Be it your gym buddies, friends, colleagues, news articles or a fitness magazine, you get to hear a lot of advice, do’s and don’ts with respect to what you need to do to achieve your fitness goals. Since every person is different, his/her body too reacts differently to exercises. So, what works for your friend or colleague may not work at all for you or work somewhat differently for you. Rather than blindly following what someone says or jumping all in after reading an article or a post in the magazine, you need to have a clear understanding of your fitness goals and pick steps that make sense, will help you reach your fitness goals and are safe to follow.
It may sound too much to do but all it takes is some knowledge about the way human body works and separate the truths from myths and misconceptions to stay on track and keep working to stay fit. To make your job easier, we have decided to bust some fitness myths, which will help you get the right information and not fret when your fitness goals seem like a distant dream, thanks to these supposed “facts” that you are often bombarded with from different sources.
- Crunches help to target belly fat
Though your core strength won’t be hurt by crunches, you won’t get much help from them if your aim is to strengthen your midsection, lose belly fat and build those 6-pack abs. That’s because crunches target a few abdominal muscle groups. To lose belly fat, especially if you want to flaunt those chiseled 6-pack abs, you need to challenge not only your abdominal muscles but all the muscles along your back, sides and the front.
So, doing core-building bridges or planks that engage all these muscle groups would be a more effective option to lose belly fat and let your chiseled abdominal muscles pop than crunches or sit-ups. For the best fat burning results, you can take up HIIT (high intensity interval training). You have to remember that a flat belly can be achieved by being lean. So, if you do crunches but fail to stick to a healthy diet and end up eating too much, a layer of body fat would keep your abs concealed under them. So, getting a flat belly is as much as choosing the right workout together and complementing it with a healthy diet.
- Sweating is equal to burning more fats
Sweating is a natural body process that helps you to stay cool. Though any intense workout will make you sweat due to rise in body temperature, you can’t always take sweating as an indicator to decide if you have burnt more calories. Remember that your body wouldn’t continue burning more calories to control your temperature. Instead, it would make you experience a thermal breakdown where you experience fatigue and are forced to decrease your workout intensity. For people with an extremely well-conditioned system, the body will regulate temperature by breaking somewhat even with the calories burnt. Sweating has other contributing factors too like the temperature and humidity of the place where you are doing your workouts. For example, you won’t sweat as much when it’s 30-degrees as compared to when it’s 47-degress. People with untreated hypothyroidism will find it hard to sweat but that too shouldn’t mean they are burning no calories with their exercises.
- Running is bad for your knees
Despite getting some bad press, running won’t ruin your knees or cause joint problems. Instead, it could help keep your joints and connective tissues mobile and strong, thus offering protection against osteoarthritis. In fact, studies have found that knees of older runners aren’t any less healthy than their non-running counterparts. However, it’s important to run sensibly by warming up the body before running, wearing the right shoes with adequate support, choosing running surfaces carefully (and staying away from uneven, extremely hard or potholed roads), and not neglecting discomfort or pain, if any, experienced during or after running.
Fitness experts suggest opting for a complete body strength workout twice a week along with your jogs to strengthen muscles supporting your knees. This is especially important for women as they have an imbalanced strength ratio between their hamstrings and quadriceps, which makes them prone to suffer from serious knee injuries, the risk being four to six times as that of the male runners.
- Stretching helps your body recover faster
Though post-workout stretching when your body is still warm is good for boosting flexibility of your joints, studies have found no notable changes in the levels of blood lactate levels (which show the extent of muscle fatigue) in people who stretch after their workouts. So, while stretching may not help speed up repair of muscle tissue or reduce muscle soreness fully, it still remains a personal choice to cool down after your workout sessions. To relax your muscles heated during the workouts, your post-exercise to-do list should have stretching and foam rolling in it. When it comes to pre-workout stretching, you should do dynamic stretching such as running butt kicks, walking lunges and power skips together with some light cardio to warm up your muscles and make your body ready for an effective and safe workout. Though most people do static stretching before their workouts, a proper warm-up session should include dynamic stretching as well.
- Weight training will make women bulky
Women reaching outrageous proportions with weight training is just a myth. Testosterone is the key contributing factor in increasing muscle size. Since a woman has almost a third of a man’s testosterone, she would never bulk up the way a man does unless she has some hormone imbalance (which is either induced artificially by steroids or is genetic in nature) and lifts weights that’s significantly more than what an average woman would do. Though women would gain some degree of muscularity with weight training, complementing it with the right diet and cardio will help them lose weight faster, retain muscle while they lose fat and ensure their metabolism doesn’t get slowed down.
- More gym means more fitness
Hitting the gym for long hours without a break or doing hours of weight training after spending an hour or two on the treadmill will not make you fitter. In contrast, it will make you feel fatigued and may even cause serious injuries. Overtraining should be avoid when it comes to your workout regimen as it also increases your cortisol (stress hormone) levels, which make your body store fat rather than burn muscles. You need to find out the right balance between your healthy eating, workouts (cardio, resistance and mobility training to suit your specific body type and fitness goals) and rest periods. Since your body repairs itself during the rest periods, incessant workouts won’t allow your sore muscles to recover. This will make you unable to reach your full potential.
Pushing your body too hard will even increase your chances of being injured and trigger new imbalances in the body, which can give you a lot of trouble over time. Just imagine how you will make all the hard effort go waste by getting injured and being forced to stay away from your workouts for a couple of weeks or months. But all these shouldn’t be an excuse to hit the gym just once a week because that would mean doing too little and that too ineffectively when the goal is to stay fit and agile.
- Yoga will get you ripped
Yoga is extremely effective for improving your strength and flexibility. However, since it isn’t an aerobic activity, you don’t burn a lot of calories with it. For example, you will just burn 237 calories with a 50-minute session of power yoga while spinning for the same period will help you knock off as much as 500 to 600 calories. Since yoga doesn’t need much oxygen, you won’t burn a lot of calories unless you are doing hot yoga. For a ripped body, you will have to complement your yoga sessions with weight training.
- Doing only cardio will result in weight loss
Excessive cardio will help strip body fat and muscles, but this isn’t an effective way to lose weight. Since muscles help stimulate your body’s metabolism, they are important for fat loss since they encourage the body to burn fat and calories more effectively. Stripping your fat tissues will make your body less effective in knocking off body fat. This makes it important to do weight training sessions involving low weights and high reps that help build muscles and tone the targeted ones together with burning more calories than what you would do with just cardio.
Remember that every pound of muscle your body builds will let it burn an additional 50 calories each day. Stripping your muscle tissue would mean you are interfering with goals of losing your body fat efficiently. So, include protein in your diet to help build muscles and focus on weight training as it would help you knock off those pounds much faster and effectively than what you would do with cardio alone.
- No pain, no gain
Doing an intense workout can cause muscle soreness (due to micro tears and slight damage in the muscle tissue), which may last for the next 24-48 hours. But just evaluating how sore or tired your muscles feel doesn’t always indicate a great workout session. Rather, it simply implies your muscle tissues faced a considerable amount of stress applied to them, which caused the pain and soreness. With proper rest and muscle recovery, you can prevent muscle aches and not feel sore the next day even after having an effective workout. It’s extremely important to identify the right extent to which you should push your body during the workouts and the heat your exercises induce in your muscles. So, if you are experiencing unusual, sharp, severe, sudden or consistent pain, stings, numbness or any other kind of discomfort, you shouldn’t ignore them as signs of a good workout. Instead, take them as your body’s warning signs indicating some serious problems that need to be addressed without any further delay.
- Strength training helps you bulk up
Lifting weights won’t turn your fat into muscle. Remember your body has two different tissues. While the muscle tissue is present throughout your body, fatty (adipose) tissue is located beneath your skin, lying between muscles, and around your internal organs (such as the heart). By lifting weights and doing resistance training, what you really do is build up muscle tissue in and around your fat tissue. So, with targeted strength training, you not only end up losing weight faster and more effectively but even have improved bone density and muscle mass, which prevent age related muscle loss and let you enjoy better balance as you get older. So, instead of giving strength training a miss driven by the fear of “bulking up”, you should have targeted strength training sessions together with a diet that complements it so that they bring all these health benefits your way and yet not make you look bulky.
Emma Johnson works as content editor for Best Brands HQ. She likes to blog about Fitness and Camping. In her free time she likes to run, swim and trek a lot.