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Common fitness myths debunked

It wouldn’t be a new year without resolutions. Many of us are determined to make positive changes in our lives, like prying ourselves off of the couch and becoming more physically active and fit. This is a good thing — but don’t believe everything you hear.

The fitness industry is loaded with snake-oil salesmen selling empty promises and providing misguided advice that preys on those who know what their fitness goals are, but have no idea how to achieve them. What’s worse is that the world of fitness is filled with the proverbial cornucopia of equipment, programs, at-home DVDs, famous TV personal trainers, and a whole wonderland of gyms. Many of these gimmicks promise that if you “stick-with-this-you-will-look-and-feel-like-the-famous-and-or-photo-shopped-person-endorsing-this-product-does!” Don’t fall for it.

Alina Cress, program coordinator of UNB Recreation Services, debunks some common fitness myths to help us make positive choices on our way to improving personal wellness.

 Myth #1: Doing sit-ups will flatten my belly.

Sorry — spot treating exercises will not help you lose weight in a targeted area. Weight loss occurs systemically — simply put, it occurs throughout the entire body. Therefore losing weight in specific areas of your body does not happen by doing exercises that only use one part of your body. Stick to a well-rounded program that encourages you to use all your major muscle groups.

 Myth #2: Exercising in the “Fat Burning” zone defined on cardio equipment burns fat.

Wrong. Without getting too much into the nitty-gritty about exercise physiology, fat — in partnership with other sources — is used as energy (“burned”) when we are working at a lesser intensity, i.e. in an aerobic state.  Howeverworking at higher intensities requires more energy expenditure, and higher energy expenditures equal more calories burned.  Therefore think about adding some higher-intensity intervals to your workout rather than a lower-intensity steady state.

 Myth #3: If you want to lose weight, do cardio.

While cardiovascular training is certainly important for your overall health, keep in mind that most energy metabolism (caloric burning) takes place in your muscles. Do you remember high school biology when you learned about the cell and its various components?  What about the mitochondrion? Hint: we all know it as the “power house of the cell” or the cell’s “furnace.”   What I’m getting at is that the more muscle you have and/or the better quality your muscle is, you will have an increased number and more efficient little power houses that will be burning calories.  Therefore be sure to incorporate resistance (weight) training into your regular exercise routine.

 Myth #4: “No Pain, No Gain”

If it hurts, don’t do it. Exercise should not be a physically painful experience. Sure there are times when it is difficult and uncomfortable, but it is important to know the difference between pain and discomfort. Pain is when your body is telling you that an injury is occurring or reoccurring, and that’s not good. Discomfort, however, is when you are aware that whatever you are doing is not particularly enjoyable, but it is safe for you to keep going.  Know that burning sensation you get in your muscles when working hard?  That’s uncomfortable, right?  But guess what? It’s normal and it’s safe to experience. On the other hand, that sharp, ripping feeling you feel when stretching deeply? Stop! That’s bad! Therefore listen to your body and don’t be a hero, because pain is not there to bring you any gain.

 Myth #5: One Machine Can do it All

Nope! There are a lot of fancy machines out there, most of which are backed by pretty convincing testimonials, but we have to remember the old adage ‘if it’s too good to be true…” So perhaps the “MuscleFlex-5000’ isn’t what it is cracked up to be.  To be perfectly honest, there is only one machine that can — for the most part — do it all … your body. Therefore choose a variety of movements, exercises, environments and equipment (or perhaps no equipment) to achieve your desired goals.



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