There are a lot of myths out there about exercise, and the last thing you need is misinformation to discourage you. SecondsCount sets the record straight, dispelling common exercise myths. So, the next time you are active, you will know for sure what you are doing is effective and worthwhile for your health.
1. Do you have to work up a sweat when you are physically active for it to count?
Not necessarily. Moving your body and raising your heart rate relative to your fitness level are the most important parts of physical activity. The main purpose of sweating is to cool your body down. You may sweat when you are active. But if you are just getting a physical activity plan, start slowly is a good idea and expect to sweat. Or if you’re older and just don’t sweat as much you used to, you may not sweat. If you are moving your body more than you usually do, you are working toward better fitness, sweat or no sweat.
2. Exercise turns fat into muscle.
False. Exercise cannot turn fat into muscle because one type of cell cannot be turned into another. But exercise, particularly strength training, helps build muscle, which helps you burn more calories and lose fat.
3. Lifting weights will make women bulk up.
False. Women don’t have as much testosterone as men, so it is not easy to bulk up their muscles by lifting weights unless they are trying to do so. But strength training, or lifting reasonable weights, is an important part of physical fitness. If you are still worried about becoming too muscular, use less weight and more repetitions (10 to 15 repetitions per set).
4. Restricting calories is the best way to lose weight.
False. Research has shown that changing your eating behaviors to lose weight works better if you also exercise. Aerobic exercise burns the most calories, and strength training builds more muscle, which uses more calories, and makes it easier to lose weight.
5. Abdominal crunches will make you lose belly fat.
False. You can’t control which part of your body will lose fat when you are physically active. Genetics plays a big part in controlling body composition and shape. Crunches will simply strengthen your abdominal muscles, which are underneath the layer of belly fat. However, if you balance the calories you eat with exercise to reach a desirable body weight, hopefully you will lose fat from various parts of your body, including your belly.
6. Stretching before exercise is crucial.
False. Warming up for at least 5 minutes (sometimes longer if you have special considerations is crucial, because it gets your blood flowing to your muscles and lets your heart rate adjust. But most of the time, stretching is best done after the physical activity, when muscles are warmest.
7. You will burn more fat if you exercise longer at a lower intensity.
This is confusing, but false. It is true that the percentage rate of fat burning is higher at lower intensity. However, the faster you walk or run, for example, the more calories you use per minute. And the most important focus in exercise and fat weight control is how many calories are burned during the activity. So, if you are able and you have clearance from your doctor, it makes sense to move more intensely to burn more calories in less time. However, high-intensity exercise is difficult to achieve and sustain if you are just beginning or returning to exercise, so you may not be able to exercise very long at this level. Or you may never be able to exercise at this level if you have certain heart conditions, for that matter. It is safest and most practical to start out at a lower intensity and work your way up gradually if it is recommended by your doctor. Or consider interval training, which alternates lower intensity walking with short bursts of higher intensity brisk walking, or running if you are able.
8. Simply reducing sedentary behaviors is not enough to improve physical fitness.
False! Research shows that cutting back on sedentary activities, such as television viewing or video games can make you move more and lose more weight. In fact, a 70 kilogram (154 lb) person who adds two (cumulative) hours per day of light movement as part of a regular routine can lose an extra 15 kilograms (33 lbs) of weight per year. So, if you’re standing up, you’re on your way to moving more!