Exercise: Fact or Fiction?

Common misconceptions about exercise.

It could be a workout technique you learned in elementary physical education class decades ago, a tip your co-worker said worked for him, or advice you read online for getting in shape. However, just because someone said it or because a lot of people believe it, doesn’t mean it’s true.
Likewise, what works for Sally may not work for you. Many myths and misconceptions circulate in the fitness world. Some are harmless while others have to potential to keep you from getting the most out of your workout, lead to injury, or cause frustration at the lack of results.

Read on to learn the truth behind five popular exercise myths.

Myth #1: Lifting Weights Makes Women Bulky

Many women shy away from barbells and dumbbells for fear of gaining muscle mass and looking like a bodybuilder. The fact is, men and women are created differently, which prevents this from happening. The testosterone in men’s bodies enable them to bulk up and build muscle faster in response to strength training, but estrogen keeps women’s bodies from having this effect. Rather than bulking up, lifting weights helps women burn calories, lose weight, support healthy bones, and increase their amount of lean muscle, all which are desired results. Adults should include two to three sessions a week of strength-training activities.

Myth #2: You Can Spot Reduce

What’s your trouble area—your belly, arms, or thighs? Many people mistakenly believe that by doing exercises that target those areas, they’ll see the results they want. Crunches to reveal six pack abs, tricep dips to dissolve upper arm flab, or squats to thin the thighs unfortunately don’t work that way. Not on their own at least. Yes, exercises tone underlying muscle, but until the outer layers of fat are gone you won’t see a difference. Lose the fat by eating a healthy diet and burning extra calories through regular cardio and strength-training exercise.

Myth #3: No Pain, No Gain

You’ve heard it before: “You won’t see results unless it hurts.” Sweat, tears, over-exertion, and pain aren’t what it takes to benefit from exercise. Discomfort is expected, but your body should never feel pain during a workout. Pain during or after exercise is a signal you’re doing something wrong or that you’re already injured. It also increases your likelihood of quitting. So disregard the advice to work through the pain. Rest until the pain subsides and if it doesn’t, see your doctor.

Myth #4: Exercise Means I Can Eat Whatever I Want

Just because you ran on the treadmill for 30 minutes this morning doesn’t mean you’re okay to eat a Big Mac for lunch. Your diet actually plays a larger role in weight control and overall health than exercise.

Also, exercising for a few minutes of the day doesn’t do as much good as you think if you sit around the rest of the day. Health and weight loss aren’t so much about exercise as they are about an active lifestyle.

Myth #5: Stretching Helps Prevent Injury

Regular stretching improves circulation, reduces stress, and increases range ofmotion. But static stretching (holding a stretch for 10, 20, or 30 seconds) prior to exercise has been found ineffective at preventing injury and delayed onset muscle soreness. Static stretches should be done after exercise when your muscles have had a chance to warm up. The best way to warm up your muscles before exercise is with dynamic stretching, which involves moving your muscles and joints through their entire range of motion.