FITNESS FACT OR FICTION
Sometimes we get sound advice that seems to conflict with other sound advice. Drink coffee. Don’t drink coffee. Chocolate is bad. Chocolate is good. Exercise in the morning. Exercise at night. Avoid fats. Eat healthy fats. If you’re wondering what is true, or a myth, about fitness, we’re here to help with ten fitness myths and three surprising facts.
Ten Fitness Myths
- Myth: An aerobic workout will boost your metabolism for hours after you stop working out. This would be great if it were true. We give this one a half-myth rating because while your aerobic workout will last for a while, it doesn’t last for long and doesn’t burn many calories. The sad truth is that it only helps you burn about 20 extra calories for the day.
- Myth: As long as you feel fine when you’re exercising, you’re not overdoing it. This one can get you into trouble because many aches and pains from muscle exertion or strain don’t show up until one, or even two, days later. If you’re returning to exercising after a lapse in time, stagger your activity to make sure you aren’t injuring yourself. No pain does not necessarily mean no strain.
- Myth: Crunches are the key to flat abs. Not so much. A crunch will tone a small portion of your abs, but they don’t burn calories, and they don’t slim your midsection. Ab crunching machines don’t help a lot either. The best thing to do for abs are planks and bridges. Belly fat will disappear when overall fat disappears. Unfortunately, you can’t pick and choose where to lose body fat.
- Myth: If you're not working up a sweat, you're not working hard enough. Sweating is a personal thing. Some people sweat after walking to the mailbox and others won’t’ sweat after a one-hour spin class. It’s very individual. Sweat is just the body’s way of cooling itself. You can burn calories while walking, for example, without breaking a sweat.
- Myth: Machines are the safest way to exercise. It may seem as though an exercise machine automatically puts your body in the right position, but that is only true if the machine is adjusted properly for your height and weight. You can make just as many mistakes on a machine as you can with free weights. It may be worth spending some time with a fitness trainer, to get you started with good form.
- Myth: The more gym time the better. Take another look at myth number two. It is possible to work too much and cause injury. Scheduling in rest days is crucial because your body needs to recover. Be sure to take regular breaks. Break every other day if you’re a beginner (or lapsed exerciser) and take a once a week break if you’re at an advanced level.
- Myth: Running is bad for your knees. A Stanford University study found that older runners' knees were no less healthy than those of people who don't run. So why does this myth exist? Perhaps it is because there are so many sports injuries that can hurt joints, and a knee injury is common. Knees get hurt in contact sports, like football, and women have more knee injuries than men. This is thought to be because women tend to have an imbalance in the strength ratio between their quadriceps and hamstrings. To protect your knees, make sure you’re doing strength training to build up the muscles that support the knee. Related Myth: Running on a treadmill puts less stress on knees than running on asphalt or pavement. Not true. The stress is related to the impact of body weight on your joints, not the surface on which you’re running.
- Myth: Stretching helps your body recover faster. Stretching is good for you, and it feels good, but a recent University of Milan study on the effects of post workout recovery methods found no significant changes in blood lactate levels (a measure of how fatigued your muscles are) in folks who stretch after exercise. So do it because it feels good.
- Myth: Swimming is a great way to lose weight. Swimming is aerobic, and is great for lung capacity and toning muscles, but it doesn’t burn off tremendous amounts of calories compared to other activities. This is because of water’s buoyancy that helps keeps you afloat. If you had diving weights on to neutralize the buoyancy, then you’d be burning some calories to stay afloat, but simply swimming does not get the job done. Swim for body tone and lung capacity.
- Myth: You need to work out for 45 minutes to get a health benefit. Not true! Mayo Clinic recommends 30 minutes per day of activity – which may or may not include an actual workout that makes you sweat. Walking is an activity. So is raking leaves and mowing the lawn. The 30 minutes need not be at one time either. If you’ve got just 10 minutes to spare, get up and move. Later on, move for an additional 20 minutes. An Arizona State University research study reported that people had consistently lower blood pressure readings on average when they split their daily walk into three 10-minute segments rather than tackling one 30-minute stroll.
Three Fitness Facts
The exercise, activity or workout you do should fit your needs, your goals, your age and present state of fitness. Busting these fitness myths might help you plan your activities accordingly.
- Surprising Fact: Lifting weights WON'T bulk you up if you’re a woman. Even if you're using heavy dumbbells, you're not going to bulk up. Women typically have less muscle tissue and produce lower levels of testosterone than men, so they are less physiologically prone to becoming brawny. Women body builders have to work very, very hard to bulk up. The rest of us can relax.
- Surprising Fact: Skipping sleep CAN cause weight gain. Another study, reported in the American Journal of Epidemiology, showed that people who slept less than seven hours are more likely to gain weight. Sleep deprivation can also make you hungry.
- Surprising Fact: Yoga ISN'T a big calorie burner. This may not be a big surprise. Even though you can sweat buckets doing yoga, you’re probably not burning a lot of calories. A 50-minute power yoga session burns 237 calories, whereas a spinning class can burn 500 to 600 calories in the same amount of time. Yoga, of course, has many other benefits.