Fitness Fiction

10 Myths that May Be Sabotaging Your Health and Wellness Goals

We all want to be stronger, healthier and fitter, but often, our wellness goals are compromised by bad advice, outdated information and incorrect assumptions. And when we get frustrated with a lack of results, many of us give up altogether. But don’t fret. Information is power, and you can use it to make small changes in the areas you think will have the most positive impact on your wellness routine. Here are 10 common misconceptions that may be sabotaging your fitness goals.

Exercise Is the Key to Weight Loss

Judging by the number of people whose New Year’s Resolution every year is to work out more, most of us believe exercise is the key to weight loss. But science just doesn’t support this. Think about it; even if you exercise intensely for an hour every day, that still leaves 23 hours – or nearly 96% of your day – when you are NOT exercising. While exercise is critical for overall health, it’s hard to create a significant calorie deficit through exercise. And many of us often think that because we logged 30 minutes on the elliptical machine, we can eat whatever we want that day, which actually undermines our weight-loss goals. For weight loss specifically, what and how we eat is more impactful than our daily exercise.

You Can Target Fat Burn

Targeted weight loss, also known as spot reduction, is the idea that you can work out to lose weight in one area of your body, like doing triceps kickbacks to get rid of fat on the back of the arms, or glute bridges for a smaller tush. However, there is little evidence to show this works. Fat is stored energy that is released from cells all over the body into the bloodstream to be used as fuel; you can’t decide where the fat you burn comes from. However, those targeted exercises will build muscle in those troublesome areas, so when you lose fat overall, those body parts will appear more toned.

Sit-Ups Will Give You a Six Pack

Abdominal and core exercises like crunches, planks and bridges develop the muscles in your trunk, increase balance and stability and make it easier and safer for you to do everything from swinging a golf club to getting a glass down from the top shelf. However, ab exercises alone will not give you a visible six pack. For abs to be seen, men must reduce their body fat to 10-12% and women to 11-13%, which requires strict adherence to an exercise and diet regimen; that’s why it’s often said, “Abs are made in the kitchen.”

You Should Stretch Before You Exercise

No matter what your middle school gym teacher told you, static stretching before exercise – like touching your toes or holding one arm across your chest for 30 seconds – can actually reduce strength and power and cause injury by relaxing muscles and causing imbalances between opposing muscle groups. However, dynamic stretching – such as leg swings, high knees and butt-kicks – can increase performance and reduce the risk of injury by priming the muscles to fire. Warm up before your workout with dynamic stretches that mimic the exercises you’ll do in your workout. Then, after you’re done exercising, fall back on those static stretches you learned in gym class; when done post-workout, they can reduce soreness and speed recovery.

Lifting Heavy Weights Makes Women Bulky

Ladies, you will not look like Arnold Schwarzenegger if you pick up a heavy dumbbell or barbell a few days a week. In fact, for most people, building muscle is an incredibly difficult, long and slow process, and the vast majority of women will not put in enough time or effort to create the type of muscle they are afraid of. Most women also don’t produce enough testosterone or eat enough calories to build that kind of muscle. What will happen if you lift weights, however, is that you will lose body fat and increase muscle mass and tone, which will boost your metabolism and help you burn more calories. Lifting weights can also improve bone density, reduce your risk of chronic illness and make you feel strong and confident.

Running On a Treadmill Is the Same as Running Outside

Running or walking outside requires more muscle activation because your feet have to grab the ground to push you forward and you have to battle wind resistance, which means more calories burned; the treadmill brings the belt to you, which cuts down on your effort. And while most treadmills do offer incline and decline options, it’s hard to match the up-and-down grade of a real road. Research shows outdoor running requires 2 to 10% more effort than running on the treadmill, and therefore burns 2 to 10% more calories. To combat this difference, set the treadmill to a 1% incline. Also, while many believe the treadmill causes less stress on the knees, the revolving belt actually causes more stress on the Achilles tendon, and muscles, tendons and ligaments of the lower leg. So, running outside is great if it’s an option, but if not, the treadmill is better than no run at all!

Cardio Is the Only Way to Burn Fat

First things first: Yes, cardio does burn fat. But, only doing cardio often lands you in a fitness rut because it causes you to burn fewer calories overall. Strength training builds lean muscle, which decreases overall body fat and boosts your metabolism, which ensures you’ll continue to burn calories long after your exercise session is over. But if you’re a cardio junkie, consider that some strength workouts can actually double as cardio; moving through kettlebell exercises quickly and without rest burns up to 20 calories per minute, the same as running at a six-minute mile pace! To optimize your body’s ability to burn fat, try adding in a few resistance-based workouts each week.

You Can’t Exercise When You’re Sick

Exercise junkies often want to push through anything that ails them, while those who aren’t as motivated often use colds and allergies as excuses to swap their afternoon run for a nap. But health experts largely agree to a hard-and-fast rule about working out out when you’re under the weather. If symptoms are above the neck, such as sore throat, nasal congestion and sneezing, go ahead and hit the gym. But if they’re below the neck, like coughing, chest congestion and body aches, it’s time to take a day off.

Fat Is Bad for You

We have all be trained for years that a low-fat diet aids weight loss and yes, this is true if your fat is coming from things like fried foods, ice cream, and desserts with added fats like cakes, cookies and donuts. But “good fats” – things like nuts, avocados, olive oil, fatty fish like salmon and trout, and whole eggs (yes, the yolks are good for you, containing nearly all of the eggs vitamins, minerals and amino acids!) – are incredibly healthy, and necessary for both weight loss and basic bodily functions. Healthy fats help keep you full, balance your blood sugar and aid in the absorption of nutrients.

Carbs Are Bad for You

Carbohydrates have also gotten a bad reputation over the years, bolstered by the popularity of low-carb diets. And like fats, if your carbs come from unhealthy sources like chips, soda, candy, white bread and bagels, you aren’t doing yourself any favors. These foods have a high-glycemic index, meaning they cause blood sugar spikes. But low-glycemic carbs like brown rice, steel-cut oats, lentils and sweet potatoes are a necessary source of nutrients and energy; carbs fuel your brain, your heart, your central nervous system and every activity from simply breathing to running a marathon. Consuming carbs also ensures you get enough fiber, which is helps regulate blood sugar and aids digestion. Just pay attention to portion size and choose whole, unprocessed foods.