Busting Exercise Myths with Science

Good Health Lifestyles Get Healthy

Separating fact from fiction is essential to achieving maximum results from any exercise program. It is time to shut down these common myths once and for all.

Myth #1: Working out with weights bulks you up.

Fact: Women have just five to seven percent of the testosterone (the hormone responsible for building muscle) found in men. That means women must work harder and longer to achieve noticeable muscularity and will never get as bulky as a man. Secondly, achieving major muscle growth requires a combination of heavy-weight training and consuming more calories than you burn. Only those who devote most of their time to exercise and strict meal planning accomplish what you see in bodybuilding and fitness magazines.

Myth #2: Exercise helps you lose weight.

Fact: We often conflate losing weight with fat loss, which are very different things. In fact, the scale does not reflect how much fat versus lean body mass (muscle, organs, and bones) we have. Recent research on 439 postmenopausal women showed that diet alone resulted in more than three times the fat loss than exercise alone. (However, the combination of both had a slightly better result than either by itself.)

Myth #3: You can out-exercise a bad diet.

Fact: If your diet includes processed foods, junk food, soft drinks, too much sugar and sodium, artificial sweeteners, saturated and trans fats, and preservatives, you are inhibiting your body from absorbing enough nutritional fuel to function properly. Add excessive exercise to the already toxic payload and you create the preconditions for serious health problems in the long run. Unless you choose whole foods that fuel your body, you are pouring sugar in the gas tank.

Myth #4: Muscle turns to fat if you stop weight-training.

Fact: Muscle cells and fat cells are entirely different and not interchangeable. Muscle tissue helps hold the spine together and makes it move. Adipose tissue (fat), on the other hand, accumulates under the skin (subcutaneous fat), between internal organs (visceral fat), and in bone marrow. Fat is stored fuel for when you need energy. Weight training grows muscle cells, which promotes more movement and burns more calories. When you stop, muscle cells decrease and fat cells increase because they are not being burned off.

Myth #5: You can spot-reduce (e.g., crunches for a flat belly).

Fact: When you exercise, the body does not draw energy from specific areas but rather from your body as a whole. You can, however, exercise a certain muscle group to reshape that area. But unless you burn more calories than you consume, even 100 crunches a day will not reduce the fat in your belly.

Myth #6: Stretch before you work-out.

Fact: The latest guidelines from the Mayo Clinic suggest that the best time for stretching is after your workout when your muscles are warm. Stretching cold muscles can cause injury. You may, however, do a 10-minute warm-up (e.g., walking, jogging, or biking) prior to a pre-workout stretch. But definitely do stretch after intense exercise, such as running, spinning, or a HIIT workout, to boost flexibility, reduce your risk of injury, and decrease muscle tension in your body.

TIP: If you need more guidance on ways to achieve the body you desire, consult a certified personal trainer who can tailor a program to your specific needs.

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