Like other aspects of life, exercise is loaded with myths and half-truths. Some exercise “facts” are harmless, others are worthless, and the rest can cause harm. Here are a few of the more common ones.
- Crunches are the best exercise for tightening abdominal muscles and flattening the tummy bulge. Crunches don’t burn calories, so they aren’t the best exercise for flattening the stomach. Also, crunches encourage poor posture with the rounding of the back and shoulders and forward positioning of the head. They can also cause back pain. Try these yoga poses to tighten abdominal muscles: plank, bridge, and a dead bug.
- The more you sweat, the more calories you burn. Sweating does not equal exertion; it’s the body’s way of maintaining its normal core temperature. In other’s words, sweating is nothing more than a biological response. Calories can be burned without sweating.
- The no pain, no gain old workout myth can be harmful according to fitness experts. You shouldn’t feel pain or hurt while exercising. If so, it indicates you are doing something wrong or have an injury. After exercising, soreness is common for up to two days, but the pain is an indication of something else happening in the body.
- If women lift weights, they will build huge muscles as men do — is another dated legend. Women don’t produce high levels of testosterone or have high muscle tissue which are the primary physiological components for getting a bulked-up build. So, women, go ahead and pump some dumbbells.
- Before working outstretch to prevent injuries. Research shows that static stretching before exercising does not prevent injury. In fact, pre-exercise static stretching may worsen exercise performance. Experts suggest doing dynamic stretches to warm up the body, like swinging the arms and legs.
- Measure your heart rate and stay within your target zone to benefit the most from exercise. While there is some truth to this, the problem is that the most common ways of measuring are too simplistic and don’t give accurate results. For example, using the formula of subtracting your age from 220. Maximum heart rate (MHR) is hard to measure even on exercise equipment. These methods can result in heart target rates that are either too high or too low. Exercising at a high MHR can be dangerous for some people like those with heart disease or older people.
- Walking while holding or wearing weights will burn more calories is true in theory. However, the weights necessary to burn more calories are too heavy to use while walking because they can cause injury. Smaller weights don’t offer any benefit.
- Muscle weighs more than fat so ignore what the scale says. A pound is a pound whether it’s fat or muscle. As, personal trainer, William Sukala says, “Muscle does not weigh more than fat, any more than lead weighs more than feathers. If you gain weight after working out regularly, it’s probably due to eating more or eating the wrong kinds of foods. One culprit for weight gain is “recovery” foods consumed after workouts; they are often high in calories, such as some protein drinks and bars.
- It’s dangerous or too late for older people to start exercising. Research shows that it’s never too late to begin exercising and that you will receive benefits from exercise no matter when you start.
- Exercise requires a big-time commitment at the gym and intensive workout to benefit from or to lose weight. Studies show high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is more effective compared to longer cardio workouts. The basics of HIIT involves doing intensive exercise sets for short periods followed by rest periods. For example, a HIIT set may look like this: Five to eight 30-seconds of running in place as fast as you can with 90 seconds of rest in between every 30 seconds of running. Done 3-5 times a week doesn’t take much time. There are other types of HIIT exercises.
Myths, exaggerations, and half-truths will always exist; it’s part of human nature. Fortunately, there are experts and professionals to verify the veracity of such reports and help us along in our quest to be healthy and benefit the most from exercise. Now, drop and give me ten pushups….
9 Common Myths about Exercise. Retrieved from http://time.com/4779651/exercise-myths-heart-rate/.
Brandt, Megan MS., Strengthen Your Core Without Crunches. Retrieved from https://mdrevolution.com/about/blog/articles/strengthen-your-core-without-crunches/.
Mercola, Dr. Are These 7 Exercise Myths Keeping You from Optimizing Your Health? Retrieved from https://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2015/08/07/7-exercise-myths.aspx.
Sukala, William R., MS, CS. Aske the Personal Trainer: Does Muscle Weigh More Than Fat? Retrieved from https://www.weightwatchers.com/util/art/index_art.aspx?tabnum=1&art_id=8311.
Top 9 Fitness Myths – Busted! Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/top-9-fitness-myths-busted#1.
Yeh, Ivan. 6 Fitness Myths, busted (And 3 Surprising Facts). Retrieved from https://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20765578,00.html#myth-crunches-are-the-key-to-flat-abs–0.