Exercise Myths To Avoid

It’s the start of a new year and for many that means new health and weight loss goals. Who doesn’t aspire to be leaner, tighter and hopefully fitter too? As you have probably already seen there are many choices out there competing for your hard earned money. So, as your search for good guidance and great classes begins there is information to consider to help you make the right choices and not fall victim to gimmicks, false claims and age old myths.

Myth #1 Spot Reducing

If it was only true; sorry. Fat cells are distributed on our bodies according to our genetic make-up. When your body stores extra calories they store in the fat cells. We have no say over which cells in what areas are more prolific. When you burn excess calories your body releases some of that fat from cells to be used as fuel, however, which cells release more is again ruled by your genetics. Exercising your arms for instance doesn’t mean you’ll have thinner arms. For this reason it is better to do whole body exercises that burn more calories than doing isolation exercises if the goal is weight loss.

Myth #2 Crunches Give You 6 Pack Abs

All the crunches and planks in the world won’t make your waist line thinner or give you that flat abdomen you want until you lose the fat first. When you read articles about great ab toners that’ll give you a six pack or have someone try to sell you on their sensational 15 minute ab routine, run. Sure the underlining muscles will be stronger, but abdominal exercises don’t burn enough calories to rid you of much fat. So, this brings us back to spot reducing - doesn’t work. Rather, spent the extra time doing exercises that burn more calories along with a reduction diet. When the fat shrinks the muscles will show.

Myth #3 Long Cardio Sessions Burns More Fat

While cardio exercise does burn calories and prolonged cardio burns yet more calories there are better more effective ways to lose weight. Several studies have shown that short bouts of high intensity exercise are more effective at burning away fat while also sparing lean body mass. This happens for a couple of reasons. High intensity training causes the release of a type of hormone (catecholamines) that in turn illicit greater fat release. Another reason is known as afterburn. Vigorous interval training places greater demands on the body compared to moderate exercise and therefore causes the metabolism to stay elevated significantly longer as the body rebuilds and recovers. A study from NSW University in Australia in fact found a threefold increase in fat burning using high intensity intervals. That’s huge and best yet the interval group’s sessions were half as long. 

Myth #4 The More I Sweat, The Better The Workout

Written words similar to myth and mythology. Ultimate Health Personal Trainer Los Angeles

Not really. Sweat is actually a poor indicator of effort or work load. Too many variables can skew this, like for instance ambient temperature. In a hot and or humid environment you will sweat more than in a cool or dry one. Other variables are clothing, hydration, salt intake and health. What is true is that the better your conditioning the more you’ll sweat not the less.

Myth #5 Lifting weights Will Add Bulk While I Try To Lose Weight

Resistance exercise is actually a key tool in your weight loss quest. Besides burning calories while say lifting weights, you will also have a good afterburn effect more so than even cardio provides. For this reason weight training would enhance fat loss. Resistance training is also necessary for tightening and shaping the body as you lose fat.  Muscle growth is regulated by your genetics and your gender. Men in general can put on more muscle because of testosterone, but even that is limited. Women don’t produce significant amounts of testosterone and instead produce more estrogen so muscle growth is even more limited. If the fat is coming off you will not look bulkier as muscle is considerably more dense than fat.   

Myth #6 Light Weight Resistance Tones - Heavy Weights Build

While lifting heavier indeed does make you stronger than lifting light does it isn’t better at building muscle mass. The reality of muscle atrophy (growth) is that the amount of effort exerted dictates the level of atrophy that results. So, whether you do 25 lighter reps to fatigue or 5 heavier reps to fatigue the net result in growth is the same.  In both cases the workload continued until fatigued therefore causing similar stimulation and similar protein synthesis as a physiological response.  A quick side note; muscle tone is actually muscle nutrition. A toned muscle has greater vascularity, muscle glycogen stores and hydration. That’s why it feels tighter too.  Lastly, muscle tone and muscle building are the same thing taken to different levels by depending on the quantity of work. Doing lots of lighter reps to not build-up is just spinning your wheels your body will respond with the same results but you’ll be there longer doing it. Doing sets of 8-12 reps will give you strength gains as well as muscle atrophy and a shorter workout.    

Myth #7 No Pain – No Gain

Actually too much pain signifies you over did it or hurt yourself. If you continue to go beyond your body’s ability to recuperate you will begin to break down to the point of injury. Exercise should not be painful while performed and if you are doing something new or a beginner you should feel a little tender to touch or when moving, but no more. If you progress your effort as you set stronger you will get excellent results. Use a less is more approach, it you feel little or no pain a day or two after your exercises session it means you can probably go harder.  Add about 10% at a time.

Myth #8 Spot Exercise will tighten my lose skin.

Whether its isolation or full body exercise no matter how you try your skin will not retract. This is a lie that unfortunately some trainers will push to try and get a sale. If someone uses it on you run the other way. Fact is fat can be lost and muscle will tone both helping to minimize looseness, but the skin once stretched won’t shrink. Whereas, collagen can be replaced, elastins that give skin its stretchy snappy properties cannot. Once stretched, skin is like the waist band of a pair of old shorts it will never fit the same again. The only alternative if it crazy bothers you is to have a tuck. No lotions, massages, lasers or treatments work either that’s why Plastic Surgeons get paid the big bucks. Sorry.   

Myth #9 If I Exercise Every Day I Can Eat What I Want

Yeah, not so much. The average person burns about 400 Calories in an hour of exercise. Even if you run for an hour and I don’t mean jog I mean a running pace you’ll only burn double that. When you consider the average fast food meal is well over 1000 calories (a burger and fries at Carl’s is about 1100 calories) you are on the wrong end. Unless you are a pro athlete or on a weight loss game show you can’t exercise enough to make up for a bad diet. Even if you could you are one sick day or injury away from failing. Food should not be the reward for a good workout. Food should be the fuel and nutrition so you can workout.

Myth #10 Now That I Hit My Goals I Can Take A Break

Sadly we begin to lose hard earned exercise gains in as little as a week. And for every week you take off it takes 2 weeks to get it back. This isn’t to say you should never take time off because you should from time to time, but stay active. If you keep active you probably won’t see any loss and if you had been training really hard you may even feel stronger, but more time off means more loss.  You may not need to work quite as hard to maintain, but the body needs to be challenged to keep its gains. So, it you are not doing your exercise routine then play hard at something.


Mayo Clinic.org - Healthy Lifestyle Weight Loss

 YaleScientific.org Targeted Fat Loss:  Myth or Reality?

Huffington Post.com - A weighty issue: Surprising research on lifting light vs lifting heavy

Unm.edu – Controversies in metabolism