recent years research has disproved such notions.
Instead, high-intensity interval training (which requires only a fraction of the time compared to conventional cardio) has been shown to be far more effective, compared to longer cardio workouts. There are many types of HIIT, but the core premise involves maximum exertion followed by a quick rest period for a set of intervals.
Ideally, you’ll want to perform HIIT exercises two or three times a week for a total of four minutes of intense exertion. You do not need to do them more often than that, however. In fact, doing it more frequently than two or three times a week can be counterproductive, as your body needs to recover between sessions.
If you want to do more, focus on ensuring you’re really pushing yourself as hard as you can during those two or three weekly sessions, rather than increasing the frequency.
Myth #6: Thinner People Are Healthy, Bulky People Are Not
Truth: You can’t really tell how healthy someone is just by looking at them. It’s totally possible for a thin person to be completely unhealthy. And it’s also possible that someone who technically has an “overweight” body mass index (BMI) to work out regularly, eats lots of healthy fruits and vegetables, and otherwise follows healthy habits.
Myth #7: You Need to Drink Eight Glasses of Water a Day
Truth: Nope! You should be drinking water throughout the day, and you’ll definitely be healthier if you drink water instead of drinks with a lot of added sugars such as soda, juices, and other sweet drinks. But everyone’s hydration needs are a bit different from others and the specific number of eight glasses isn’t based on any actual research. A good rule of thumb about staying hydrated is drink enough water throughout the day so that your urine is pale yellow. The darker your pee, the more dehydrated you are.
Myth #8: Breakfast Is the Most Important Meal of the Day
Truth: Actually, the research on this is mixed. Probably a better way to look at breakfast is: Are you hungry in the morning or not? If not, then don’t force food into your body when you’re not feeling it. If you are hungry, then you should eat and if you choose something healthy with a good combination of protein, fiber, healthy fats, and some carbs, then it will work best for you. Do not force-feed yourself just for the sake of having breakfast as it is deemed as an important meal.
Myth #9: Taking Vitamins and Supplements Will Make You Fit
Truth: There are growing evidences that you don’t need to take all the vitamins and supplements you think you need to take. You do need vitamins, but if you’re consuming a balanced diet, you are likely getting what you need from your food.
Myth #10: Doing Hours of Cardio Is the Best Exercise to Do To Lose Weight
Truth: Researches show that metabolic resistance training is actually a much more efficient way to burn fat than doing cardio for hours.
Metabolic resistance training is essentially when you do traditional weight-lifting exercises (burpees, deadlifts, kettlebell swings) but you do them quickly and at near-maximum effort with very little rest time between sets. You make up for the fast pace by alternating exercises between major muscle groups, so one part of your body can rest while the other part is working. It’s incredibly intense if done right, but it also only has to last for about 20 to 25 minutes rather than the 45 minutes to an hour that you’d normally spend on the treadmill.
Also if you get on the treadmill in a steady state, your body will get back to its normal metabolic rate within a couple hours. That means you’ll return to burning the normal amount of calories that you usually do. But if you do metabolic resistance training, your “after burn” lasts a lot longer for 24 to 36 hours after you stop exercising.
Myth #11: Women Who Lift Weights Get Bulky and Look like Men
Truth: Everyone’s body has a different response towards different types of workouts, and some people are more prone to getting bigger than others. But you’re not going to get incredibly looking like hulk unless you’re actively trying to. For starters, most women don’t have enough testosterone in their bodies to produce the kind of muscle mass effect that people tend to associate with weight lifters. Unless you’re training at a very advanced or elite level, spending a ton of your time working out with heavy weights, and paying close attention to eating a lot of calories, it’s probably just not going to make you bulk up or look like a man.
In fact, lifting weights is great for a woman’s health, for the heart, for strength, and even make them feel more feminine with a toned body.
Myth #12: Detox Diets Will Purify Your Body of Toxins
Truth: Nope. That’s what your liver and kidneys are for. As for detox diets that involve actual food, they may force you to eat more fruits and vegetables and whole foods than you normally do (which is good for you), but you’re not flushing impurities out of your system. You’re just adding a lot more fruits and vegetables.
Myth #13: Working out makes you lose weight
Truth: Most studies show that working out alone, without dietary changes, won’t actually have any substantial weight-loss effects. That being said, working out with eating fewer/more nutritious calories is the healthiest and best way to burn fat and get in shape. If you’re looking at which is more effective at losing weight — only working out or only eating less — eating less will win easily.
Myth #14: Low-fat products are better for you than full-fat products
Truth: A lot of low-fat products might have added sugars or carbohydrates to make the food taste better as so much of the good taste comes from the fat. Also, more and more research is finding that fat (at least the kind that isn’t trans-fat) isn’t bad for health anymore. As long as you’re not eating full-fat products in excess, a little fat in your diet can be good for you.
When it comes to fitness, there are a lot of other misconceptions related to both nutrition and exercise, so it is best to have someone by your side who can guide you in the right way to achieve your goals. Whether you are looking to lose fat or gain weight, we would recommend you to seek advice from a certified nutritionist regarding your diet and have a personal trainer by your side who can curate the best exercise program for you depending on your body type, guiding you in your journey towards your fitness goals. Follow the diet and exercise suggested by the experts and you will achieve your fitness goals without going in the wrong direction or wasting your time.