Health and wellness is becoming a hot topic again, especially given the pandemic which is a major contributing cause to the rising levels of stress. Between zoom fatigue, loss of employment, social isolation and all the usual stresses of everyday life, it’s become too much for many people. Unfortunately, given the circumstances, there’s only so much we can do but luckily, incorporating a proper self-care routine is one of them.
Self-care is not about the little luxuries we allow ourselves as a treat once in a while, but the small everyday habits we do to stay at our best. At minimum, these should include adequate sleep, a nutritious diet, regular exercise and stress management. Exercise is a fantastic way to reduce stress because it increases those feel good hormones in the body, among the many other health benefits it provides. The problem is that with more and more information available, it gets harder and harder to discern fact from fiction. These are just a few of the common fitness myths that are still floating around and this is to help set the record straight.
Myth #1: Spot Reduction.
Fact: Targeting specific muscles during exercise will not lead to a reduction in fat in that particular area of the body. For example, working on your abs will not help you lose belly fat. It will build strength and/or endurance in your abdominal muscles which will become more visible with a program that promotes overall body fat loss.
Myth #2: Muscle weighs more than fat.
Fact: Muscle tissue is denser and takes up less space in the body than fat tissue but pound for pound, they weigh the same. However, if two people are approximately the same body shape and size, the one with more muscle mass will generally weigh more than the one with more body fat.
Myth #3: You can out exercise a bad diet.
Fact: It is much easier to control the amount of calories being consumed than calories being burned through exercise. For one, not all calories are created equally. Calories from vegetables are relatively low and nutrient dense, whereas, calories from soda are high and considered empty because they contain very little in the way of nutritional value. For example, according to Harvard Medical, using a stationary bike at a moderate pace for a 155 pound individual for 30 minutes burns about 260 calories. According to My Fitness Pal, a mars bar has 230 calories. It would take 30 minutes of moderate cycling to burn off one chocolate bar.
Myth #4: When you stop exercising, your muscles turn to fat.
Fact: Muscle and fat are two different types of tissue, so one cannot become the other. What happens is that muscle density decreases over time due to a lack of exercise, known as reversibility. Fat then takes up the extra space left by the now smaller muscles.
Myth #5: Pain means it was a good workout.
Fact: Pain means that you’re working too hard, putting too much stress on your body and increasing your risk of injury. A healthy and safe approach to exercise is to increase overload gradually and use adequate recovery to let your body adapt to the stress over time.
Myth #6: Lifting heavy will make you bulky.
Fact: Many women are skeptical about lifting heavy weights because they fear appearing bulky. While weight lifting does lead to an increase in muscle size, it will not be at the same level as that of men. Women naturally have less testosterone in their bodies than men and it takes years of dedicated effort (training and eating excess calories) to even build muscle to bodybuilder physique standards to begin with. Strength training will help reduce body fat by increasing your metabolism and creating definition in your muscles.
Myth #7: You should always stretch before exercise.
Fact: You should only stretch after a workout when your muscles are warm and your joints are well lubricated. Doing so before increases your chances of injury as it can negatively affect joint stability and performance. Essentially, it can reduce muscle strength, power, balance and reaction time.
These are all very common fitness myths that can still be overheard in everyday conversations. While well meaning, sometimes advice from family and friends isn’t the best source for valid information about exercise. Knowing how quickly information can spread, you can now be part of the solution in dispelling these myths.
So to recap, you cannot spot reduce fat. One pound of muscle is equivalent to one pound of fat in weight. Exercise will not erase poor eating habits. Muscle does not turn into fat. You should adjust the intensity of your workout if you’re experiencing pain. Muscle is compact, fat is bulky. Do not stretch before a workout, only afterwards. Now that that’s all cleared up, go forth and exercise!
Check out part II here.
What other fitness myths have you heard?
Let me know in the comments!