You've seen them in the media and maybe even shared them at the gym: sure-fire tips or advice for losing belly fat, gaining muscle, etc. It can be hard to decipher fact from fiction. Some of these popular exercise myths may actually be working against you and costing you money.
Here are 9 exercise myths we need to kick to the curb
1. Weights will make you bulky. Women and some men may steer clear of the weight room for fear of walking out looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger. But you don’t need to worry. “Most people don't gain enough muscle from weight training to ever look bulked up. More likely, you'll just look more toned,” says Diabetes in Control. For those dreaming of pumped-up muscles, it’s going to take more than just lifting weights at the gym—so you don’t have to fear weight lifting. When done correctly, lifting weights can become a beneficial part of your exercise program.
2. You can trust the readings on cardio machines at the gym. After walking for twenty minutes on a treadmill at the gym, you look down at the digital display on the machine and it reads that you’ve burned 400 calories. Think again. Even if the machine allows you to enter your age, weight, and gender (most don’t), the numbers are still going to be inaccurate. There are many other factors that go into correctly estimating the amount of calories burned during a workout, and these machines offer only a best guess at most. If you want to get a more accurate count on calories burnt, your best option is to invest in a good heart rate monitor.
3. Taking supplements and protein drinks is the only way to build muscle. You’ve seen the infomercials for protein-packed shakes and supplements that promise muscle gain. Yes, it is true that our bodies require protein to build muscle, but you don’t have to get it from supplements or shakes. Many foods that you eat contain all the protein your body requires in a day. Instead of drinking sugar-heavy protein shakes, try eating more egg whites and lean meats like chicken and fish. Pairing a healthy diet with regular exercise will put you on the right and healthy track to building muscle without having to spend money on supplements and shakes.
4. Watch the scale to measure your success. You may have experienced it: after a week of exercising and watching your diet, you step on the scale and your worst nightmare is staring back at you—somehow you actually gained weight. Don’t throw out your gym shoes and cancel your membership just yet. “When you first start exercising, your weight may go up slightly or just not come down as much as you think it should, simply because as you gain muscle while losing fat, the heavier of the two (muscle) will keep your scale weight higher. Focus less on your scale weight and more on your measurements and how well your clothes fit,” says Diabetes in Control.
5. Unless you work out every day, you won’t benefit. This is probably the biggest myth of them all. No workout is a wasted workout. Even if it’s Friday and you didn't work out all week, don’t give up. We all live busy lives, and saying that you’ll never miss a workout isn’t realistic—it’s bound to happen eventually. What we need to remember is every workout counts. Even if it’s only 20 minutes, that’s 20 more minutes of physical activity that you wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. Squeeze in what you can and don’t fret if you skip one here and there. In time, even those short sessions will start to add up.
6. Spot tightening and toning fixes trouble spots. There are hundreds of products on the market that promise tight abs and toned arms. Unfortunately, we don’t get to pick and choose where we lose fat. Spot reducing is a myth. In order to lose weight and tighten and tone your muscles, you need a well-rounded exercise routine that targets all parts of your body.
7. If you work out, you can eat whatever you want. This myth can tie in with reading the display on the cardio machine. Say you burn 700 calories during your workout session this morning. You may think that it’s okay to eat a slice of fatty pizza for lunch because you burned more than that while exercising. But working out does not give you permission to make poor diet choices throughout the day. For those who are trying to shed a few pounds, it’s important to remember that weight loss occurs when you eat fewer calories than you burn. If you just spent an hour at the gym, don’t throw away your progress by stopping for fast food on the way home.
8. No pain, no gain. Research has found that everybody reacts to muscle strain differently, and each exercise regime should reflect what your body is capable of. It is important to listen to the signals your muscles are giving during exercise. That burn in your muscle is to be expected while exercising vigorously, but pain indicates that something may be going wrong or that the muscles are being pushed too hard.
9. You need sports drinks to replenish electrolytes and stay hydrated. Fluids are a vital part of your exercise routine but can also be detrimental in achieving positive results. Some sports drinks contain as much as 300 calories and 400 mg of sodium. Which means that you could be taking in more calories than you are burning. Sports drinks do have their place, but The American College of Sports Medicine says that unless you’re exercising for longer than an hour, you don’t need to drink them. For most people, simply drinking water during and after your work out is all the hydration your body requires. If you like the taste of sports drinks but want to cut back on calories, try adding coconut water and lime juice to your water bottle.
Is there another exercise "fact" you're wondering about that we didn't address? Leave a comment below and let us know!