10 Fitness Myths and Half-Truths

Can You Spot the Truth and the Lies?

Woman in exercise class
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There is a lot of misinformation when it comes to exercise, weight loss, and fitness advice. You will hear various myths repeated not just by your fellow exercisers, but also by trainers and coaches who you would assume know better. See if you can separate the truth from the myth.

Fitness Myth 1: No Pain, No Gain

Exercise does not need to hurt to be good for you. In fact, if it does hurt, you’re probably doing something wrong. Some soreness is common for a first time exerciser, but if that continues, you are probably pushing too hard. Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), in which pain occurs up to 48 hours after exercise, results from inflammation and microscopic tears in the elastic tissues that surround muscle fibers. To give muscles time to adapt, avoid doing too much too soon or you will risk injury.

Fitness Myth 2: Excessive Sweating While Exercising Means You’re Not Fit

In fact, it's just the opposite. Sweating during exercise is a sign of an efficient cooler. An athlete who has adapted to keep their body core temperature cool during exercise will shunt blood to the skin’s surface more quickly and release heat from the body.

At the same time, the body's sweat glands increase their output and then cool the body during sweat evaporation. While fit people produce more sweat than sedentary folks, they lose less sodium, because more of it is reabsorbed by the body. The result is a more efficient cooler.

Fitness Myth 3: If You Stop Exercising, Your Muscles Will Turn to Fat

Fat and muscles are two different tissue types. One cannot convert to the other. The truth is that muscles atrophy when they're not used. Therefore, if you continue to eat as you always have, but stop exercising, you will see an increase in body fat and a loss of muscle mass.

Fitness Myth 4: You Can Increase Fat Burning By Exercising Longer at a Lower Intensity

It really isn't important what percentage of energy during exercise comes from fat or carbohydrate. What matters at the end of the day is how many total calories were expended. The higher the exercise intensity, the more calories are burned per minute. Many new exercisers, however, are encouraged to exercise at a lower intensity because high-intensity exercise is difficult to sustain, and lower intensity is safer for them as beginners.

Fitness Myth 5: If You Exercise, You Can Eat Anything

If you try to make up for poor nutrition by exercising, you are going to be disappointed. While eating poorly and not exercising is far worse for your health that eating poorly and exercising, you will get the most out of your workouts if you fuel them with high quality foods.

Fitness Myth 6: If You Don't Work Out Hard and Often, Exercise Is A Waste Of Time

Nothing could be farther from the truth. Research shows that even moderate exercise, such as walking a few times a week, can have tremendous benefits like improved heart health. In addition, a scoping review published in 2020 suggests that moderate activities like gardening can improve overall health and well-being and even reduce the risk of chronic disease.

Fitness Myth 7: Exercise Can Fix All Your Health Problems

While consistent exercise can make a huge difference in quality and quantity of life, it can't fix everything. Individuals with other health issues and diseases still need to follow a physician's advice when it comes to disease management protocols. And although exercise alone cannot guarantee your health or cure you of illness, regular physical activity has been shown to help everything from arthritis to heart disease, asthma, and diabetes.

Fitness Myth 8: Weight Training Will Bulk You Up

Many people use this excuse to avoid weight training. What they don't realize it that weight training, when combined with a healthy diet, is an effective way to lose body fat and increase lean muscle mass and definition.

Fitness Myth 9: To Build Muscle Requires Massive Amounts of Protein

There is no scientific evidence supporting the popular belief that athletes require massive amounts of protein. According to Dr. Suzanne Nelson Steen, former head of the University of Washington Huskies Sports Nutrition Program and sports nutrition expert, strength athletes require just slightly more protein than other individuals, and still need adequate carbohydrate to replenish muscle glycogen.

She points out that all high intensity, powerful muscle contractions (such as weight lifting) are fueled with carbohydrate. "Neither fat nor protein can be oxidized rapidly enough to meet the demands of high-intensity exercise. Adequate dietary carbohydrate must be consumed on a daily basis to restore glycogen levels," she says.

To build more muscles, you simply have to follow a good weight training program and eat a well-balanced diet consistently.

Fitness Myth 10: The More Exercise The Better

Of course, you can get too much exercise. Many top athletes give in to this myth, and many pay the price with injury, illness, and depression. When it comes to exercise, you need an appropriate balance of training and rest in order to perform optimally.

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