Many of us are trying to achieve a healthier relationship with our body, with food and with exercise. However, some of our sacred beliefs and assumptions that we hold about exercise may actually be counter productive in helping us achieve our goals, and may even lead us into vicious cycles of compulsive exercising that is not sustainable in the long run and is damaging our emotional and physical health.
I have distilled five important exercise myths from various sources (bodybuilding.com, shape.com and Huffington Post) that are most relevant to you and will definitely improve your relationship with exercise!
You shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
#1 Cardio is not necessarily best in burning calories and fat.
Many of us have the perception that cardio is the best way to lose weight and attain our desired physique. This is especially so for young women, and we invest hours into the treadmill, but it is hard to see results and we feel a constant need to increase the speed and distance of our workouts.
The truth is, as I have also discussed in the article on HIIT, resistance or strength training may be more effective than cardio because you burn more fat overall. Studies have shown that women who do strength-training can burn an average of 100 more calories in the subsequent 24 hour interval without lifting a finger! (shape.com) Time to hit those weights and burpees!
#2 Lifting weights will not make you bulky and like a man!
Many women shun weight lifting and strength training because we don’t want to end up with the body of a man. This perpetuates the stereotype that the treadmill is where the woman belongs to in the gym!
Actually, muscle is way more dense than fat, so the more muscle we build, our bodies actually get tighter, not bigger. A lot of athletic, muscular women are bulky because what you are observing is more-than-average muscle mass combined with “excess” body fat. Hence as long as we eat right, weight training can actually render us more lean and toned rather than big and bulky.
Furthermore, much of the weight-training nightmare physiques of women we see online are due to unnatural, heavy stimulation. Naturally, women lack the testosterone required to build and bulk, and will instead naturally become toned and slimmer.
It’s never to late to start doing some weights!
#3 Our muscle does not turn into fat when we stop exercising!
This thought is what makes us feel we have to constantly and persistently be exercising once in our lives. However, in seasons of our life our circumstances may not allow us to have that freedom and flexibility of regular exercise. Does this mean we will immediately turn into fat slobs?
Muscle and fat are fundamentally different types of tissues and are not mutually convertible! Naturally, when we stop exercising, our muscles will begin to atrophy and shrink. However, our diet may remain the same, and with less calorie output, we may start to accumulate more fat, creating the illusion of weight gain.
Thus, if circumstances compel us to exercise less, we just have to be more watchful in our diet, and consume more nutrient dense foods that satiates us and keeps us fuller for longer.
#4 Spot-training is impossible. We can’t isolate fat loss to our belly, thighs or arms!
Many of us have problem-areas in our bodies that we are not satisfied with, and want to work on. So sometimes we spam crunches, or lunges or tricep dips in an effort to target the area.
Scientifically speaking, as we exercise, the fat that we burn as fuel is taken from all parts of the body, not just the part you are working out on. This is why tennis players may have significantly more muscle on their dominant arm, but the amount of fat in both arms is the same. So if we want to lose fat, we have to lose fat from all parts of the body. Furthermore, many spot-training exercises do not burn many calories at all, impeding overall and hence spot weight loss. That area may become more toned due to buildup of muscle, but fat remains the same.
To work on our desired body part, we should instead combine cardio with weight training and sensible nutrition.
#5 Stretching before workout does not necessarily prevent injury!
Our PE lessons in school during our school days have always included that mandatory stretching session. However, few of us actually have patience to stretch before exercising and would rather hit the gym immediately.
While stretching can make your muscles more flexible, it has been shown scientifically that stretching has little benefit and may even be counter productive. It is, instead, warming up with cardio exercises that will get your blood flowing and warm up your muscles, preventing injury. Static stretching should be done after the workout to prevent muscle soreness in the following days.