Are you spending hours training in the gym every day of the week with no results? There are countless tips circulating the world wide web about how to achieve your body-specific goals, but some of them just don’t work. Which among these tips are fact and which are fiction? Here are five fitness myths you need to stop believing.
5 Fitness Myths Debunked
1. Spot Training Can Target Specific Areas
This is one of the most common fitness myths because people want it to be true. Spot training is the belief that working a specific area on your body will make you lose body fat on that area — like when people do crunches thinking it will help them lose unwanted belly fat. This isn’t how your body works. Fat is a layer situated in between your muscles and your skin. It’s true that we burn fat when we exercise, but it doesn’t automatically burn the fat around the area that you’re working on (1). Spot training just doesn’t work. How can you shed body fat in those more stubborn areas, then? Well, you accomplish this the way you lose body fat anywhere: through healthy nutrition and regular exercise. You may notice certain areas of your body changing before others, but everything eventually catches up. Bear in mind that we're all different. While some people might first lose body fat from their stomach, others might notice an initial change in their arms and face. While it doesn't always happen as quickly as we want it to, with the right lifestyle changes, your physique and body composition will eventually change.
2. More Exercise Is Better
The more you work out, the faster you can achieve your fitness goals — this is another one of those fitness myths that some people believe. Yes, a sedentary lifestyle is not healthy. Yes, we need to exercise to stay fit. But overdoing it is not the answer. More doesn’t always mean better. Why? Because your body needs sufficient time to recover from an intense workout. When you train, your muscles get tiny tears. Your body adapts by healing these muscle tears, thus building bigger and stronger muscles. If you overtrain without giving your muscles (and your body) sufficient time to heal, you may slow your progress or make yourself more prone to injury. It's a tough concept for many of us to accept, understandably, but muscles grow when we rest. Plus, maintaining this habit for too long can lead to serious burnout. When that happens, you might be out of the gym for several weeks before you're able to really handle any training again. Overtraining is counterproductive. Recovery is crucial. Side note: don't forget there are "active rest days" and total rest days. If you like to keep your body moving, you can safely have active rest days, where you do light activity like foam rolling, walking, or a relaxed row. This can actually help reduce soreness and speed up recovery. Total rest days are okay too, though. Sometimes, the best medicine is a lazy day on the couch.
3. Nonstop Cardio is the Key to Leaning Out
This is another one of many fitness myths. Cardio helps maintain heart health, blood pressure levels and lipid levels, but just cardio alone is not an effective way to lose body fat (2). If you want to lean out, you need to add strength training to your fitness routine. Lean muscle mass — which you can build through strength training — will help your body burn more calories. It also boosts your metabolism (3). Furthermore, it burns calories even when you’re at rest! That's another key difference: cardio mostly burns calories only when you're training. Strength training helps you burn more calories throughout the entire day. Thus, in the long run (and fitness is indeed a marathon, not a sprint), strength training is your best friend when it comes to maintaining a lean physique. It’s also important to note that when you’re doing strength training, you may not see a difference in your weight right away. That’s because muscles weigh more than fat, but don’t worry. When done right, strength training will help improve your body composition (4). This serves as an important reminder not to let the number on the scale dictate your feelings of health, happiness, and progress. If your clothes are feeling baggy because you shed some fat, the number on the scale might very well have gone up.
4. The More You Sweat, The More Calories You Burn
Sweating is your body’s natural way to cool down and regulate body temperature. It’s not an indicator of how many calories you’ve burned during your workout. Yes, it’s true that while you’re sweating, you’re losing weight, but that weight is mostly from water and will come right back once you rehydrate — and rehydrating is important. Water is necessary for survival. To put it simply, this is another fitness myth.
5. You Can Out-Exercise a Bad Diet
Health is made up of two things: fitness and nutrition. Focusing on one and disregarding the other doesn’t work. Your efforts to exercise regularly will not yield the results you want if your body is not getting the right nutrition. Yes, calories in/calories out largely dictate your body size and composition. But make no mistake about it: you can't achieve your best health surviving on fast food and other unhealthy items. Does being physically active give you more wiggle room to indulge? Definitely. But too much indulging will backfire. You need to eat the right kinds of food in order to be the best version of yourself possible. You cannot out-exercise a bad diet. While social media, pop culture and misinformation on the internet might have you believe some of this common misconceptions, rest assured that research (sometimes, decades' worth) have proven them false. There's no shortcut to a healthier life. It comes from making the best choices you can, every single day. Keep putting one foot in front of the other, don't be discouraged by setbacks and celebrate even the tiniest of wins.References
- “Subcutaneous fat alterations resulting from an upper-body resistance training program”, Kostek, MA., et al., (2007).
- “Isolated aerobic exercise and weight loss: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials”, Thorogood, A., e. al., (2011).
- “Strength training increases resting metabolic rate and norepinephrine levels in healthy 50- to 65-yr-old men”, Pratley, R., et al., (1994).
- “One set resistance training: effect on body composition in overweight young adults”, Washburn, RA., et al., (2012).