Myths and Misconceptions about Fitness

When I first started working out 20 years ago, what I knew about exercise could have been written on the back of a postage stamp. Of all my fitness misconceptions, my favourite is still #8 on this list, "Exercise will turn fat into muscle." I was so convinced this was true ...

There are lots more, but here are my Top 12 Myths about Fitness
and Exercise

#1. No Pain, no Gain
An often heard comment that has done more harm than good. Physical pain is a signal to change or stop a dangerous activity. Always avoid serious discomfort when exercising.

#2. Eating extra protein builds muscle.
Sorry, but increase in muscle size, known as hypertrophy, has NOTHING to do with protein intake. Muscles get bigger when you overload them by weight training. Recommended daily protein intake is still 10-15% of total calories.

#3. Weight training will give women bulky muscles.
Don't worry ladies, your testosterone levels won't allow you to become super-bulky. Weight training with lighter weights and increased repetitions will result in increased endurance and that marvelous toned look that we all want!

#4. If I don't sweat during exercise, I'm not getting any benefit.
Sweating is important, because it's a way of cooling off muscles that heat up during exercise, but it's not necessarily an indicator of how hard you are working. Some people sweat buckets while others don't sweat much at all, regardless of their fitness level or degree of exertion.

#5. Sit-ups can burn fat off my waist and tummy.
NOT A CHANCE! There's no such thing as spot reducing or burning fat off a particular body part. Fat comes off through a combination of aerobic activity and proper nutrition. You can buy every tummy tucker or blubber blaster advertised on the Shopping Channel, but all they will do is to strengthen the muscle underneath. They don't zap off that midsection fat – but underneath you probably have a dynamite ‘six-pack'!

#6. Exercise in the morning works better than exercise at night.
They say that if your exercise in the morning, you jump-start your metabolism and therefore burn more calories during the day. There's absolutely no evidence that this is true. The best time to exercise is the time you want to do it, and are most likely to do it, whether it's morning, afternoon or evening!

#7. You can't build muscle after age 50.
Great news for the baby-boomers! That myth was shattered 17 years ago when a study was conducted in a nursing home where 10 frail residents ages 90 to 96 lifted weights for eight weeks. Their strength gain averaged 174%. Other studies have shown similar results. Not only is muscle gain possible in older adults, it is very beneficial. Strength training helps to increase bone mass and to reduce the risk of falling.

#8. Exercise turns fat into muscle.
It only appears that way. Fat is fat, and muscle is muscle – one type of tissue can never turn into the other. Instead of weak, flabby muscles covered in squishy fat, with exercise we have strong, supple muscles covered with a thinner layer of fat.

#9. Exercise machines are more effective than free weights.
In a word, no. The effectiveness of each type of exercise depends on how well you use the machine or your free weights. Some people simply prefer one over the other - take your choice. Both build lean muscle mass and increase endurance.

#10. Exercise burns lots of calories.
People have the mistaken idea that exercise is a fabulous way to lose weight. But exercising doesn't burn lots of calories. Walking or running a mile burns 100 calories – sitting still for the same time burns around 50-60 calories. Not too much difference is there? However, the more you exercise, the fitter you'll get, and in time, you will be able to walk or run for five miles instead of one. So … you'll burn 500 calories instead of 100, which is 250 more than sitting on the couch!

#11. Weight gain is inevitable as you age.
Most of us gain weight as we get older, but we don't have to. It's a matter of reduced physical activity and lower metabolic rate caused by loss of lean body mass. Did you know fat burns five calories an hour when you're asleep, and muscle burns around 50 calories? So, increasing lean body mass is a good thing. Exercise can mount a two-pronged attack on middle-age spread and muscle loss. Any cardio makes you burn more calories, and strength-training can increase lean muscle mass.

#12. If you're not going to work out hard and often, exercise is a waste
of time.

This type of thinking keeps a lot of people from even starting an exercise program, and it's simply not true. Research continues to show that any exercise is better than none. Working out for three hours every day does not show any greater benefit than working out for one hour.

The truth about exercise is that, in today's world where information is the name of the game, it's easy to lose track of the simplicity of movement. Exercise does NOT have to be complicated.

If you pick an activity that gets you slightly out of breath, and you do this daily or on most days, and simply ignore all the hype, you will all have a great shot at good health and physical fitness.