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7 Fitness myths answered

From commonly-held beliefs about stretching and the need for speed to the sad truth about spot-reducing your trouble zones, find out the real deal about these common fitness myths.

Fitness myth 1: When you exercise in your target heart rate zone, you burn more fat. 

Reality: When we exercise, such as walking, running, or weight training, no matter how hard we exercise, the calories come from carbohydrates and fat stored in the body. It is impossible to exercise at a specific heart rate and get your body to use only fat for fuel. It is more important to focus on total calories burned during exercise than fat calories.

Fitness myth 2: Stretching will help you prevent sore muscles associated with exercise.

Reality: Stretching after exercise will do nothing to prevent muscle soreness the next day (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). The damage to the muscles has already been done during the exercise, and stretching cannot repair the damage. Stretching the next day, when your muscles are sore, may help reduce the pain a little, but it does not repair the damage done to the muscle from heavy or unaccustomed exercise.

Fitness myth 3: It’s best to exercise in the morning.

Reality: Some research shows that people who exercise in the morning stick to their exercise routine better. But the bottom line is that the best time to exercise is the time that fits into your day the best. If you are not a “morning person,” then don’t exercise in the morning. If you like to get up and move at lunch, eat a snack before your workout and work out while your co-workers are eating. But if you like to get your day out of the way and then exercise, do it after work.

Fitness myth 4: Stretching before exercise will prevent injuries.

Reality: Research over the past 10 years has proven this to be wrong. Static stretching (holding a stretch for 10 – 30 counts) immediately prior to exercise has no effect on decreasing injuries in athletes and non-athletes. Injuries occur because of numerous factors such as the muscle being tired and “failing.” A more flexible muscle does not mean fewer injuries. A warm-up before exercise is more important than stretching.

Fitness myth 5: You can spot-train specific areas of your body to “melt the fat away.” (What happens if you keep doing hundreds of sit-ups or doing thigh exercises in that one area)?

Reality: Spot-reducing is impossible. You cannot work one area of the body with the expectation of reducing the fat content in that particular spot. In order to reduce the fat content on the body, we have to do total body exercise to burn a lot of calories, which will reduce fat content from all over the body. If you do lots of sit-ups, you will get strong abs, but it will do little to reduce the fat on your stomach.

Fitness myth 6: Stretching and flexibility will improve performance in exercise or in sports such as running.

Reality: First, the flexibility requirements for sports-athletes and “fitness-athletes” are sport or exercise dependent. Gymnasts and divers need a lot of flexibility. Runners do not need a lot of flexibility, nor do people who weight train. Secondly, in sports where a lot of flexibility is less important, it has been shown that improving flexibility does not improve performance and does not predict success in a sport. In fact, studies on runners have found that the less flexible a person, the better he or she ran.

Fitness myth 7: In order to get into shape, you have to run.

Reality: Any form of exercise can help a person get the benefits of exercise. Walking is the most common form of exercise in the world. It is true that running burns a lot of calories, but if you don’t like to run, or if you get too sore from running, there are many other forms of exercise that can get you into shape. The best exercise is the exercise you like and that you will enjoy doing on a regular basis.

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