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10 Fitness myths busted and what really works

Kathy A. Johnson is a freelance writer and editor in central Florida. Her work has appeared online and in print publications ranging from Mothers & More Forum to Horse Journal.

The truth about fitness myths

You’ve heard crunches are the cure-all for the lower belly pooch. You’ve seen fellow joggers lugging dumbbells on their treks. You’ve even tried working out hard every day to get fit because your friends tell you more is better. But, do these widely spread fitness myths really get the fitness job done? The truth is that fitness myths actually can keep you from exercising effectively, may put you at risk for injury, and even discourage you from working out at all because they set you up to have unrealistic expectations. Here we bust 10 fitness myths that may be keeping you from reaching your fitness goals.

Woman doing sit ups

Fitness myth #1:

Crunches will give you a flat belly.

Sorry: You can't choose where you lose fat. Abdominal workouts strengthen your muscles but won't melt away the fat that lies over them. Burn belly fat the same way you burn all excess fat: by doing cardiovascular exercise and strength training.

Fitness myth #2:

Weight machines are better than free weights.

"Not necessarily," says Paul Killian, a strength and conditioning specialist certified by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). "If you're doing a routine that is appropriate for you, then using free weights is just as safe. Don't limit yourself to machines." Machines must be adjusted correctly for your height and weight to be safe, also. Without a professional to help with the right settings, you put yourself at risk for injury.

Fitness myth #3:

Holding weights while doing cardio burns more calories.

You've seen them -- those power walkers swinging dumbbells while racking up the miles. While you do burn slightly more calories this way, you also increase your risk of injury, especially to your elbows or shoulders. A safer way to pump up your calorie burn is to increase your workout intensity (for example, jog instead of walk) or add interval training to your cardio workouts.

Fitness myth #4:

Yoga and stretching will make your muscles long and lean.

Yoga and stretching both benefit your body, but they can't permanently lengthen your muscles. The only way to look leaner is to lose body fat through diet and exercise.

Fitness myth #5:

Being skinny is the same as being fit.

True fitness is more than a number on the scale or a jeans size. You can be quite slender but still fail to have a healthy cardiovascular system and strong and flexible muscles.

Up next: More fitness myths >>

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